The Church of Panaghia Ekatontapiliani and the surrounding area in the early 1950s.

The first air torpedo bore through the wall of the cell on the left hosting the second-year class and detonated against the opposite wall.

ABOVE: The commemorative marble plaque put up at the entrance of the old school at Parikia.
BELOW: Supply boats held by the German forces are fired upon by Allied aircraft in the port of Parikia in 1943-1944.

The bombing of Panagia Ekatontapyliani

Text: Yannis Ragos

Paros in world war II

As from April 1941 during the Second World War, and after the initial victories of the Greek army against the Italian troops on the Albanian front, Greece found itself under a triple military occupation: by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

The islands of the Cyclades, with the exception of Milos, came under Italian control, until the autumn of 1943, when Italy capitulated and the Cyclades were seized by the German occupation forces. As early as 1943, Allied fighter aircraft, mainly British, were operating in the Aegean region striking military targets, including airfields and ships, in order to contain Axis military operations. In one such operation, on July 30, 1943, four British aircraft fired at a merchant ship in the port of Parikia, resulting in the death of the captain and the marine engineer officer, and the wounding of one more person. The wider area of Naoussa and Piso Livadi, as well as Antiparos, were also raided by Allied air forces.

On 14 January 1944, another raid was made upon the port of Parikia whereby Allied aircraft –No. 227 Squadron, RAF, crewed with South African pilots– attempted to attack German ships, or vessels held under requisition by the German army for its supply needs, with machine guns and aerial torpedoes. Regrettably, two of the torpedoes, probably due to a pilot’s error, veered off course striking the southwest wing of the monastic cells standing on the grounds of Panaghia Ekatontapiliani (Church of Our Lady of 100 Gates). During the war, some of the year groups in Parikia primary and high schools were transferred over to the church, the main building of the school being located right across the street from it. At the time of the bombing, the classrooms were packed with students, as the third class period was underway.. The first air torpedo bore through the wall of the cell hosting the second-year class and detonated against the opposite wall. Present at the scene were teacher Irini Kondyli and students Thanasis Fokianos and Frangisca Tsantani, who were instantly killed upon impact. The second torpedo followed the path of the first –it blasted into the classroom before thudding into the adjacent cell, without exploding (it was later neutralised by the occupation forces). Naturally, the other cells where classes were being held were also strewn with thick dust and broken glass, and engulfed with gas fumes.

“My little sister has been killed”
In addition to the three victims, seven more children were wounded by the blast, among whom was Eva Popolanou, who later said that “when the first bomb fell, she was terrified, so she ran towards the teacher but, midway, the second torpedo cut her off, wounded her seriously in the head and scorched her face, as a result of which she fell unconscious on the floor and was later found with the already dead Thanasis Fokianos in her arms”. Maria Pelekanou-Korma, another eyewitness, recounts that “all I can remember is that as we were walking out terrified, we were bleeding […]. And her brother crying out, woeful for his little sister. I still shudder at the memory of him going up and down the stairs, muttering ‘My little sister’s been killed‘.”

The victims’ funeral was held at the church of Ekatontapiliani on the afternoon of the same day, in an atmosphere of heartrending mourning and collective grief. As P. Patellis notes in his Memories, “The three coffins were placed side by side in the center of the church – the teacher’s in the middle, and those of the children on either side”. By special mandate, school lessons were suspended for two months and, when they were resumed, other, safer, locations at Parikia were used for this purpose.

In commemoration of the event, today, the old primary school of Parikia, now housing the School Museum, has a special plaque displayed at its entrance, while in 2015, the Municipality of Paros named a street on the island after Irini Kondyli.