on the Greek island devastated by fires, anger and despair

By Marina Rafenberg

Posted today at 6:00 a.m., updated at 2:09 p.m.

On the heights of Kourkouli, a village of a few hundred inhabitants in the north of the island of Evia, the green forest has disappeared under a layer of ash. The slender pines have been decimated. The earth took on the color of coal. The smell of burning, a week after the fires had ended, was still irritating. “To leave or to stay, this is now the question we all ask ourselves”, explains Giorgos Anagnostou, a resin worker, who from his terrace sees nothing but a desolate landscape. In this town, preserved thanks to the courage of its inhabitants who alone fought against the flames for several days, nearly 150 families live on pine resin which is used to make industrial glues, cosmetics, paint, or traditional Greek wine (retsina, the “resin”). The exploitation of the resin brings to the region of the north of Euboea around 5.5 million euros each year, employs around 1,500 people and is the main activity.

On the island of Evia, August 16, 2021. Giorgos Anagnostouu and his family lost 55 goats in the fire.  They used to earn their living only by working in the breeding.  Now their main challenge is to find a green space where the rescued animals can be fed.

“I grew up surrounded by nature. My whole life was in the woods. The north of Evia no longer exists, it has been erased from the map for forty years and it is our life, but also that of our children that has gone up in smoke! “, laments the forty-something who plans to go to another island, such as Skopelos or Alonissos, where he can continue to practice his profession. On average, it would take between thirty and fifty years for pines to grow back and become exploitable again. “I used to get up at 5 am and work until 5 pm. In eight years of marriage, I have never taken the time, like today, to have coffee with my wife in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t want to be unemployed, but leaving my village, my old parents, is also heartbreaking ”, Giorgos Anagnostou continues, his throat tied.

Giorgos Anagnostis worked in the pine forests and collected the resin.  “I have always worked in the pines.  I got up every morning at 5 am to go to work.  After all these years, it's the first time I've had coffee in the afternoon with my wife, I don't know what to do or where to go, ”he says.
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His father, Aggelos Anagnostou, 63, had 250 goats. of which 55 perished in the flames. “Here are the survivors, notes the breeder by designating his herd temporarily housed on a neighbor’s field. We did what we could to save them, but the flames came too quickly… ” Maria, his wife, makes yogurts and goat cheese. “We are too old to immigrate. But the young people are going to leave, and we are afraid of being more and more isolated ”, confides the sixty-year-old.

Public services have already deserted the premises. Banks no longer have dispensaries, even in the nearby town of Limni. To slaughter the animals, you have to drive an hour and a half to Chalkida. “After the fire, the animals will no longer be able to graze in the wild, we will have to buy food, this will have an additional cost for us of around 100 euros per day for our herd, even though the kilo of meat currently only sells for 3 euros… I don’t know how we’re going to get by ”, whispers, worried, Aggelos Anagnostou. With his small pension of 400 euros, he does not have the means to make additional expenses. Without wood for heating this winter, he will not be able to buy fuel oil either …

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