The remains of 32 Greek soldiers who fell in Albania finally buried
The burial ceremony for 32 Greek soldiers who fell in Albania during the Greco-Italian War of 1940-41 took place earlier in the week at Aghios Nikolaos Church in the Klisoura Military Cemetery.
The ceremony took place as part of an international agreement between Greece and Albania to find, exhume, identify and bury the bodies of fallen Greek soldiers in Albania and was organized and organized by the Joint Committee of Greco Experts -Albanian.
The agreement was signed in 2009, but its implementation began a decade later. He asks for the location, identification and exhumation of the remains of fallen Greek soldiers and their reburial in the two agreed cemeteries.
The issue was first raised by Greece in the early 1980s when the remains of 6,300 Italian soldiers were exhumed and returned to Italy. Using old Italian military maps that recorded makeshift cemeteries where fallen Italians and Greeks were buried, some 6,000 fallen soldiers were found scattered across the mountains of southern Albania.
A total of 1,003 fallen Greeks have already been buried in the cemeteries of Klisoura and Vouliarates, while the military general hospitals 401 and 251, as well as the Hellenic police and the National Scientific Research Center Deomokritos are contributing to the acceleration of the identification process. through DNA analysis.
Up to 8,000 Greek soldiers buried in makeshift graves
According to a report by the Athens Macedonia News Agency, around 6,800 to 8,000 Greek soldiers are buried in makeshift graves across Albania, killed in pitched battles between Greek and Italian forces.
Many Greek-Albanians even suffered persecution by the former Communist regime for hiding the location of buried Greek soldiers from the authorities.
Among them was Ermioni Brigou’s father from Himare, who tends the graves of six Greek soldiers who have been buried in the garden of his family home for over 78 years.
The six soldiers, who fell in the Battle of Himare, were buried in two makeshift graves in the family yard by his father, who was punished by the Communist regime with a year and a half of resettlement for refusing to reveal where they were. She also kept their presence a closely guarded secret until the fall of the regime.
These six soldiers have already been identified and will not be transferred from her court, as this is neither what Ermione wants nor any reason to disrupt their eternal rest.
The archives of the Directorate of Army History show that from the start of the war until April 28, 1941 – when the Greek army surrendered to the Germans who had invaded the north – losses on the Albanian front s ‘numbered 13,936 officers and soldiers.
Of the total deaths in operations against the Italians, the bodies of up to 8,000 of them remained in Albania, while 5,960 were buried in cemeteries on Greek territory.
First days of the war in Albania: October 28 – November 13, 1940
From October 28 to November 13, all Greek armed forces were assembled along the Albanian front and preparations for large-scale offensive operations were completed.
Eleven infantry divisions, one infantry brigade, one cavalry division and one cavalry brigade with a total force of 232,000 men, with 556 guns and 100,000 horses, were already in place. Italian forces in Albania were reinforced by new arrivals from Italy in early November, with 250,000 men.
Greek casualties so far amounted to 548 dead officers and soldiers. At that time, the dead were buried on Greek territory in organized cemeteries.
Second period of the war, from November 14 to December 7, 1940
On November 14, the Greek counterattack began in Albanian territory and the Italians began to retreat.
On November 22, the Greek army began to take control of several Albanian towns and regions. On December 6, Greek troops advanced, occupying more Albanian territory, and the Italian army retreated further.
However, the harsh winter became the unexpected ally of the Italian army. The harsh cold, snowstorms, slippery terrain, torrential rains, mud, rough roads and lack of adequate food became the most serious opponents of the Greeks.
Greek losses during this period amounted to 1,558 dead officers and soldiers. All the dead from this period were buried on Greek soil.
Third period, from December 8, 1940 to April 28, 1941
The Greek counterattack in Albanian territory calmed down due to the difficult terrain and the harsh winter, resulting in significant losses on both sides. Battles were reduced to trench fights and skirmishes.
Bad weather, heavy snowfall and transport difficulties due to heavy animal losses significantly increased the incidence of disease in the ranks. The death toll among the Greeks – mainly due to frostbite and secondarily to fighting – reached 7,796 officers and soldiers.
Several of the dead were covered by snow where they were killed, and in many cases their bodies were discovered more than 60 days later when the snow began to melt.
From March 9, Greek forces were trapped on the bloodstained Hill 731 and heroically resisted the Italian counterattack. Italian forces, reinforced by new arrivals, pounded the Greeks.
As of April 28, Greek casualties amounted to 4,038 dead among officers and soldiers. Many of the dead were left behind after the collapse of the Greek army, but a few were buried in makeshift graves by their fellow soldiers.