I grew up in Lefkada, the Ionian island of two great poets, Aristotelis Valaoritis and Angelos Sikelianos.
Throughout my youth, I recited many poems of the epic Valaoritis and read and studied the works of Sikelianos in depth. It all happened very naturally, as any teenager growing up in their native cultural environment. In high school, one of my essays on poetry was awarded a prize of a book about the life of Angelos Sikelianos.
In those pages, I came to know Sikelianos, the poet of “AlafroIskiotos,” as well as his muse, Eva Palmer-Sikelianou. Keeping my hands on the precious booty, I leafed through the glossy photos of the couple and fell in love with them and their deep worship of Greek culture.
I never missed the opportunity to chat with the aged fishermen of the island and ask them to recount details of the life of the couple who lived as if they were in Classical Greece, always wearing ancient Greek robes and wandering about in sandals.
At times, I would visit the little island of St. Nicholas which the two had designated as a shelter of their “ancient sect” and as the starting point of their historic Delphic Festival and their revival of the Delphic Idea. I adored the poet, not only as a result of his writing, but also because of his personality. Through the long poems penned with free rhyme, I discovered memories that evoked an ancient beauty and Sikelianos’ never ending existential search. I walked his path and I admired him, guiding my steps in the way of his writing..
And when I met his second wife, Anna, conversing repeatedly with her, I realized why, after the wild storm of Eva, he opted to moor in her sheltered harbor. Sadly, within me, I always felt that Angelos Sikelianos was absent from Lefkada. The later phase of his life spent in Athens with the Second World War at its peak, his holiday home in Aegina and the aforementioned Anna all contributed to his growing distance from his native land. The pain was deep and constant in my heart and thoughts.
This gap finally came to a close, however, with the opening of the Museum of Angelos Sikelianos, housed in the restored paternal home of the poet right in the heart of Lefkada town. It was inaugurated last week in the presence of his great-granddaughter and poet in her own right, Eleni Sikelianos. It is a museum of international standards constructed with the generous sponsorship of the National Bank of Greece and the assistance of the Municipality of Lefkada.
The National Bank of Greece purchased the house in 2009 and renovated and transformed it into a lively display of the life and work of the poet. What exactly makes the Museum of Angelos Sikelianos so special is the fact that it is not simply a space replete with memorabilia, but, rather, an interactive tour of his labyrinthine and multidimensional poetic work. It enables the visitor, through its exhibits, to discover the personality of a poet who was able to escape the confines of literary temperament and play a paramount role in the renewal of the relationship of pre-war Greece with its ancient classic history.
The museological approach follows both a scientific and, at the same time, a humanistic path so as to attract the interest of all. It presents the core of Sikelianos’ poetry, highlighting his distinction as a national poet and the importance of his literary work through the use of family, local, national and international archives. It reflects upon the connection of his work and his actions in a political and intellectual light and depicts Sikelianos’ personal life through his relationships with Eve and Anna.
The restoration and completion of the Museum took more than eight years to finalize with the museological study conducted by a large team from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki under the direction of Professors Matoula Skaltsa and PanosTzonos. The scientific supervisor of the survey was Professor Athena Vogiatzoglou, of the University of Ioannina, while the restoration study was conducted by Professor Emeritus Panagiotis Touliatos and his colleagues from the National Technical University of Athens. For me, Angelos Sikelianos’ return to the place of his birth is the confirmation of the origin of his poetic nature.
Angelos Sikelianos Welcome back home!
Photos by Kaith Kakavoulis