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People > Obituaries > Stratis "Tzambiras" Theodorakakis. The Pied Piper of Potamos

People > Obituaries

submitted by Kytherian Obituaries on 07.07.2015

Stratis "Tzambiras" Theodorakakis. The Pied Piper of Potamos

In the winter of 1980 a child of the Kytherian diaspora made her first pilgrimage to the island of her parents' birth with her two mid-teen sons in tow. A first cousin whom she had never met, a shopkeeper in Potamos, was one of the few relatives left on the island. In this shopkeeper they found a character of literary proportions, a man whose personality might have been lifted from the pages of a Kazantzakis or Durrell novel.

Their experiences of this man, Stratis Theodorakakis, would be mirrored by those of all who entered his cornucopia of a store. With a beaming smile and enthusiastic greeting he would be immediately helpful and, ever the gentleman, always polite. If Greek wasn't a customer's lingo he would attempt to open the doors of communication with whatever snippets of whichever languages he knew. Strati was a man well versed in the arts and at one time he may well have been the most cultured man on the island. When languages failed he was not averse to invoking the spirit of Aristophanes and acting out little comic & tragi-comic scenarios to describe events or objects.

He would reference paintings, sculptures, literature, poetry, and cinema to illustrate historical events. Always with enthusiasm and humour. However, his most beloved means of communication was always the music. Whether it was conducting his precious Philarmonia, or leading the marching band, or conducting the ladies' chorale or playing a guitar accompaniment to a vocalist, leg up on a chair like a Kytherian Don Juan, music was his element and his gift.

Who could ever forget Strati, nicknamed 'O Tzambiras' (the Trumpeter), trumpet in hand, leading the marching band through Potamos, and once finished jumping in front of the microphone to describe and give historical and cultural commentary to the Carnivale parade? Wherever the Trumpeter marched, the band would follow, as the rats of Hameln followed their Pied Piper. But this Pied Piper of Potamos would never lead his procession to the river depths but always to the heights to which he believed music could elevate one's soul. Whether an interested band member knew something or nothing about music Strati would take them under his wing if they wanted to play. If they had no instrument he would find them one. Such was his enthusiasm for the Philarmonia and band that he inspired them to design their own quasi-militaristic uniform, and here was a man for whom military uniforms may not have been such good luck.

As a teenager at the end of WW2 Strati donned the makeshift uniform of a resistance fighter, replete with shoulder slung ammo belts and a single-shot rifle, for a harmless photo for his friend. The ensuing picture found it's way to the pages of a local newspaper in a rural backwater in Australia. Unfortunately for Strati the uniform he was wearing was not that of the forces that prevailed during the Civil War and somehow the authorities were made aware of the picture. Strati was then inanely exiled to his own island, a kind of house arrest. However, true to his nature, he never resented his treatment - he always maintained that the experience made him a man and particularly the man that he became. And it was during this time that he met his beloved wife ZoZo, so what was there to moan and gripe about?

At the start of this year the sad news that Strati had passed on made it's way to the mother and her two sons in Australia. They subsequently returned to Kythera to find empty the emporium which had been a constant over the course of 35 years of visits to the island - no more Strati beaming proudly among his dizzying array of products, no more watching him patiently wrap a single envelope for a customer if that's all they wanted, no more the laughs and the shouted sales pitch, no more 20 year old postcards of faded scenes of Kythera and 60s era Germanic nuclear families opening Christmas presents in front of the fireplace, no more mythology-themed children's colouring books featuring satyrs and nude Aphrodites...

The anecdotes about Strati are many and they will be told by others over the years.

Rest in peace, Strati, but with the music which continues as your accompaniment.

Cameron Webb

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