submitted by Spyro Calocerinos on 09.01.2005
In the morning of September 4th 1944, the Germans left "Kapsali" Kythera.
For some days before their departure, the Greek Liberation Front were firing at them with very little ammunition, from Kastro and Agios Giannis.
Some Kytherians had invented an ingenious system of creating cigarette lighters out of empty bullet shells.
My late brother-in-law, Nikos Petroheilos, was making these cigarette lighters and was selling them in his shop.
Seeing that the Germans had left earlier that day, I saw an opportunity of providing my brother-in-law with empty bullet shells. With an empty bag under my arm, I decided to run to "Kastro" and get as many empty shells as possible. Indeed, I collected a large amount and only when I tried to lift the bag, I realised how heavy they were, so I started dragging the bag with a lot of difficulty, when, suddenly, I heard the noise of airplanes and, soon after,"Kastro" was being bombed.
I dropped the bag and ran as fast as I could to the nearest hole and layed down. A bomb fell approximately 15 meters away and rocks and dust went everywhere. I was lucky as the bomb did not explode and a huge crater was created where it hit the ground.
At this point I would like to verify that all the bombs that fell in Hora did not explode, except two bombs on the High School and some on Kastro and on the Western side under Kastro.
When I was sure that the airplanes had gone, I went back where I had dropped my bag with the shells. I realised that there was no way I would be able to take all those shells so I emptied half of the bag in what I thought was a safe and secret place.
Eventually, I delivered my half empty bag and then went back to my secret hiding place to pick up the rest, only to find that someone else had taken them and all empty shells were also taken from where I had picked up the first lot.
Only now I realise that as a twelve year old then, I did not understand the danger of going back to "Kastro" so soon after the bombing.
But I can assure you, there were a lot of ingenious cigarette lighters in Kythera.
As I had some enquiries how this cigarette lighter worked, I will try as best I can to explain.
Firstly, they drilled a hole on the upper part of the shell. Just under the hole they would weld a hand-made contraption which included a small tube that held a spring, which would push up a flint onto a wheel - similar to the ones used until recently in cigarette lighters - and by turning the wheel with their thumb, they would activate the flint to spark, which in turn would light up the wick coming through the hole.
As the wick would not light enough to light a cigarette, they would blow onto the wick so it would glow and then they would light their cigarettes. Then they would pull the wick slightly down into the hole and cover the top of the shell with their thumb to extinguish the wick.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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