O Sergis β€”Β 100 years in Chios, Greece

Where: Port Mesta, Chios, Greece πŸ‡¬πŸ‡·

It was the “1923” embedded on the sign that hung overtop of the restaurant’s long veranda entrance that caught my attention as I was finishing up a plate of sardines at Port Mesta located in southern Chios, Greece.

I walked up to a man seated at the cash register inside and asked about the year.

“1st of September we were celebrating the 100 years,” Paraschos Eleftherious told me. “We held a small exhibition with photographs and stuff.”

“My great grandfather. That’s the guy who started everything.” Paraschos told me.

Paraschos got up and went and retrieved a photo and said it was taken in 1906.

He went onto explain how the building structures and topography in the area changed over the last 100 years.

Today the family owns the restaurant, O’ Sergis, along with approximately 60 stremas. A strema is a Greek measurement that is equivalent to 1,000 sq. metres or 6 hectares. (or 15 acres)

“It would have been a lot more back then. Around 300 [strema].” Paraschos said.

The original patriarch Sergis Avgustidis

“Over there,” Paraschos explained to me. He pointed in the distance and motioned his hand horizontally to show breadth. “Almost everything was his.”

Paraschos explained that Sergis was originally given a lot of the land along this port in Port Mesta, Chios, from his father because Sergis was physically shorter in height and his family didn’t want to be embarrassed by him spending time in the village. A practice that Paraschos said was culturally common in the past.

“They gave him almost the entire port,” Paraschos explained.

Sergis made a life for himself in the land. He married and had two daughters. Overtime, he sold off “piece-by-piece” of the land to acquire more money and in 1923 he started the restaurant.

Five generations

Paraschos told me early in the conversation that he, personally, was the fourth generation. There was pride in his voice. Married with two daughters himself, he hoped that one day the land would be passed onto his girls.

A family business

The culture at the restaurant has remained highly family-oriented. Paraschos’ parents were there (Panagiotis & Maria Eleftherious), his aunt, and his grandmother (Anna Avgustidis). At one point in the discussion, Anna (Paraschos’ grandmother), arrived and she began putting more photos of the family, including her parents, on the table to show me.

Paraschos had a high degree of transparency as he told the story of his family. He brought up a story about how during World Word II, Sergis would pretend to assist the Germans but at the same time was helping Greek people leave the island and go to the Middle East and Egypt. The Germans found out that Sergis was an informant to the Greeks and him, his wife (Kiriaki (Kiki) Sergis), & her brother were captured and scheduled for execution. But by happenstance were released. In the process the three family members spent two months in a German jail that was temporarily set up on the island.

“He had a notebook where he had all the phone numbers, dates, from whoever passed through here and whoever [he] helped and who helped him,” Paraschos shared.

Paraschos went on to explain that the journal stayed in Sergis’ possession until sometime between 1988-1990 when German visitors (note, that this was approximately 50 years after the war) gave Sergis: three televisions, three polaroid cameras and three video tapes in trade for the journal and a traditional musical instrument of his. Sergis wanted the items for his daughters and granddaughters. The transaction was made.

“It sounds like he lived an interesting life,” I commented expecting Paraschos to concur.

“Fascinating? I don’t know,” He thought more about the question. “Difficult for sure. They saw two wars. And then we had Marshall law here in ’67 & ’64. They lived these things. I cannot imagine. They had rough years.”

When he brought up that Sergis was hard on his family a second time in the conversation, I inquired further. Paraschos cited an instance of physical abuse towards a family member.

“For his family he was not the best, maybe, probably he was the worst,” Paraschos shared with a high degree of transparency. “He was a very tough guy. He lived all these rough years and I think that those things never got out of his mind.”

Paraschos shared more about Sergis’ character, “When it came to us it was like we had to live what he lived in order [to gain his] respect [in order to receive] whatever we were going to receive.”

“For all the others, for whoever knew him, he was the best… He giving them everything. And that guy [Sergis] made the port known to the rest of Chios and maybe in some other parts of Greece too.”

Anna Avgustidis, one of two daughters of Sergis & Kiriaki Avgustidis, brings out photos to share of her family. In this photo is her father, Sergis Avgustidis.

Greek oral tradition

Paraschos went and pulled out some artistically designed scrolls with Greek writing in the form of song lyrics. They were poetry that Sergis and patrons would sing along with a traditional Greek instrument at the restaurant. With the assistance of video recordings of his great-grandfather singing the poetry, Paraschos wrote the poems down for the first time. Like many instances in Greek history, up until now, the poetry was only ever spoken or sung and never written.

The land’s original patriarch, Sergis Avgustidis, was a hard-working and complex individual. He had a hard childhood, was generous to strangers and patrons, was said to be hard on his family, and was the original proprietor that built up the area around the port. Paraschos even said he built the original road “by his hands” with stones he was taking out from a nearby mountain so that a bus could regularly bring more people to the restaurant.

In Port Mesta in southern Chios, Greece, are the descendants of Sergis Avgustidis, running a fifth generation restaurant that turned 100 years of age this year. (2023) For all that Sergis Avgustidis was and did, with a high-level of transparent story-telling, along with photos and sung poetry, the family clearly remembers the man who started it all.

Above, a panoramic view of Port Mesta from the 100-year old restaurant, O Sergis, in Chios, Greece.

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