The Chios Diaspora 1900-1999
As shown on the previous page, by the end of the Massacres of Chios approximately three quarters of the island's Greek population of 120,000 are killed, die of disease, or are enslaved. Of the survivors, almost all flee as refugees. This page records some events in the lives of some of these survivors' families in the period 1900-1999.
Picture right: After the Massacres of Chios came the great diaspora when the survivors spread throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and beyond, re-building shattered lives and lost fortunes. A nobleman and his family, surrounded by their servants and livestock, flee their Kampos estate in 1822. The date of this picture is not known but it must have been made by someone with intimate knowledge of Chios since the costumes and architecture are entirely authentic. Apparently a reproduction of a painting in the Argenti Collection (not visible at the Koraïs Museum), it was found, in 1999, on the walls of 'The Mavrogordatico' once the Kampos home of the Mavrogordato family.
Go to the previous page:
The Chios Diaspora 1823-1899
By Christopher Long
The chart below demonstrates very clearly how members of each of the Vlasto households were affected by the water-shed events of that year. An almost identical chart could be produced for nearly all the other principal families on the island. Every one of the survivors died in exile.Zannis Vlasto (1) (c. 1695-?) b. Chios?, m. Argenti, d. Chios?
C19th-20th From Noblesse Européenne:
"... The only surviving branch of the family today is that of Chios, still active in commerce and who seek their fortunes in numerous countries. Some became bankers in Romania and other ship-owners in London or Marseilles. Others became businessmen in the USA: such as Solon Vlasto, founder of the Greek Fraternal Society in 1891 and of the first Greek Church in the USA, in New York in 1892.
In the C19th the Vlasto family separated into several branches in Athens, Marseilles and Liverpool. The Marseille branch is almost extinct *, while the branch in Great Britain is represented by the children of Peter Vlasto **, a director of Ralli Brothers, born in Calcutta on 8 September 1879 and who died in Liverpool 25 February 1941. He married in Bombay and in Liverpool, Aziza Ralli, daughter of Alexander Ralli (also a director of Ralli Brothers) and his wife Julia Ralli:
Alexis Peter Vlasto, b. Liverpool 27-11-1915, professor of history and Slav civilisation at the University of Cambridge, m. London 1945, Hilda Medway.
Dominica Vlasto, b. Liverpool 27-11-1915, m. Liverpool 1935, John Nicholls (1909-70), British ambassador to Israel (1954-57), Belgrade (1957-60), Brussels (1960-63), Johannesburg (1966-69)
Adriana Vlasto, b. Liverpool 15-11-1921, medical practitioner..."
1901 Uncertain where:
Lucia Rodocanachi (1901-?)
[Name in Name Authority File, Library of Congress, USA; Friends and associates: 1991 Subject in LC Books Catalogue, Library of Congress, USA]
1908 Peter (Pierre) Vlasto writes L'Ombre du Figuier
Peter (Pierre) Vlasto, philosopher, prose-writer and poet, first publishes his collection of short stories L'Ombre du Figuier. They are later translated from his Modern 'demotic' Greek into French and re-published, in 1924, by R. Chiberre, Paris, with a preface by Louis Roussel.
Peter (Pierre) Vlasto was born in Calcutta in 1879 where his father, Theodore Vlasto, was a merchant with Ralli Brothers. He studied law in Athens where he lived for 20 before returning to India in 1901, also as a merchant. He settled in Liverpool, England, where he died. He was a champion of Modern 'Vulgar' Greek but did not believe he could make his living from writing. His acclaimed books were written in his spare time.
Works by Peter (Pierre) Vlasto included: Prose: A l'Ombre du Figuier (In The Shadow of the Fig Tree, short stories, 1908); Physique (translation, 1912); Voyages Critiques (collection of travel writing, 1912); Grammaire de la Démotique (1914). Verse: Hippolyte (translation from Euripides with preface on Hellenism; Argo (a collection of all previously published poems and new work, 1924).
1910 In Vienna:
Soon after the massacres, several members of the Vlasto family settled in Vienna, capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Among them are Iohannes Vlasto (see above) whose grandchildren may have been concerned in the following anecdote:
"On telephoning a cousin, also a descendant of Loula 'Julie' Vlasto, she told me the following story.
Her father, Paul Chatrousse (b. 1895), lived in Oran and was studying German. He was invited in the summer of 1910, when he was 15 years old, to spend three months in Vienna with two female Vlasto cousins. These girls were his third cousins and roughly his age, probably between 15 and 20 so [perhaps] the descendants of a brother of Loula 'Julie' Vlasto.
Above: Loula 'Julie' Vlasto as a very old lady in Algiers.
They asked him to accompany them on a 'visit' and warned him to 'do exactly what we do'. He was intrigued. In fact they took him to the Hofburg Palace and he was presented to the Empress! Which Vlastos were in Vienna at that time? Perhaps they will be the missing link between Julie 'Loula' Vlasto and someone already mentioned in the genealogy."
[From: Françoise Briès Bernard writing to C.A.L. 25-10-98]
1911 Unknown where:
[Named 1911 in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) from Gale Research Inc., USA]
1911-12 In Paris & London:
Though undoubtedly hellenic in appearance, the first generation of the Chian diaspora, like Fanny Kessisoglou, the author's great-great-grandmother, rapidly assimilates itself and rebuilds lost fortunes in London, Marseilles, etc. The second and third generations appear almost indistinguishable from any other affluent cosmopolitan Europeans around them. In private, however, there is a subtle Chian flavour to their lives. Until challenged by the author, none had ever spoken of the events of 1822. It takes six generations before the traumas of 1822 are acknowledged.
[See: From Byzantium To Eton by Peter Calvocoressi, which formed the basis of his 1980's BBC radio broadcast in the 'Migrations' series an excellent account of the Chios diaspora experience and its assimilation into mainstream European society while retaining subtle characteristics of its past.]
[See also: Quite A Lot memoirs of Dominie Nicholls (née Vlasto) published 2001]
England, 1911. The author's great-grandmother, Helen Vlasto (née Zarifi), with some members of the family who gathered from all over Europe for her annual month-long summer house parties this at Saltmarsh Castle.
1912-13 In Athens:
After the two Balkan Wars, Chios is liberated and, under the Convention of Athens, Turkey and Greece settle ownership of the Aegean Islands. Chios becomes part of Greece. But the diaspora has no intention whatever of returning to Chios and few return to the new kingdom of Greece. Privately, many believe that the new Greek state was rash and precipitate in its bid for power and failed in any event to prevent the catastrophe on Chios. They also believe that they were betrayed by Constantinople. (It should be noted that sovereignty of some of these Aegean possessions, including Chios, was still in dispute between Greece and Turkey as late as 1999!)
Chios is at last able to honour its heroes. Progressively memorials appear throughout the first half of the C20th with virtually every name among the great Libro d'Oro families recorded among street names in the city centre including Vlasto Street. Above the door of the dungeon in the Kastro, in which the hostages were held in 1821-22, next to what is now the museum in the Giustiniani palace, a stone plaque records those dark events. In a recess beside the main square a stone obelisk records the names of those hostages hanged by the Turks.
Above: A few of the many street signs in the heart of Chios town which commemorate those families that played a prominent roles prior to and during the 1822 massacres left to right:
Vlasto, the Demogeronts in general, Rodocanachi, Ralli, Argenti, Paspati, Sechiari, etc
1914 Uncertain where:
[Mentioned: 1914 Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) from Gale Research Inc., USA]
1914-19 In Europe:
Just as the First World War leads to the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires so too it irrevocably begins to end a pattern of life for the Chian Greeks. During almost a century of enforced exile they have continued to live as a European and world-wide 'community'. The cohesive community now slowly begins to break down.
The author's grandfather, Michel Ernest Theodore Demetrius Vlasto is among the last of the pure-bred diaspora generations. After a childhood in Paris (7 Rue Lamennais) and a later education in England at Winchester College he studies medicine at University College Hospital, London.
In World War l he serves in the Royal Navy as a surgeon (see above left) seeing action at the Battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands in HMS Canopus and HMS London. At the Royal Naval Hospital (Bighi) in Malta he meets his future bride Christian Mitchell Croil, a Scot born in the USA, serving as a Royal Navy V.A.D. a volunteer nurse (see below). He is thus the first to marry outside the community of Chian Greeks, ending a tradition that had spanned hundreds or even thousands of years.
From the Wykhamist Society: Michael Vlasto, M.B., L.R.C.P., F.R.C.S. Winchester College 1901-03 (Du Boulay's); London University 1905: University College Hospital; M.B.; B.S. 1910; M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. 1911; F.R.C.S. 1913; Surgeon Royal Navy 1914-19, seeing action at battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands in H.M.S. Canopus; aural surgeon Malta and Portsmouth Naval Hospitals. aural surgeon Queen's Hospital for Children 1919; Laryngologist, St Luke's Hostel for Clergy 1920; Surgeon E.N.T. Dept. West London Hospital for Children, Association for Retired Naval Officers, West London Hospital, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital for Children; F.R.S.M., Officier de L'Instruction Publique; author of Diseases of Ear, Nose and Throat for Nurses and many articles in medical press. Presented many cases at the Royal Society of Medicine. Eldest son of Ernest Vlasto of 7 Rue Lamennais, Paris. Club: Royal Empire Society.
1914-18 In World War l:
Alexander George Vlasto is listed as a British fighter ace with eight confirmed 'kills'.
1918 In the U.S.A.:
A few of the Chios diaspora families particularly those that were not great merchants remained in the Aegean until the early years of the C20th. They form the second wave of migrants. Solon G. Vlasto, born in Athens in 1903, arrives New York in 1918 where he eventually takes over the The Atlantis newspaper, founded in 1894 by his uncle, Solon J. Vlasto, who had emigrated in 1880, and by Demetrius J. Vlasto. Starting as a copy boy and reporter, Solon becomes the publisher of the largest daily Greek-language newspaper in the United States which thrives after WW ll on waves of new immigrants from Greece and, in the 1950s, on the advertising of wealthy new Greek ship-owners, such as Aristotle Onassis. The family are also the founders of the first Greek Church in the USA.
'The Atlantis', National Daily Greek Newspaper. The first successful Greek language newspaper published in America was The Atlantis, founded in 1894 by Solon J. and Demetrius J. Vlasto. The paper was headed by a member of the Vlasto family until it closed in 1973. Published in New York City, it had a national circulation and influence. The Atlantis supported the royalist faction in Greek politics until the mid-1960s. Other recurring editorial themes include naturalization, war relief, Greek-American business interests, and Greek religious unity.
Obiturary: August 25, 1998. Solon G. Vlasto, 94, Newspaper Publisher. By Saul Hansell.
Solon G. Vlasto, the publisher of what was once the largest daily Greek-language newspaper in the United States, died on Monday in a convalescent home in Athens. He was 94.
Vlasto was born in Athens in 1903 and came to the United States in 1918. Shortly thereafter he began working as a copy boy at The Atlantis, the New York-based Greek-language daily, which at its peak had a circulation of 22,000. The newspaper was founded by his uncle, Solon J. Vlasto.
The young Solon G. Vlasto would later work as a reporter, an ad salesman and, starting in 1944, as publisher of The Atlantis. The newspaper was later willed to him by his uncle.
The newspaper thrived after World War II as the United States allowed more immigrants from Greece. The paper and Vlasto's social prominence grew further in the 1950s with the rise of a group of wealthy Greek shipowners, such as Aristotle Onassis, who advertised in The Atlantis.
"It was a heady time," recalled James S. Vlasto, his son, who worked as a reporter for The Atlantis in the 1950s and 1960s before becoming the press secretary to Gov. Hugh Carey of New York. "That's when the paper reached is zenith in circulation, advertising and influence."
He was courted by politicians seeking the support of the Greek-American community and was consulted by elected officials on issues relating to Greece. Near the huge leather-tooled desk in his office were pictures of Vlasto with President Harry Truman and President Dwight Eisenhower, along with an invitation to the wedding of Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Atlantis was founded in 1894 by Solon J. Vlasto, who had already become a successful lamp-oil merchant in New York, after immigrating in 1880. Vlasto was the president of the first Greek Orthodox church in New York, now Holy Trinity Cathedral. And he was one of the original residents of the Dakota in 1884, the pioneering apartment building on Central Park West.
The paper built its reputation by handing dictionaries, imprinted with the Atlantis name, to immigrants as they disembarked from ships from Greece. Later it built a publishing business based on dictionaries, English grammar books and cookbooks teaching Greeks how to make American food.
By the end of the 1960s, the newspaper fell on hard times. By the time it closed in 1973, its circulation had fallen to 14,000 a day from a peak of 22,000 in 1950. But the final blow came from a strike by the Newspaper Guild and other unions that lasted nearly a year.
In October 1973, the paper closed after it was evicted by the landlord of its offices on West 23d Street in Manhattan because it had not paid its rent.
After the newspaper closed, Vlasto moved to Kifisia, a suburb of Athens, where his parents lived. He did not work, although he was often quoted by the local newspapers about Greek-American affairs.
Vlasto is survived by two sons, James, who lives in New York, and George S. Vlasto, a retired biology professor, who lives in Kent, Conn. He is also survived by four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. His wife, Tima, whom he married in 1926, died in 1993. Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company
1922 Uncertain where:
E. Rodocanachi is the author of La Femme Italienne Avant, Pendant & Après La Renaissance [Hachette, Paris 1922]
1922-23 In Turkey:
The last Sultan of the Ottoman empire (founded in 1288) is deposed and the Turkish Republic proclaimed by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.
c. 1920-44 In England:
John Alexander Vlasto is the author of The New Popular Pekingese (published in the 1920's with drawings by Charles Allport). Writing under the nom-de-plume of 'John Remenham', J. A. Vlasto is also the author of The Dump: A Mystery Novel (1931); and Tregear's Treasure (1932). The Loom: A Mystery Story (London, 1933, Skeffington & Son, Ltd) is a murder mystery set variously in the Malay States, London, and Ireland and is followed by Seed Of Envy (London, 1944, Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd). He later writes: Righteous Abel (1943); The Lurking Shadow (1946); and The Crooked Bough (1948).
1924 In France:
In the French Open tennis championships: 1 Helen Wills (USA); 2 Julie 'Didi' Vlasto (France); 3 Kitty McKane (Great Britain).
1926 In France:
Julie 'Didi' Vlasto partners Suzanne Lenglen to win the French Open Tennis 'Women's Doubles' Championship.
1932 In Chios:
Philip Argenti founds the 'Argenti Society' to preserve the historical and folklore heritage of the island of Chios. Inaugurated in one of the rooms of the Chios High School, it is moved to the Koraïs Library and is continuously endowed by Argenti who later adds a store to the library to house his donation of books, a collection of historical paintings and prints and his folklore collection. These new rooms are opened in 1962 on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Chios. After Argenti's death in 1974, his son Pandély donates more books, paintings and folklore exhibits, building a new wing and renovating the building to its present (1999) form.
1938 Uncertain where:
Pierre André Rodocanachi
[Referred to in 1938 Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) from Gale Research Inc., USA]
1939-45 In England:
The outbreak of the Second World War on 3 September, 1939, coincides with Helen Vlasto's annual summer house party at a large country house, Maryland, at Frinton, England. As usual, cousins from continental Europe are there. They include, from Marseilles, the families of Fanny & Georges Rodocanachi and Netta & Théodore Zarifi. All are already well aware of impending events in Europe as a consequence of their trading and banking interests. The French members of the house party promptly pack and return to France.
Michel E. T. D. Vlasto, then aged 51, is furious to be judged too old to enlist. By 1940 he and his wife Chrissie Vlasto (née Croil) have closed up their large London house at 16 Porchester Terrace and rented Fulbrook Farm at Elstead, Surrey, growing fruit and vegetables as part of their 'war effort'. With them are their four children the older three of whom are eventually old enough to serve in the war. With them too are the children's elderly grandmother, Helen Vlasto (née Zarifi), her blind sister Opie Ionides and several of their servants.
Michel E. T. D. Vlasto & Chrissie Vlasto now have four children:
Helen Croil Vlasto (1920-2001) who, during World War ll, serves for a while at General de Gaulle's 'Free French' headquarters at Carlton House Terrace, London, before training as a nurse and joining the Royal Navy as a V.A.D., working at Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, and in Alexandria during the Battle of Alamein.
[See: Change Into Uniform by Helen Long, an autobiography].
Christian Fanny Croil Vlasto (b. 1921) who uses her skills as an artist as a War Office draughtsman near Bath, England, before taking charge of flotillas of barges on the Grand Union Canal.
[See: Official Portrait by Bernard Hailstone R.A., c. 1946 commissioned by, and in the collection of, The Imperial War Museum, London an oil on canvas of Christian C. Vlasto in wartime uniform as a barge girl on the Grand Union Canal Company. See: Gulam Abbas]
Michael Croil 'Pogy' Vlasto (1923-1971) who serves in the Home Guard until old enough to join the Royal Navy, serving on attachment to the 'Free French Forces' in Dakar, etc.
Nancy Lorna Mary Croil Vlasto (b. 01-02-1926).
1940-44 In Marseille:
George & Fanny Rodocanachi arrange the escape of around 2,000 Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Occupied France. When no more Jews can be saved they are the founders with Donald Caskie, Ian Garrow, Pat O'Leary and others of 'Pat Line', the most famous and effective of the MI9/SOE escape lines. Fanny (née Vlasto) & George use their flat and consulting rooms (in what is now Boulevard du Dr Rodocanachi) as the principal 'safe house' for about 200 stranded Allied pilots, agents, escapers and evaders including Airey Neave. Eventually Rodocanachi is betrayed and dies in Büchenvald concentration camp in early 1944.
[See: Safe Houses Are Dangerous Helen Long, William Kimber & Co, UK, 1985]
1954 In Marseilles, France:
By the end of World War ll and with increasingly frequent marriages outside the 'community', ties between many of the Chios Diaspora families are fast breaking down. Only the elderly those born in the last half of the C19th still maintain strong bonds with cousins in London, Paris, Marseilles, Geneva, Athens and elsewhere.
Pictured right on a visit to the Zarifi family at 441, Avenue du Prado, Marseilles, in 1954, are right to left: Rosemary Long with her brother Christopher Long (the author) and Théodore 'Teddy' Zarifi with his sister Marie-Hélène Zarifi. However, only their respective grandparents, Michel E. T. D. Vlasto in London and his sister Marie-Antoinette 'Netta' Zarifi in Marseilles sustain such tenuous links. The fourth and fifth generations of the diaspora, born in the C20th, no longer need the protection and support of a community. Assimilation is now complete.
1954 In England:
Jill Vlasto (née Medway) (1916-1968), formerly a WWll code-breaker at Beltchley Park and active at Cambridge University in the early 1950s, is the author of An Elizabethan Anthology of Rounds (1954 Musical Quarterly XL, 222-234) and of Fifteen Anonymous Elizabethan Rounds (1580) (published by Stainer & Bell in 1954 & 1971, distributed by Galaxy Music Corp). She is the wife of Alexis Peter (Peter) Vlasto (1915-2000).
1955 Of the Vlastos:
Philip (Pandély) Argenti * (1891-1974), writing in the early 1950s, says: "... by the mid-C20th the Vlastos are distinguished as entrepreneurs, bankers and academics..."
All those he cites are mentioned above with the exception of "Antoine Vlasto, well-known as a financier in Paris with two sons, Costa and Stéphane". These are Antoine Vlasto (4) born 18 Oct 1858 at Galatz, Romania and two sons, born in Paris: Constantine Georges Antoine Dimitri Vlasto, born 17 Oct 1883, and Stéphane Antoine Dimitri Georges Vlasto, born 27 Sep 1885.
Mid-1950s In Greece:
Aikaterini Rodocanachi, Antony Benaki and Theodore Ralli are prominent donors of major works to the Greek National Gallery in Athens the Benaki Museum established later.
1970 In England:
Alexis P. Vlasto, the Cambridge historian, is the author of The Entry of the Slavs Into Christendom (Cambridge University Press, 1970) and A Linguistic History of Russia to the End of the Eighteenth Century. He is also the editor and translator, from the Russian, of The Book of Poverty and Wealth (1987).
During World War ll he had led the decoding section at Bletchley Park, England, which succeeded in breaking the Japanese Army Air Force 3366 code which drastically improved Allied success against Japan.
1978 In England:
The death of Michel E. T. D. Vlasto, the last of the diaspora generations.
His great-great-great-great grandfather was Zannis Vlasto (1) born Chios c. 1695.
His great-great-great grandfather was Michael Vlasto (1) born Chios c. 1722.
His great-great grandfather was Stephanos Vlasto born Chios c. 1742.
His great grandfather was Michael Vlasto (2) born Chios 1762.
His grandfather was Dimitri Vlasto born Trieste 1820.
His father was Ernest-Michel Vlasto born Jassy, Romania 1848.
He himself was born in Paris in 1888, moved to London as a child and lived a very English sort of life. But, whether he was aware of it or not, those of us who loved and knew him well always felt that his temperament and his soul belonged elsewhere. He was at heart a man who belonged everywhere and nowhere with roots that spread across Europe to islands and coasts on the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
1989 In Marseilles, France:
Right: The Zarifi family home at 441 Avenue du Prado, Marseilles, France]
1991 In the United States:
The death of Gregory Vlastos (1907-1991). One of the C20th's most influential scholars of ancient philosophy and the writer of essays and book reviews which raised standards of research, analysis, and exposition in classical philosophy to new levels of excellence. The acknowledged master of the philosophical essay, many of his pieces are now considered classics in the field, addressing some of the most difficult problems of ancient philosophy and combining the skills of a philosopher, philologist, and historian of ideas. At the time of his death, Gregory Vlastos was Professor Emeritus at Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley and the author of the renowned Studies in Greek Philosophy and, with Daniel Graham, of Platonic Studies (both from Princeton University Press).
1993 In New York:
Andrew Vlasto is murdered. A gypsy ring is accused of poisoning elderly men for their money by Associated Press
New York (AP) It was a reversal of tradition: On this wedding day, the bride carried the groom across the threshold. She had to, authorities say. The 85-year-old husband-to-be was woozy and oblivious to the surroundings as he was lugged into a storefront Harlem church in August 1993. A 'voodoo reverend' presided, conducting the first wedding of his career. The lone witness later became a police informant; he missed the ceremony but signed the marriage license anyway. Eighty-two days later, newlywed Andrew Vlasto had swapped the marriage license for a death certificate, killed by a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs. Vlasto's relatives met his wife at his deathbed. They soon suspected their new in-law, Sylvia Mitchell, was responsible for putting Vlasto there. Authorities now say they were right. This spring, just months before the sixth anniversary of her wedding, the 33-year-old Mitchell was accused of killing Vlasto while looting his $500,000 estate. The alleged beneficiary was an infamous gypsy clan suspected of killing six elderly men on both coasts, then plundering their estates of more than $1 million. The Manhattan district attorney will prosecute Mitchell, who has pleaded innocent. But it was the dead man's nephew who first investigated Vlasto's death, first linked it to the other cases and then refused to let the case disappear. "We wanted to make this a cause celebre, to show people around the country what's going on here. These people are killers," says the nephew, Jim Vlasto, once New York Gov. Hugh Carey's press secretary. Andrew Vlasto was a perfect target, his nephew says. He was elderly, reclusive, wealthy. "It's a business. Killing people, getting their assets," Jim Vlasto says evenly. "They know that if they act quickly enough, they can be in and out before anybody notices." Jim Vlasto noticed. Without him, those words could have been his uncle's epitaph.
Andrew Vlasto, an immigrant who arrived from Greece in 1945, settled comfortably into his new home. His family founded America's first Greek-language newspaper in 1894, and Andrew spent 29 years working there. He became prominent in the Greek Orthodox church and local politics, but stayed in touch with his family in Greece. In retirement, Vlasto rarely strayed far from the West 24th Street apartment where he lived alone. He strolled to nearby Greek diners and cafes for a bowl of soup or a glass of wine. He always paid cash; he owned no credit cards. He never wrote a check for more than his $250 monthly rent. "A Spartan existence," Jim Vlasto remembers, one that belied a six-figure bank account and real estate holdings in Greece. In 1991, in a local McDonald's, Vlasto met a young, dark-haired fortune-teller named Sylvia Mitchell. They chatted; she apparently failed to mention her man, Ephrem Tene-Bimbo, or their two children. Ephrem was a member of the Tene-Bimbo family, a gypsy clan chronicled in Peter Maas' 1974 book King of Gypsies. Though most of the family now lived in California, Ephrem and Sylvia known to neighbors as Tom and Tina Goldman had a Manhattan apartment. It wasn't until spring 1993, Mitchell said later, that her romance with the octogenarian bloomed. She recalled a whirlwind courtship, followed by an Aug. 19, 1993, wedding. Police Detective Michael Lentini, after an investigation, noted that "Andrew Vlasto was unable to walk on his own" on the day of the nuptials. Mitchell's version was more romantic. The 85-year-old "wanted very much to marry me," she said at a deposition after his death. "He loved me and he wanted to give me the security of marriage." The honeymoon? Investigators gave this scenario: Man and wife returned home, where wife established a joint bank account and acquired an ATM card. Within a month, $70,000 was funneled from Vlasto's account to an Atlantic City casino. Within two months, another $9,500 was withdrawn from ATM machines 19 withdrawals at the maximum of $500 each. All this was unknown to the Vlasto family, which was increasingly unable to reach Andrew. Mitchell was feeding him a steady diet of Valium, codeine and barbiturates, all provided by a cooperative pharmacist. There were no more walks through the neighborhood, no more visits to sidewalk cafes. Disoriented and disinterested, Andrew Vlasto was a prisoner in his own apartment. In early October, Andrew's alarmed relatives in Greece called Jim Vlasto with their worries. On Oct. 15, he and a friend went to his uncle's apartment. "Andrew at doctor," read a sign on the door. A series of phone calls led the nephew to Bellevue Hospital. For the second time in a month, he soon discovered, his uncle was hospitalized with a drug overdose. Jim Vlasto rushed to Bellevue's intensive care unit, where he was barred from seeing Andrew on orders from his uncle's wife. "What wife?" a stunned Vlasto remembers asking. Jim Vlasto went to court, trying to save his uncle's life and assets. His efforts came too late on the first count; Andrew died Nov. 10, 1993. His wife mourned by opposing an autopsy and staking a claim to his estate.
Jim Vlasto, the dapper son of a Greek immigrant, was a well-known and well-liked New Yorker. He'd worked as spokesman for a pair of prominent local leaders, Carey and New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez. His work had introduced him to the city's elite. After his uncle died, Vlasto called Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to lay out his suspicions about Sylvia Mitchell. Jim Vlasto demanded an autopsy. Despite Mitchell's protests, the hospital agreed. After the autopsy, Mitchell shipped the body to a Greenwich Village funeral home and allowed the family just a one-hour viewing. Then Andrew Vlasto was buried in New Jersey in an unmarked grave, his nephew says. It took five months to get the autopsy results. On April 24, 1994, it was revealed that Andrew Vlasto died from what a prosecutor later called "a cocktail of narcotic drugs" a fatal mix of Valium, barbiturates and codeine. By then, a nasty court battle was under way over his estate. Jim Vlasto, the consummate public relations man, turned private investigator. He traced dozens of phone calls from his uncle's apartment to the Tene-Bimbo home. Eventually, he filled a file drawer with prescription records, autopsy reports, bank records and subpoenas. In June 1994, in the middle of the estate battle, Vlasto read a newspaper story about a series of San Francisco deaths that echoed his uncle's demise. The May-December romances ended with funerals for five elderly men, all wooed by younger women. The West Coast suspects were linked to the Tene-Bimbo family, authorities said. Vlasto was the first to make the connection with his uncle's case. In notes he kept about the probe, Vlasto wrote, "JV (Jim Vlasto) turns info from San Francisco to DA ... DA talks to SF police ... investigation takes new turn." The West Coast probe, known as the 'Foxglove' case, dated from 1984. Eventually, eight people were indicted for stealing more than $1 million in property and cash from the victims' estates. The victims, between 87 and 94, were allegedly overdosed with the drug digitalis. The defendants in the San Francisco case are due back in court this October to answer the charges. Jim Vlasto stepped up his court fight, kept feeding his evidence to the Manhattan district attorney. (Prosecutors declined to comment on the role Vlasto's investigation played in the case.) Mitchell suddenly backed off her claim; an August 1994 agreement protected most of Andrew's estate, and she slipped off to Las Vegas. Jim Vlasto felt the case was moving along. But it took another five years, working with seven assistant district attorneys, before a 10-count indictment for manslaughter, grand larceny and perjury was returned this spring. Why so long? "The time between the death and the indictment came as a result of an extensive investigation," says Sara Frank, spokeswoman for the district attorney. Vlasto disagrees. He says the case was given low priority even though, according to advocates for the elderly, senior citizens are increasingly the targets of scams. "This all could have been done four years ago," Vlasto says. "The evidence is all the same." Mitchell, who now has four children with Tene-Bimbo, was arrested in Nevada. She waived extradition and returned to New York on June 18. Her attorney, Barry Fallick, expresses confidence she will be acquitted and reunited with her family. If he's wrong, Mitchell faces up to 15 years in prison. Jim Vlasto never mentions Mitchell by name "that woman" is his term of choice. Although he hopes for a guilty verdict, he feels that rescuing his uncle's estate and generating public attention already constitutes a victory. Mitchell avoided a murder charge because prosecutors believe the slaying was accidental. "We may have overdosed him," she reportedly told a neighbor. While Mitchell sits in a New York jail, Andrew Vlasto's body remains in an unmarked grave. None of Vlasto's relatives has visited his uneasy resting place. Once the trial is over, James Vlasto vows, he will visit the grave, then take his uncle home. "I'm going to fly him back to Greece," Vlasto says, "and bury him with our family."
[See: The Seattle Times Saturday, Nov. 8, 1997 Today's Top Stories]
1998 From St Victor-la-Coste, France:
"I met my Derrien cousins... he, Yves Derrien, very old but lucid... is the grandson of Calliope Floros and a was a remarkable chemist & biologist... She, Jacqueline 'Toutiou' Tarlay, amazing for 83 years, is still pretty and once truly beautiful... He not very interested in his Greek ancestry: 'Oh, these Greeks!'. While speaking of Greeks she suddenly said: "My mother, Baroness Bruyère, was the tenant [during 1960-63] of a great Greek family in Marseilles, in a superb apartment in Allée Gambetta." She finally became friends with her charming landlords and was even often invited to their superb house at  Avenue du Prado. It was the Zarifi family... Georges Zarifi. He was charming, his sister too, Hélène I think, and the house was marvellous with a superb garden..."
"Another of my cousins (Vlasto) from Perpignan, Jeanine Chatrousse (daughter of Paul Chatrousse who went to stay with his Vlasto cousins in Vienna in 1910 (see above) once told me about a ring which had belonged to [Loula] Julie Vlasto and which she had seen in the 1960s at Jeanette Derrien's (mother of Yves Derrien) who had told her it was intended for me. She described this ring as being in the form of an oval 'marquise' with a diamond at the centre and a crown above it. I was intrigued by this because I had never heard of this Vlasto ring. So, I asked Toutiou [Jacqueline Tarlay] about it. She said, yes, it's true there was a marquise at Calliope (her husband's grandmother) but that she had had it remounted as a crescent, fashionable in 1890/90. She hadn't seen the ring, only the crescent, but she had seen the mounting for the ring. When Calliope and daughter Jeanette died, the crescent went to Toutiou. She didn't like crescents. She had it reset as a 'barette' in Marseilles. And having told her what Jeanine Chatrousse had told me, she gave it to me the diamond at the centre being the stone which was once set in Julie Vlasto's ring. She gave me this barette today, happy with everything I told her of this great Chios family and I am keeping the memory of Julie Vlasto alive. Another trace of Julie!
[From: Françoise Briès Bernard writing to C.A.L. 18 Dec. 1998]
1999 In Marseilles, France:
Dominique Vlasto (née Fleury) stood as a candidate in the elections to the European Parliament (Marseille). She was also a member of: the Industrial Commission, Overseas Trade, and Research & Energy; a member of The Civil Liberties Commission, Justice & Home Affairs; and a member of the Special Relations delegation to Isräel.
1999 In Livorno, Trieste, Marseilles, etc.:
The decaying state of the 'Greek' Orthodox cemeteries in Livorno, Trieste and Marseilles shows the extent to which the Chian diaspora has now lost its distinctive identity and cohesion. Much research remains to be done identifying the numerous diaspora family members to be found buried in cemeteries such as those in London (West Norwood), Liverpool, Manchester, Marseilles, Trieste, Livorno, Syros, Athens, Corfu, Crete, Vienna, etc.
Livorno: This cemetery on the eastern hills is hard to find and now a particularly tragic sight. It is entirely over-grown and neglected, its superb marble mausoleums collapsing and its tombs slowly disintegrating. The chapel roof is falling in and, according to the devoted couple (right) who are still its guardians, the church authorities appear to abandoned it, having done nothing to protect or preserve it for years. The tomb of Alexander M. Vlasto (1814-44) is now almost illegible. All the indications are that Livorno was a poor choice of refuge for fleeing Chiots many of whom appear to have moved on fairly soon. Still visible are the vast city and summer palazzos of the Rallis and others. Otherwise, little remains to be seen of C19th Livorno, the city having been almost entirely destroyed by American bombers in WW2. Even the Orthodox church, in the centre of the city, is now in the hands of the Roman Catholic church and therefore usually closed.
All the records for Greek Orthodox Church established by the Chios diaspora in what is now Via Madonna were boxed up in four crates soon after World War ll. They are believed to be at the Vatican among the archives of the Congregatione delli Chiesi Orientali. Other sources of information in Livorno include: the Seminaria in Via Seminaria; the Archivio della Ciesa; the Archivio di Stato; and the records of the non-Roman Catholic community in the Mediatech City archives.
Trieste: The Greek Orthodox Cemetery at St Anna contains dozens of the most magnificent and moving memorials and is still relatively well-maintained. Nearly every one of the noble families of Chios is represented there, along with the Paleologos (Paleologue) family who were rulers in Byzantium.
In almost every case the Chian tombs include the words 'of Chios' a clear, semi-political statement that the community did not regard itself as either 'new' Greeks or 'old' Ottomans both of whom had been responsible for the Chian catastrophe.
Among the often vast and lavish tombs and mausoleums is the simple and impressive memorial to the last demogeront of Chios in 1822, Michael Vlasto, with an exquisite portrait of him carved in marble.
It is the only known image of the man whose decision to allow his family and friends to be held hostage should have secured the survival of a population of around 180,000 people.
Sadly the flat slab recording the names of many other Vlastos buried in this tomb has been robbed of its bronze lettering and is now illegible. In all probability, however, Michael Vlasto's tragic daughter, Oriettou Vlasto, is buried here with him.
She died of exhaustion, aged 20, within a day or two of reaching safety in Trieste and soon after giving birth to her only child, Zennou Rodocanachi, as she and her husband fled Chios.
Above, left to right and then down Family tombs in Trieste: Galati, Kessissoglu, Paleologos, Ralli, Scaramanga, Ralli, Morand, Galati, Vlasto, Vlasto, Galati and the church of St Nicholas, Trieste.
The Greek Orthodox church near the Swedenplatz has a formal reception room containing church valuables, records and the portraits of founders. Among these is an impressive framed document shows a Ioannis [Zannis] Vlasto listed among the founders and benefactors of the cathedral on 1 Oct 1854 (he does not appear in Philip Argenti's Librod'Oro). In the records of births, deaths and marriages, a cursory glance revealed that a Pandély Vlasto died in Vienna on 6 December 1834 at the age of 34 and was buried in St Mark's Cemetery (which also contains the alleged remains of Mozart). We found the priests there entirely uninterested in their church's history and founders.
NB. In most of these cemeteries are the tombs of members of the Petrocochino family. They often bear the distinctive symbol of a snake biting its own tail. At Livorno left, at the centre of the circle, is what appears to be a silk moth, perhaps acknowledging the wealth the family derived from the silk trade. The snake eating its own tail is well-known in mythology and alchemy. It is sometimes known as Ouroboros.
Pictures dating from 1657 [Johannes Macarius, Abraxus en Apistopistus, (Antwerp)] are identical to those on the Petrocochino tombs. An early reference to the self-consuming snake appears in the Greek language from Horapollo, an Egyptian of the 5th Century AD, writing about Egyptian hieroglyphs:
"If they wish to represent the universe, they draw a snake scattered with bright scales, swallowing its own tail: the flakes indicate the stars of the universe... Each year it divests itself of its skin, the old time... And the consumption of its own body indicates that all things in the world which may be produced by divine providence in the world, also succumb to decay."
This figure 'Eon' is the entirety of time and space and is also Okeanos, the water-belt in gnostic cosmology, which separates the upper sphere of the Pneuma from the lower, dark waters. There may be a connection with Proteus, the eternally wandering watery old man from Greek mythology "who has the keys to the sea... and power over everything, the son of Oceanus... who reforms and returns in diverse forms". There appear to be many inter-connecting relationships between the snake, Mercury (Hermes) and the Greek 'Ophites' (ophis=snake) which was once worshipped as the redeeming son of God. C.A.L. 29-04-99.
Left: The author in Vlasto Street, Chios, in 1999, discovering one of the houses of his great-great-great grandfather, the demogeront, Michael Vlasto (1762-1849) and right:discovering his tomb at the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Trieste. Like scores of Chian refugee tombs in Trieste, Livorno, Marseilles, London and elsewhere, the inscription emphatically implies that he was neither Greek nor Ottoman but simply 'from Chios'.
Some references to 'Mavrogordato' 'Ralli' & 'Rodocanachi' in 1998:
Go to previous page:
© (1999) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.