The Chios Diaspora 1822-1899
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 on the island of Chios 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.
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The Chios Diaspora 1900-1999
By Christopher Long
By the end of the massacres and within a period of just six months approximately three quarters of the island's 'Greek' Orthodox population of 120,000 are killed, enslaved or die of disease. Of the survivors, almost all flee as refugees. An estimated 20,000 are direct victims of the massacres. A further 45,000 are taken into slavery, of whom about half are redeemed and half die (neglected and in poverty throughout the Ottoman empire). In Constantinople some Chian slaves are offered for sale at 100 piastres each, though the sudden glut means that slave prices tumble throughout the region. Mass circumcisions of young Christian Chians takes place in Constantinople, while women are despatched to the brothels. An unquantifiable number die on the island as a consequence of hunger and disease. Around five thousand Chians, mostly prosperous merchants and diplomats, happen to be abroad at the time including many young men learning the family business in satellite trading houses in port cities around the Mediterranean. Around fifteen thousand manage to escape the island before Kara Ali's Turkish troops invade the island. The only formal record of named victims is to those members of the island's aristocracy held hostage in the Kastro or hanged on 23rd April 1822.
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.The offspring of Zannis Vlasto (1) (c. 1695-?) b. Chios?, m. Argenti, d. Chios?
1822-23 On the island of Psara, close to Chios:
"I saw a pretty child whose nurse had just reunited him with his parents; he had been separated from them for several months. This faithful nurse had fled into the mountains during the first days of the massacre, running hither and thither, living on wild herbs, until providence supplied her with a means of escape, running to a neighbouring island. The parents of this child had, for their part, also fled, but to the other side [of Psara]... and had lost all hope of ever again finding this poor little creature..."
[See: Histoire de la Revolution Actuelle by Blanquaire (1825) p.222, translated by CAL.]
1823 In Marseilles, France:
"In July, a school largely for young Greek boys opens in Marseilles in response to the sudden large influx of families fleeing the massacres on Chios. Run by the 'pensionnat Massol père', eighteen of the first twenty-four pupils are Greeks:
From Chios are: Paul, Pierre and Emmanuel Zizinia, Etienne and Hippas Sechiari, Antoine and Jean Psicha [Psycha], Dimitri and Léon Pascouloglou, Jean Datodi and Philippe Paspati. In addition there are Alexandre Detta from Smyrna and François Zaloglou from Constantinople. Jacques Badetti enters in October."
[See: Grecs et Philhellenes A Marseille by Pierre Echinard Institue Historique de Provence, translated by CAL.]
1824 Throughout Europe:
Public outrage at the 1822 horrors on Chios spreads through Europe and North America. Eugène Delacroix, Scenes of the Massacres of Chios (bought for the Louvre by King Charles X of France) among other paintings on the same theme.
Victor Hugo writes The Child of Chios.
Lord Byron, whose prolific writing promoting Hellenism has inspired a generation, dies aged 36.
Two years later, Picauld's tragedy, Léonidas, is performed at the Théâtre Français with the young sons of the Greek admirals Kanaris and Miaulis as guests of the Duke of Orleans.
1824 On the Island of Psara:
In June, in a repeat of the Chios massacres, the Sultan now orders the neighbouring island of Psara to be laid waste as a reprisal for the assistance it gave to Chios two years earlier. Psara is small and much poorer than Chios. Eighty frigates, brigs and transports carrying 3,000 Janissaries and 4,000 Asiatic troops invade the island, led by Mehmet Pasha. Eight thousand men, women and children are butchered or wounded, being left to die of exposure, untreated wounds, starvation or disease.
Only 3,000 of the original population of 20,000 survive. Large numbers are captured as slaves and 500 heads and 1,200 ears are shipped to Constantinople to be displayed in 'victory pillars' at the Seraglio Gate. Additionally some 12,000 refugees from Smyrna and Lesbos are caught up in a massacre for a second time.
Rather than fall into the hands of the Turks and the inevitable torture, rape and slavery, many choose to blow themselves up with their own gun-powder echoing accounts of women throwing themselves off cliffs with their children and infants at the mountain village of Anatavos on Chios. The few who escape flee to Momemvasia and found Nea (New) Psara.
Few Chian refugees are caught on Psara since most have already moved on to Syros, Tinos, the Cyclades and newly liberated Athens. The richer and better connected have already made for Trieste, Livorno and Alexandria, though the most successful quickly settle in Marseilles, London, Liverpool and Manchester.
1825 On the Island of Syros:
Many Chian refugees set about establishing a 'second Chios' on the island of Syros which has a predominantly Roman Catholic Greek population. The island's Capuchin missionaries, suffering from raids of Corsairs, had previously appealed for help to Louis Xlll of France who had taken the island into his protection.
Indeed, Syros continued to operate, diplomatically, under the French flag, an arrangement that would have suited the Chian merchants and ship-owners who had long prospered on Chios because of their semi-autonomous position under the Ottomans.
Stephen Zygomalas and Ambrose and Emmanuel Scaramanga are among the committee of four (the 'epitrope') representing Chian interests in the new Greek parliament. In many respects Syros comes to resemble the way life had been conducted on Chios before the massacre while trading houses and fleets are soon re-established around Vrontado and the excellent natural harbour.
The Chians embark on rapid construction projects and re-establish their shipping and trading enterprises in Egyptian cotton and spices from the East.
Within a few years the community's leader, Luke Ralli, renames the city Ermopoulos ('city of Hermes', the god of commerce) and the island becomes the administrative centre of the Cyclades, the main coaling station of the Eastern Mediterranean and the premier port and warehouse in the new Greek state.
Today Syros still has a monopoly on the manufacture of Turkish Delight, a 'Chian' speciality made from the mastic crop which is unique to Chios.
Of the Vlasto family, few settle in Syros other than Nicolas Vlasto (1805-1861) with his wife Marie Louca Mavrogordato and their daughter Angerou Vlasto (1835-1845) who dies, aged ten, in Marseilles where most of the Vlastos have settled.
1825 Of the Vlasto, Galati, Rodocanachi and Mavrogordato families:
"After 1825 the troubles in the Levant led to the emergence of Trieste, Livorno and Genoa as dominant trading ports. Those families who had no previous direct trading presence in Marseilles were often those with extensive interests in the Black Sea, the Levant, Italy and Austria. These included the Vlasto, Galati, Rodocanachi and Mavrogordato families. They would have had extensive representation in Marseilles through their Chian cousins."
[See: Grecs et Philhellenes A Marseille by Pierre Echinard Institue Historique de Provence, translated by CAL.]
1825-30 Of the earliest Chian merchants in Marseilles:
Pierre-Emmanuel Schilizzi of 'Schilizzi & Cie', originally from Chios, is present in Marseilles from 1816. (Is this the Peter Schilizzi who marries Marigo (Stefanos) Ralli, b. 1806?)
In 1830 his brother-in-law André-Nicolas Argenti (a refugee in Marseilles since 1822) becomes a partner in 'Schilizzi-Argenti & Cie'.
In 1834 the brother-in-law of both men, Auguste Ralli (1792-1878) (in Marseilles since 1825), joins the partnership which then becomes 'Ralli-Schilizzi & Argenti'.
This new company has direct links to 'Ralli Brothers' in London which Augustus had established in 1818 with four of his brothers. This link with 'Ralli Brothers' ensures continued contact with the Black Sea and Odessa.
Apart from grain, 'Ralli-Schilizzi & Argenti' trades in silk, wool and copper, using its own merchant fleet and establishing, in 1837, the only Marseilles trading house in Tauris, Persia.
André Argenti of Chios married Loula 'Julie' (Alexander) Ralli on 31 October 1832, had eight children, born between 1834 and 1845, and died 21 June 1878. The son of Nicolas, he was a cousin of Pantaléon Argenti and his brothers who headed 'Argenti & Cie'.
Jean-Demetrius Mavrogordato of Chios had been established in Trieste and Livorno from before 1821 and was the widower of Théodoroula Vlasto. He arrived in Marseilles in 1825, quickly establishing an important and varied trading house.
The Rodocanachi, Sechiari and Vlasto families were among those who had no previous direct trading experience in Marseilles prior to the Massacres and their escape. However, their close family connections and indirect business interests led them to establish major trading houses there from around 1825 onwards..."
[See: Grecs et Philhellenes A Marseille by Pierre Echinard Institue Historique de Provence, translated by CAL.]
1827 On Chios:
Although an expedition by Fabvier to relieve Chios fails, the third and final phase of the Greek War of Independence ends with the defeat of the Turkish fleet at Salona and victory at Navarino for the combined British, French and Russian fleet under the command Britain's Admiral Codrington.
1828 In Greece:
The Turks evacuate mainland Greece after 400 years of Ottoman rule.
1829 In Turkey:
Mahmoud, Sultan of Turkey, acknowledges the independence of Greece.
1830 Of the diaspora families on Syros:
"Syros, by the 1830s, had grown rapidly to become the most important Chian colony, acting as a staging post and redistribution centre for consignments from Constantinople and the Black Sea. Although Marseilles traders began to speculate in other commodities, they still concentrated particularly on the grain trade, having immense influence in times of political and economic crisis."
1830 In London:
The Protocol of London proclaims Greece an independent kingdom and a Greek Embassy is established there. The 'Greek Community of London' is founded predominantly by members of the Chios diaspora. Soon after a 'Brotherhood' of 24 (almost all Chians and including seven Rallis) establish their first church in a house shared with the Ionides family business at Finsbury Circus. It is at Finsbury Circus that at least 21 of the Chian community have their offices. They import their Archimandrites from Chios. Similar churches are established by Chian merchants in Manchester and Liverpool.
1831-32 In Europe:
Austria, Britain and Russia recognise Greece as an independent kingdom, though Chios is still occupied by the Turks and not included in the new state.
1833 On Syros:
Antonius Vlasto founds and directs a school. [He does not appear in Philip Argenti's Libro D'Oro]
[From: Maria Xhida The Kampos, Chios, March 1999]
1833 In Liverpool:
The birth in Manchester of entrepreneur Constantine Alexander Ionides who bequeathes on his death in 1900 his formidable 'Ionides Collection' to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London 90 paintings, 300 drawings and water-colours and 750 prints. The collection includes: Delacroix, Rousseau, Degas, Louis Le Nain, Rembrandt, Nardo di Cione, Millet, Watts, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and numerous others. The collection includes portraits of himself and members of his family.
Constantine is the son of the rich Greek art patron and philanthropist Alexander Ionides whose house at 1 Holland Park became a gathering point for Watts, Whistler and Rossetti and was decorated by Philip Webb, William Morris and Walter Crane. This house in Holland Park was damaged in World War ll and subsequently became the Greek Embassy in London.
The author's London home, 1993. The painting is a sketch by Jean-Paul Laurens for his large work La Voûte d'Aciers in the Louvre Gallery, Paris. It once formed part of the collection of Constantine and Alexander Ionides. Some of the blue and white Chinese porcelain once belonged in the collection of George Eumorfopoulos whose large gift forms the basis of the Chinese Collection at The British Museum, London.
1834 In Marseilles:
The founding of the Orthodox Church.
"Twenty-one 'constitutional members' two-thirds of them from among the Chios diaspora and representing the great families and Greek Orthodox community in Marseilles establish their church in Rue de la Grande-Armée under a new constitution (replacing one of 1820).
The building is completed the following year, in 1835, at a cost of FFr.10,227.30, but is demolished in 1844 to make way for another church costing FFr.30,000. The founders who subscribe the bulk of the building costs are:
Parascheva Sechiari, Emmanuel & Etienne Rodocanachi, André Argenti, Auguste Ralli, George D. Zizinia, Michel Agalasto, Théodore Racke, Ambroise Argenti, Pierre J. Vlasto, Jean Baltazzi, C. N. Varsami, Jean Bally, George Petrocochino and George Grimanelli."
The names of the original founders and those who contributed to the church's foundation thereafter, notably the Zarifi family, are inscribed on stone panels in the entrance hall of the present church.
1835 In London:
Pandia Ralli (1793-1865), universally known as Zeus, is the genius within Ralli Brothers and the undisputed leader of the Chios diaspora community in London. In 1835 he is appointed their first Greek consul.
1842 In London:
TITLE="A plan of the Greek Orthodox plot at West Nowood Cemetery, founded by London Chios diaspora community in 1842 and where most of them are buried."> Chian refugees acquire their community's first cemetery. Alexander C. Ionides, Antonios T. Ralli, Eustratios S. Ralli and John S. Schilizzi form the committee which buys the West Norwood Cemetery plot for the expatriate community. Here can be found representatives of all the principal Chios Diaspora families many of the tombs being now regarded as important architectural monuments.
1844 In Livorno:
Alexander M. Vlasto, son of the Chios demogeront Michael Vlasto (2) dies aged 30.
Having witnessed the massacres as an eight year-old, his family fled with him to Livorno where he studies medicine, becomes an eminent writer of medical works and the author of Xhiaka A History of the Island of Chios AD 70-1822.
The book's account of the massacres forms the basis of many subsequent histories notably Greek Fire by Helen Long (née Vlasto and several books about Chios by Philip Argenti.
Xhiaka A History of the Island of Chios AD 70-1822 was first published (top) in Greek in Ermopolis, Syros, 1840, then in English translation by J. Davy & Sons, Dryden Press, London, 1913 and re-published in Greek by Nicolas Chaviara of Chios, Greece in 2000 (ISBN 960-86686-03).
ca. 1842 In Jassy, Romania:
Dimitri Vlasto (1820-63), who would have been a two year-old when his family fled the Chios massacres for Trieste, appears to settle in Romania where, a thousand years earlier, his family had vast property and trading interests which presumably accounted for its elevated position among the six principal families among the ruling caste of the Byzantine Empire.
At Jassy in 1846, he marries Nathalie Winkler, grand-daughter of General, the Count de Dwernica.
Right: Dimitri Vlasto's silver and cornelian seal with the die-stamp 'flipped' to reveal 'DV' in the author's possession.It's unclear what he did there. According to some accounts, Vlastos in Romania were bankers. Like so many of the survivors of the Massacres and their aftermath, he dies young in Cairo, perhaps on a business trip aged only 43.
He leaves a widow and two young sons, Ernest-Michel (Dimitri) Vlasto (1848-1900) and Antoine (Dimitri) Vlasto (1858-?). This would explain why, according to his grandson Michel E. T. D. Vlasto in the 1960s, the family "had no great fortune" (relatively speaking!).
Antoine (Dimitri) Vlasto later becomes a prominent banker in Paris and Ernest-Michel (Dimitri) Vlasto a pioneering engineer in Paris (see below).
1848 In Jassy, Romania:
The birth of the author's great-great grandfather Ernest-Michel (Dimitri) Vlasto (1848-1900) who settles with his wife Hélène Zarifi at 7 Rue Lamennais, Paris. He becomes one of France's most gifted civil engineers, a professor of the Association Polytechniques, who worked with Ferdinand de Lesseps and became a pioneer of international telephone systems and the laying of deep sea cables.
Right: A gold and silver pocket watch made by Gustave Sandoz, at the Palais Royal in Paris, which belonged to Ernest-Michel (Dimitri) Vlasto in the author's possession.
The author, in 1883, of Leçons des Choses Usuelles (Paris 1883) a little book which makes science and technology interesting for children. He dies in a clinic in Paris, aged only 52, after developing, it is believed, a severe brain disorder.
Right: Guide pour les Leçons de Choses Usuelles by Ernest-Michel (Dimitri) Vlasto (Paris 1883).
1849 In Trieste:
Michael Vlasto (2) dies in exile. The last demogeront of Chios, he was chief of the elders on Chios during the Massacres. The text, in Greek, on his tomb in the Greek Orthodox Cemetery in Trieste reads:
"A survivor among ten other companions
Hastened to the grave
When he was in all 87 years old
He lived piously and rests here
11th November 1849"
1849 In London:
1854 In Vienna:
The Greek Orthodox church near the Swedenplatz has an impressive framed document showing a Ioannis [Iannis] Vlasto among the founders or benefactors on 1 Oct 1854 (he does not appear in Philip Argenti's Libro d'Oro).
No research has been done on the Viennese diaspora community.
The following, at least, were in Vienna:
Timoleon Vlasto, b. 10 Jun 1823; Maria Galati, b. 9 Apr 1824; Pandély Vlasto (1), d. 10 Oct 1824; Pandély Vlasto (3), b. 22 Jan 1825; Marc Carzia and Johanna Vlasto, m. 28 Feb 1826; Jean Galati, b. 2 Jun 1826; Stephanis Rodocanachi and Caterno Vlasto, m. 15 Jul 1828; Georges Vlasto (1) and Zambelou Galati (2), m. 21 Nov 1828; Alexandre Vlasto (3), b. 17 Nov 1829; Zambelou Galati (2), d. 5 Dec 1829; Oriettou Vlasto (1), d. 18 Nov 1832; Constantin Topali and Elisabeth Vlasto, m. 10 Jan 1869; Ambrouzis Ralli (2), Created a Baron by the Emperor of Austria 15 Apr 1874.
1850s In London:
The first generation of the Chios diaspora to be born after the massacres appear to settle with remarkable ease into a new way of life in London, Marseilles or Paris. But others, from Constantinople, formed part of this same diaspora though they had no direct connection with Chios or its massacres.
Fanny Kessissoglu (ca.1835-1917), the author's great-great grandmother was of Greek Byzantine origin and her forebears came probably from Romania and Constantinople though they also appear yo have had links in Smyrna.
She marries Michael (Jean) Zarifi whose family are from Constantinople where they are bankers to the Sultan and effectively run the Ottoman empire's finances.
These families are not exiles like those from Chios. They appear to foresee the demise of the Ottoman empire and to anticipate that France and Britain are emerging as the hubs of world trade. They live for a while in Paris (where they are photographed by Félix Nadar) before eventually settling permanently in London.
Right: Fanny Zarifi (née Kessisoglou and her husband Michel (Jean) Zarifi are both photographed in Paris by the renowned French photographer Félix Nadar who succeeds in making portraits of most of the 'beau monde' of Paris in the the second half of the C19th. (See: Who's Who)
Right: This small silver casket contains a miniature French/English English/French dictionary, the size of a postage stamp. In the lid is a magnifying glass. It was made in England in 1894 a miracle of miniturisation and print technology and is worn on a watchchain by Michel (Jean) Zarifi. Eventually it passed to his daughter Hélène Vlasto (née Zarifi) and then to her grand-daughter Helen Croil Vlasto who gave it to her son, the author, on his 18th birthday.
1856 In London:
Three indivuals are to transform the Baltic Exchange in London. They are Michael E. Rodocanachi (chairman), J. H. W. Schroder, and Pandia Ralli who are founding directors of the 'new' Baltic Exchange Company.
Ralli, always known as 'Zeus', is described as: "... a member of a Greek family of corn merchants and bankers, emphasising the long and mutually beneficial relationship between the Baltic and Greek members...". J. H. W. Schroder is: "... a partner in the firm of J. Henry Schroder & Co., founded by his legendary father...".
Michael E. Rodocanachi appears also to have a financial interest in Schroder.
Ralli and Schroder's fellow directors are John Mallett, Richard Brandt, George Goss, John Todd, Thomas Prehn, William Wilson, Richard Wilson, Charles B. Colchester and F. G. Goodliffe.
"... The Baltic still needed new premises but the lease on South Sea House did not expire for a further three years until 29 September 1899. In 1897 the value of South Sea House was put at £70,000 but Michael Rodocanachi, the chairman, estimated that the book value would rise to £280,000 with alterations..."
"... The search for new premises in 1856-57 involved the formation of a company 'to acquire the freehold of South Sea House, a historic building which was erected about 1715'. The effect of this move and the greatly improved facilities was immediate according to Findlay. The numbers of those using the room on 1 March, 1858, was 626, nearly 300 more members than in 1854. This was the historic split between the Baltic Exchange, the institution, and the Baltic Company, which exists today..."
1857 Of the Chios diaspora in Marseilles:
"... In their hearts they have a powerful nostalgia for their own country; they never cease to be the sons of Chios, sending money and maintaining a school and a hospital there. They would seldom help a stranger but are charitable among themselves..."
[See: Fustel de Coulanges Notes: 1857]
1858 In Australia:
Not all the refugees head west towards mainland Europe.
Pericles J. Rodocanachi, cited as a 'native of Greece', goes to Australia in 1858.
Having studied medicine for two years at the Panepistimion (or university) of Greece he works under Dr Charles Wood and Dr James McCraith and at the British Maritime Hospital in Smyrna.
In Australia he settles as a general practitioner in Victoria till 1863 and in New South Wales for 22 years, becoming coroner for the Burrangong (Young) District, and Medical Officer to Grenfell Hospital. He is apparently prepared to undergo 'any reasonable examination in all branches of the medical profession'.
1859 Uncertain where:
The birth of Emmanuel Pierre Rodocanachi (1859-1934) who becomes President of the Academy of Moral and Political Science, Paris, and a member of the Institut Français. He marries Mary (Peter) Ralli (1864-1934).
[See: Library Catalogue from Contributing Libraries 1896, 1904, 1906, 1914]
1863 In Liverpool:
The birth of entrepreneur George Eumorfopoulos who later gives his huge collection of Chinese art to form the centrepiece of the British Museum collection.
1865 In London, Liverpool & worldwide:
A new Ralli Brothers partnership of Stephen Ralli (1829-1902), Alexander Vlasto (1833-1899) and John Ralli (1834-1879) develops to form one of the world's largest firms of merchant trading, shipping and banking.
Alexander Vlasto (1833-1899), eldest son of Antoine & Calliope Vlasto (sister of Ambrouzis (Stefanos) Ralli from Trieste), is joined by Ambrouzis' son Antoine.
Ralli Brothers expands its international operations remorselessly throughout the C19th and early C20th. Under the leadership of Anthony Vlasto (1863-1933), Sir Lucas Ralli (1846-1931) and Sir Strati Ralli (1876-1964) it extends its business throughout Europe, India and Africa.
Its expansion slows however following the two World Wars and the decline of the British Empire. In 1961, under the chairmanship of Jack Vlasto (1903-ca.1975), the firm's production, trading, shipping and banking arms are dismembered following an asset-stripping 'dawn raid' by Sir Isaac Wolfson's General Guarantee Corp. Ltd.
See: 'Ralli Brother Limited' by Jack Vlasto, J. P. McNulty & Co Ltd (London 1951)
1874 Uncertain where:
The birth of Ambrose John Rodocanachi (1874-1942)
[See: Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) from Gale Research Inc., USA]
c. 1879 In London:
The 'New Greek Church' Cathedral of St Sophia is established in Moscow Road, Westminster, London.
Designed by John Oldrid Scott (1841-1913), son of Giles Gilbert Scott, it was funded by the Greek community mostly the Chios families with one non-Greek contribution from Edwin Freshfield, the solicitor who serves many of their firms and families.
Until World War ll many of the Chios families had houses in nearby Bayswater streets such as Porchester Terrace, on the northern side of Kensington Gardens.
Rich decoration, formidable endowments and gifts of precious objects and icons were made almost exclusively by the emigré families from Chios: Ralli, Vlasto, Agelasto, Mavrogordato, Schilizzi, Ionides, Argenti, Zarifi, etc.
[See: Treasured Offerings A catalogue and history of the church and its community accompanying the exhibition in London in 2002 (published by the Byzantine & Christian Museum]
C19th In Jassy, Romania:
Euphrosyne Vlasto-Marcolini is described as a prominent opera singer who, probably in the 1830's or 1840's, leaves The Romanian Academy of Music in Bucharest and/or Jassy to find fame abroad.
"... The powerful movement in favour of a national movement brought about the creation of the 'Philharmonic Society' in Bucharest (1833) and that of the 'Dramatic Philharmonic School of Arts' in Jassy (1836). Beside the sections for theatre, literature and instrumental music, these schools had also singing and ballet classes. In 1836, the pupils of the Bucharest Philharmonic Society performed Rossini's 'Semiramis' and, a few years latter, Bellini's 'Norma' was played in Jassy. However, the principal aim of both schools was the creation of a national literature and dramaturgy. Although these two societies had but a short life..."
"... Les riches et brillantes traditions de l'art lyrique roumain, vieilles de deux siècles environ, sont encore peu connues à l'etranger. C'est en 1772 que, pour la première fois, la présence d'une troupe d'opéra est signalée à Bucarest. Très vite après, la beauté de la musique d'opera attire un public de plus en plus nombreux; de jeunes talents commencent à s'affirmer. Déja, en 1836, au concert de fin d'année, les élèves de 'L'Ecole de Musique et de Déclamation' interprétaient en roumain 'Sémiramide' de Rossini. Parmi eux s'était fait remarquer la soprano Eufrosina Vlasto qui quelques années plus tard, sous le pseudonyme de Marcolini allait obtenir un grand succès sur les scènes d'Italie..."
1881 On Chios:
On 22/23rd March a major earthquake hits Chios (Richter 6.5), killing around 3,500 and injuring 1,320. Massive destruction of property occurs during the 422 tremors which last until 7th April. Chios town is devastated and has never fully recovered, bearing the deep scars of both man-made and natural catastrophes.
Only about 10,000 inhabitants survive the earthquake. Bodies lie piled in the streets in the summer heat and the inhabitants are too weak to bury them all. Eventually typhoid pits are dug.
Dimitrios Mavrogordato, grandson of Angerou Vlasto, whose father Michael Mavrogordato was hanged in the Kastro in 1822, is killed along with his wife Catherine Agalasto.
Some 40,000 extra Turkish troops are dispatched to Chios to assess the situation and to preserve what remains of the island's previous wealth (now mostly lost in rubble and fires). But they have difficulty entering the harbour because of the number of corpses floating in the water. Turkish records show that every church apart from St Antoine is destroyed.
Bands of other Turks loot and harass the Chian survivors. Again, thousands of Chians flee to the island of Psara where, fifty years earlier, 20,000 Chians fled to escape the Turkish invasion. Again Psara provides a welcoming sanctuary.
1883 In France:
Stefanos 'Etienne' (Antony) Vlasto (ca. 1835-1905) writes frequent essays in Greek and French, including Les Derniers Jours de Constantinople (Paris 1883) and Grecs & Turcs (Marseille 1899), etc. He was born in Odessa, died in Alexandria, but spent most of life in Marseilles.
1888 In Paris:
The birth of the author's grandfather, Michel Ernest Theodore Demetrius Vlasto (1888-1979). He is to be among the last of the pure-bred diaspora generations. He is brought up at 7 Rue Lamennais, Paris (attending the Lycée Napoléon).
However, in the 1890s, his father, the eminent engineer and pioneer of telecommunications Ernest-Michel Vlasto (1848-1900), appears to suffer from a serious mental break-down and enters a clinic in Paris where his wife, Hélène Vlasto (née Zarifi), is a constant visitor.
Having lost his own father when he was fifteen, Ernest-Michel is in his forties when he realises that he will leave his own son fatherless at the age of twelve.
Following the death of her husband in 1900, Helen Vlasto returns to London, where she grew up, so that her son Michel-Ernest can be educated at English preparatory schools and at Winchester College.
Presumably intended to alieviate his tragic separation from his family, this photograph is inscribed "A mon cher Ernest le 10 Avril 1895. Faite expres pour toi" by which time Ernest-Michel Vlasto is in a clinic in Paris and five years from his death. This early loss of his father deeply affected Michel E. T. D. Vlasto for the rest of his life. As this picture shows he is now promoted to titular 'head of the family', though this is Paris, April 1895...
... before learning to adapt to the rigours of English 'preparatory' and 'public' schools.
1891 Uncertain where:
The birth of the Italian painter & illustrator Paolo Stamaty Rodocanachi (1891-1958). Exhibitions at the Museo dell'Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti, Genoa.
[See: History of Art from Getty Art History Information Programme; and LC MARC Foreign Language Catalogue from the US Library of Congress]
The Zarifi family have by now transferred their assets from Constantinople to Marseilles and London and made the strategic decision to exploit the opportunities presented by the British and French trading empires. In Constantinople they assured their pre-eminant position by marrying into and collaborating with the Zafiropoulo family, becoming vastly successful as bankers while continuing to trade in Black Sea grain and flour.
Right: Although the Zarifis foresee the imminent demise of the creaking Ottoman empire they neverthess maintain connections in Constantinople into the early years of the C20th. Here in a 'silhouette' from a Constantinople collection of ca.1908, are George, Léon and Stefanos Zarifi.
However, when they arrived as virtual 'unknowns' in Marseilles in the mid C19th they were late on the scene and not part of the Chios 'magic circle'. It is fascinating to note that within a period of 20 years they had made four very significant marriage alliances that ensured their position and future:
These astutely made marriages ensure that the Zarifis are firmly locked into the principal Chios families now inextricably established in Marseilles, London and Liverpool.
Generally speaking, by the end of the C19th, the diaspora from Chios and Constantinople falls into three broad camps:
The large fortunes made by these families have a side effect. So great are many of these families' fortunes that a considerable number of individuals are now freed to pursue academic, philanthropic and artistic pursuits. This is particularly the case among the Rodocanachi, Vlasto and Argenti families.
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 3 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. Karachi, India 31-08-1910, historian of Slav civilisation at the University of Cambridge (and code-breaker at Bletchley Park in WWll) , m. London 1945, Hilda Medway.
Dominie (Peter) Vlasto, b. Liverpool 30-12-1911, m. Liverpool 1935, John Nicholls (1909-70), British ambassador to Israel (1954-57), Belgrade (1957-60), Brussels (1960-63), Johannesburg (1966-69)
Adrien (Peter) Vlasto, b. Liverpool 15-09-1924, medical practitioner..."
[See: Noblesse Européenne Vlasto.
* Untrue in 1999: i.e. Michel 'Micky' Vlasto and family.
** True... but it also continues to be represented
by the descendants of Michel E. T. D. Vlasto (1888-1979)
and those of Augustus Alexander Vlasto (1872-1946).
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The Chios Diaspora 1900-1999
Any information that expands upon the above will be welcomed with gratitude.
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