Drosopigi (Greek: Δροσοπηγή; formerly Μπαλκαμένη, Belkameni; Arvanitika: Бελκαμενι, Belkameni; Aromanian: Belkamen; from the Slavic: Bel Kamen, meaning "White Rock") is a village in Macedonia, Greece. It lies in the central part of Florina Prefecture, as part of the Perasma municipality. The village's year round population is estimated at 225 people, but in the summer it grows to nearly 400. In the surrounding area many other villages can be found, including Flambouro, Skopia, Kato Idroussa, and Ano Idroussa. The Village of Drosopigi lies on eastward slope of Mount Bitsi at an elevation of 1050 meters approximately 13 km from Florina.
The Old Village
The original village, known as Belkamen or Belkameni, was beautiful with walkways paved in cobblestone, archways made from granite and beautiful gardens decorated with flowers and water fountains. A French soldier, who came to the village during World War I, would call the village "Petit Paris", translated "Little Paris". The original village was established in 1843 by villagers (mostly masons and other tradesmen) who came from Plikati and other villages from Mastorochoria (a region around Mt. Gramos) in Epirus. To the outside world, the villagers were known as Arvanites, as most of them spoke Arvanitika. Many of the villagers were actually multi-lingual, speaking some permutation of Arvanitika, Aromanian, and Greek. They settled in an area of West Macedonia that was almost exclusively populated by Slavs. There are now three villages in the area that were settled by Arvanites. They are Drosopigi, Flampouro, and Lechovo. In 1842, leading families from Plikati, Epirus purchased the land and forest after negotiating with Osman Ismael Pasha, the Bey from Florina. The general area was known as Balkmen (Greek: Μπάλκμεν). As a result, the original village came to be known as Belkameni. From 1843 to 1926 the village name would remain Belkameni and from 1926  until present as Drosopigi. Of course some people still referred to it as Belkameni and the people as Arnaouts. Upon the purchase of the plot of land the people started to build enormous houses made from the materials in the surrounding area. The village inhabited many families. The total population at 1900 had reached 1,500.
Life in the Old Village
Agia Triada celebration in Old Drosopigi
Drosopigi families gathered for a traditional Greek wedding
Life for the villagers of Drosopigi was very difficult at times. The village was built on the side of the mountain so it could be hidden from the Ottoman Turks. Many of these villagers had massive gardens on which they grew their crops. These included potatoes, carrots, lettuce and other varieties of crops. The sun only hit the village a certain time of day, which made the production of prosperous crops a tremendous challenge. During the late 19th century, many men from the village went to the Kingdom of Romania to work, make money, and bring it back with them. As many other men did, Nikolaos Manou and Vasilios Dedes worked in Romania, were very prosperous, and sent great amounts of money back to the village for their families.
With the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Romania these men lost everything they had in the Romanian banks. One man said “I had so much money that even you great grand children did not have to work.” Many families suffered from that loss.
The village itself was a mini city. Holidays like Easter, Christmas were great events for the villagers as was Agia Triada, a special celebration to honor the village church. Agia Triada was celebrated forty days after Easter, over the span of three days, and is an event that is celebrated to this day in modern Drosopigi.
Historical Significance of Belkameni
The Village of Belkameni was one of the very first villages in its area to have underground tunnels for the Greek Revolutionaries during the Greek Struggle for Macedonia (Greek: Μακεδονικὸς Ἀγών). Many great revolutionaries stopped at Belkameni as place to heal, rest, or hide. The Hellenic Army leader who most symbolized the Macedonian Struggle, Pavlos Melas, other army leaders, and their troops, used these underground tunnels for a quick escape from their enemies.
The Burning of the Old Village
When the World War II hit Europe, Greece suffered a lot, as did Drosopigi. In the Battle of Greece (6–30 April 1941), the country faced three Axis powers: Nazi Germany, the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Their alliance won the conflict and established an Axis occupation of Greece. They divided Greece into occupation zones. Drosopigi was included in the German occupation zone. On April 3, 1944 the Germans sent a routine Wehrmacht patrol to the surrounding area of Drosopigi, outside the village itself. Local members of the Greek Resistance captured five soldiers and executed them - three of them were outside the village, one in the cemetery and one on the road (Kangeli) leading to the village. The women of the village went to where the Nazi soldiers were shot and cleaned up the blood. The people from the village took the dead bodies and hid them in fertilizer. The Germans quickly concluded that Drosopigi was the place where their soldiers went missing. They demanded an explanation from the villagers and they refused to say anything. Many, fearing reprisals, fled Drosopigi. The men went hiding in the forest and most of the women and children went to Elatia, a small village near Drosopigi. When the Germans arrived seeking retribution they found mostly old people. They killed one elderly lady and one male. On April 4, 1944 the village of Drosopigi was burned by the Germans in reprisal.
Following the German devastation of Drosopigi, the people of the village set out to rebuild it to its original glory. From April 1944 till April 1947 the villagers would be rebuilding. The end of World War II was followed in Greece by the Greek Civil War between the Democratic Army of Greece and the Hellenic Army. In the first stages of the civil war many communist-led guerrillas stopped at the village as a hiding place. On April 7, 1947, the Greek government under Dimitrios Maximos adopted a policy of forced relocation for certain villages that were strategic for the guerrillas, and ordered the inhabitants of Drosopigi to gather their belongings and to vacate the village. It was decided to move most of the inhabitants to the village of Skopia, Florina.
The Great Move
After the Greek Government adopted a policy of forced relocation of certain villages, the National Army of Greece,on April,1947, moved the villagers from Drosopigi to the village of Skopia were they would stay till late 1950/1951. By 1951, most villagers moved yet again to another village known as Kato Idroussa (Kotori). It was at this time that a final decision was made to build a new village at the current location of Drosopigi. Life at Skopia was very hard for everyone from Drosopigi. In Skopia, an entire family, often as many as 8 people, was assigned to one room to live in. Also constant conflict was going on in the mountains around Skopia between the two factions of the civil war. With Greece at this all-time-low, there was very little hope.
In Skopia many families received aid from the United States that originated from the Truman Doctrine, which would allow 100 million dollars in aid to go to Greece and Turkey. Families all across Greece received some sort of aid. In Skopia families received aid through food rations, clothing, and other important items. During the Greek Civil War, many Greeks would lose their lives and many people from the village of Drosopigi fought on both sides. A total of eleven Drosopigites died in the Greek Civil War. On the National Army side 4 died including Evangelos Harisis (Εύαγγελος Χαρισης), Anastasios Harisis (Αναστάσιος Χαρισης), and Konstantinos Stathopoulos (Κωνσταντινος Σταθοπουλος) and Dimitios Theodorou (Δἠμἠτριος Θεοδῶρου). On the partisan side 7 died including Anastasios Styliades (Αναστάσιος Στυλιαδης), Antonis Zikos (Αντώνης Ζηκος), two brothers of the Nastou family (Δύο άδελφοί Νάστου), and Sotirs Theodorou ( Σωτηριος Θεοδώρου).
After a course of two years the people from the old village wanted to move on. From 1951 until 1952 many families started to build their new homes so they could have some sort of shelter to live in. As the new home construction finished, people began to move into the new village, and shortly thereafter it came to be known as the new Drosopigi. Many of the original families from the old village established themselves in the new village.
From the time the new Drosopigi was built(1951/1952) the people worked hard to make it beautiful but would not reach the beauty of the old village.
In the 1950s and 1960s a new era was coming about in Greece, it was the time of moving. Many families, because of economic conditions, from all around Greece started to emigrate, becoming part of the Greek diaspora. Individuals and families who emigrated from Drosopigi mostly went to the United States, Canada, West Germany, and Australia in search of a new life. Some went with the intention to make money and return, but many did not return to Greece and left their villages in their past.
At present, the city of Rochester, New York has the largest concentration of immigrants and families that trace their roots to Drosopigi. Many people still visit Drosopigi to this day and always keep it their hearts as many Drosopigiotes (people from Drosopigi) say. There are still people who live there but not as many as there were in 1900. The old village lies in ruins never to be touched. Family members long buried there have not been touched. The village that was once a mini city now lies in ruins and oversees the new village were the people of Drosopigi now live.
While Greek has been the primary language of Drosopigiotes for decades, Arvanitika and Aromanian are still spoken proudly by many of the older village residents. A study conducted in 1993, indicates that most villagers over 30 could speak Arvanitika and most villagers over 60 could speak Aromanian.
The Society was organized in the year 1951 by immigrants who came over from Drosopigi. These were among the first to settle in the Rochester area. The initial goal of the membership was to assist in the rebuilding of the town of Drosopigi that was completely destroyed during the War between the Germans and Civil War. Among the projects that were supported were the reconstruction of the public school and of the Church of the Αγια Τριας or in English the Holy Trinity. Another projects were to supply the village with water supply and electrical power. In addition, the members supported relatives and friends back home in Drosopigi through financial help and other types of aid. In Rochester, the Drosopigi Society has been and still is one of the most active community organizations within the Greek Community in Rochester. One strong quote from the Drosopigi people is as follows, "What we inherited from our forefathers, we have given to our children and they are ready to hand it to their children so that they, in turn, will continue our customs and traditions into the future with zeal and enthusiasm."
Till this day the society is very strong and hosts many special occasions such as Αγια Τριας one of the most important tradition held by the drospigiotes till this day. They also host Christmas Parties and Picnics to help bring together all the families of Drosopigi. They have assisted in successfully rebuilding the town of Drosopigi in Greece and still sends aid to help the village in the many projects which help make the village beautiful. The society also helps in many projects here in America such as contributing to the addition of new Mosaics in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Rochester New York. Today the Society is led by Δημητρη Καρρα (Dimitri Karras) and many other elected officials.
Spiro Bellkameni, activist of the Albanian National Awakening
^ Our village Last accessed Dec. 21, 2007.
^ A Small History of our village Last accessed Dec. 20, 2007.
^ The Village is Burned by the Germans Last accessed Dec. 26, 2007.
^ Riki Van Boeschoten Usage des langues minoritaires dans les départements de Florina et d’Aridea (Macédoine)
Drosopigi, Florina village website
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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