“‘Association of Friends’ was founded on a winter night of 1814, in Odessa, Russia. Three were the men who took the vow: Nickolas Skoufas, Athanasios Tsakalof and Emmanuel Ksanthos. In this composition I am referring to these tree men.
The movements and revolts that had broken out until that time were suppressed because they were not coordinated. The Association of Friends came into being so as to direct and organize the preparations for the fight. It was a clandestine association and so were the names of its members. Behind this anonymity, each one was led to believe these unknown names hid important political powers and persons. They used a code language in their correspondence, they had a cryptographic dictionary and its members were not allowed to belong to another association. They were obliged to keep their secrets to death.
In Moscow they tried to talk important Greeks there into joining the association. It was then they met a young man from Tripolitsa, George Sekeris. He was educated and well versed in the ideals of the French revolution. He was the first who became member in 1814. In 1818, the base of the association was transferred from Odessa to Constantinople. Skoufas came up with a system similar to that of the 12 apostles and put it into practice. He appointed persons whose goal was to spread the Association and enroll new members. Some of the first who joined the association were Patriarch Gregory the fifth, Paleon Patron Germanos, Theodor Kolokotronis, Plapoutas, Nikitaras Stamatelopoulos.
One of the most important members was George Sekeris’ brother, Panagiotis Sekeris, an important merchant. He supported the association financially; he made an armed force and manned the first ships for the cause. In July 1818, Nicholas Skoufas died. On September 22 of the same year, a document was firmed according to which the responsibility of exclusively being engaged in the Association of Friends was taken on by: Emmanuel Ksanthos, Athanasios Tsakalof, Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos, Nicholas Patzimakis, George Levendis, Anthony Komizopoulos and Panagiotis Sekeris.
Ksanthos tried to persuade Kapodistrias but he refused. He turned to Alexander Ipsilandis, who willingly agreed to become General Administrator on July 15, 1820. He became very active and got organized fast. He wrote to captains and chiefs to be ready in case of revolution. The big question was where the revolution would commence. At first they proposed Morias (Peloponnesus) but later Ipsilandis changed his mind. He declared the war of independence from Moldovlachia on February 22, 1821. This revolution finally failed and he himself was put into prison in Austria for seven years. Then the revolution in Morias, Roumeli and the islands followed which lasted eight years but resulted in freedom and the establishment of the New Greek State.
Nicholas Skoufas (1779-1818), in the middle, was born in Koboti, Arta. He got his first education there and later he was occupied in his father’s shop, making caps. He was named Skoufas after his trade (skoufi=cap). At the age of 20 he left for Odessa, Russia. He worked as an employee for important Greek merchants all his life. He was the leading protagonist, the organizer and leader of the Association. He was a moral man, pure at heart, his only care being the independence of the nation, which he was very passionate about. He died very poor at the age of 40. In his house Ksanthos and his wife looked after him together with doctor Moschos, as he was very ill –he suffered from heart disease– until he died. Tsakalof closed his eyes on July 31, 1818. He was buried in Arnaoutkioe, without seeing Greece free.
Athanasios Tsakalof, (1788-1851), on your right, was born in Ioannina. He was a student at Maroutsios School but he got away because he was in danger due to Mouhtar pasha, Ali’s son. He went to Moscow, to his father who was a furrier. Then he went to Paris where he joined the organization ‘Greek speaking Hotel’. This organization overtly aimed at establishing schools in Greece, but covertly at the preparation of the revolution. He made use of the experience he gained there into the protection of the Association of Friends. In Odessa he met Skoufas and Ksanthos and the three of them take the vow in 1814. During 1815 and 1817 he traveled to Paris, Moscow, Constantinople, Volos, Smyrni; always the goal to spread the association. He fought as an adjutant to Alexander Ipsilandis in Moldovlachia, Dragatsani. 1n 1822 he went down to Peloponnesus and took part in many battles. After liberation he was appointed to Kapodistrias, but after his assassination, he went back to Moscow where he died in 1851. This modest, educated and simple founder never asked for posts or primacy.
Emmanuel Ksanthos (1722-1852), on your left, was born in the island of Patmos where he studied in the Academy of Patmos. He engaged himself in commerce since he was 20, traveling to Tergest, Odessa and Constantinople. In 1813, he came back to Odessa, where together with Skoufas and Tsakalof cooperated to found the Association of Friends. After the failure of the revolution in Moldovlachia, he attempted to set free Alexander Ipsilandis. The latter, though, did not agree to escape. He stayed in Bucharest for several years. Finally, he returned to Greece where he took part in many battles.
Later he was accused of embezzling money of the association by Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos. That accusation was withdrawn in Athens in 1837. With the intention of leaving his life’s work as heritage, he wrote his memoirs in 1845. The Supreme Committee for the Cause did him justice by ranking him to the ‘Excellent and Highest rank’. He died a mere civilian, down-and-out in Athens.
I found plenty of sources written about the Friends. They are depicted in wood and copper engravings, sketches and drawings. Moreover, numerous historical accounts were of great help in making my own composition. I found out about the place they took the vow, from a photo of a Greek tourist who photographed the house on 18 Krasni st, Odessa, Russia. Based on this photo and drawings of my own, I made the room and the balcony. In September, 2002, I visited the building myself. On present day, it is a museum with a library which contains several Greek books.
I made sure their faces looked their age as they would be in 1814. As Christian Orthodox, they vowed on the Bible. Their facial expressions depict each one’s character. I paid particular attention to the face of Nicholas Skoufas (in the middle) suffering by a heart condition, especially the hypotonic eye sockets and lip corners, rendered both in terms of form and color. “