Benefactors from Epirus

The benefactors from Epirus had humanitarian and national consciousness as well as important action. This small place is called ‘Epirus of good men’. These people offered much but did not get back what they deserved. In my opinion, rich is the giving one, not the one who possesses.

Most of them set out poor and uneducated. They worked hard to acquire wealth. Living abroad made them homesick, full of love and pain for their homeland. They were men of character, morals, humanity and ideals.

Sinas family was from Moschopolis, North Epirus. Simon Sinas (1753-1822) went to Vienna, where he engaged in merchandise transportation from Austria to Macedonia and vice versa. His son, George (1783-1856), a banker, founded the National Bank of Austria, the shipping company of Danube, he constructed railways, he made the Polytechnic School of Vienna and between 1840 and 1849 the suspension bridge that connected Buda and Pesti. He also built the Athens Observatory in 1846.

Simon Sinas (1810-1876), a baron, is a standing figure. Son of George, highly educated, he was a jurist and ambassador in Vienna, Munich and Berlin. He followed on his father’s steps. By means of scholarships he helped Greeks study in Schools abroad. He also donated big sums of money to the Athens Educational Association. He finished the Cathedral (Mitropolis) in Athens and in 1858 built the Holy Trinity Church in Vienna. In 1859 he made the eminent Athens Academy which he failed to see it ready. He died at the age of 66 in Vienna.

George Averof (1818-1899), seated next to S. Sinas, was born in Metsovo. At the age of 22, he immigrated to Alexandria, Egypt. He engaged in commerce along with his relative Michael Tositsas (1787-1856). His commercial, banking and shipping enterprises soon made him a rich man.

He set out to build the High School, the Girls’ School and the Hospital for the needy by means of substantial contributions. In fact, when Tositsas and Stoutrnaras (1806-1853) founded the Polytechnics, he contributed the rest of the money to finish it. He built the Army Cadet School in Athens and youth prisons. In 1895 he undertook the funding of the laying of new marble in Panathenaic Stadium so that the Olympic Games could be held there the following year. He also, donated two and a half million golden drachmas to the National Fleet Fund, which was used for the purchase of the legendary armored cruiser ‘G. Averof’ that honored our Navy deservedly.

He left large part of his fortune for the founding of the Agricultural School in Larissa, the Athens Conservatory of Music and the National Gallery. As for his homeland, Metsovo was greatly assisted by his invaluable donations. He died in Alexandria in 1899 at the age of 81.

Zosimades brothers were born in the midst of the 18 century in Ioannina. They were nine brothers: John, Theodosis, Anastasis –he is the one in the room–, Nicolaos, Zois, Michael, Alexandra, Zoe and Angela. Their father, Paul, was a merchant in Ioannina and around Epirus. He could hardly support his family. The six brothers decided to go to foreign land, as so many others did before them. Theodosis, Nick and Michael went to Livorno, Italy. The other three went to Nizna, Russia.

They loved each other and had faith in their work. In 1786 John passed away. The five brothers built in his memory a marvelous church in Nizna, St John. Theodosis expanded his business to China and India. He established agencies in big commercial centers in Europe.

In 1793 he passed away, still young in Livorno and left his fortune to his brothers. He left instructions so as the other four brothers found a brotherhood. He advised them against getting married and to devote their life, fortune and work to the enslaved country and their fellow brothers, the Greeks. And they did so.

Nick and Michael left Livorno and went to Russia to join Anastassis and Zois. The latter took over ‘Zosimea Brotherhood’ and transferred the company from Nizna to Moscow.

They didn’t live in luxurious houses but in a wing of Iberus monastery where they led a simple life. They were always in favor of ‘acting well’. They not only helped their country. They donated 20,000 roubles to the orphanage in Moscow; they gave away enormous farms with several buildings to Moscow University as well as substantial sums of money aimed at scientific publications. In fact, when Catherine the Great met Zois Zosimas in the Greek Church, she mentioned their benefactions pointing out they are ‘the pride of the Greek nation’.

Zosimas family printed thousands of books during the times before the revolution: historical, philosophical, scientific and religious ones. Every year they sent large sums of money to Epirus. Their house in Ioannina served for helping and accommodation. Also, in Ioannina, their birthplace, they made charitable institution, schools, hospitals, old people’s homes and poorhouses. They witnessed the Nation’s war of Independence and eagerly contributed what they could. They bought off slaves; they sent thousands of roubles for the cause anonymously. They also helped the war orphans.

They founded an establishment of tertiary, the renowned ‘Zosimea School’ in 1828. It was one of the most important schools of the Nation; it revived education after the destructions caused by Hursit and Ali pasha’ conflicts. In 1904, the today ‘Zosimea School’ was made with their money as well.

Nick supported the National Bank by buying 611 shares. Zois, on the other hand, before he died, bequeathed the Nation a big coin collection, 17.832 in total, a real treasure. This collection was left neglected in the basement of the Central State Fund until 1929, when it was discovered.

I was deeply touched when in September, 2000, I came across documents of the Zosima family, the places they took action and their well preserved graves; intact till the present day. Their common dream was to leave the dark northern sky and come back home. They all died in foreign land, Zois being the last one in 1842, without being able to neither see nor live under the blue sky of independent Greece.

Evangelos Zappas (1800-1865) was born in Lambovo. He received basic education. He went to Macedonia and then to Bucharest where he hired out monastery estates. After a while, he became the most important landowner in Romania. Together with his cousin, Konstantinos Zappas, they made their fortune even bigger. In 1856, he set out to organize the ‘Olympia’. The aim was the organization of exhibitions to advertise Greece in the industrial, agricultural and stockbreeding sector. He also took the first step in the creation of the Stadium where the first Olympic Games were held some time later. This National benefactor died in 1865 in Brusteni, Romania. He designated his cousin, Konstantinos Zappas as the executor of his will.

Konstantinos Zappas (1812-1892), on your right, was born in Lambrovo too. At the age of 20 he joined his cousin in Bucharest. What Evangelos started, he continued. He finished the ‘Olympia Establishment’, the Zappio Building on present day, and also the Panathinaico Stadium.

In 1875, he built the ‘Zappas Girl School’ in Constantinople. He built schools in a number of places like Lambovo, Andrianoupolis, Feres, Premeti, Droviani, Filiates, Nivani… He left large amounts of money for scholarships in agricultural schools in Europe for Greeks. His contribution for the printing of various agricultural books was also important.

He left all his fortune to the Greek state. After his death, the Romanian government refused to hand over his enormous fortune.

To conclude, I would like to mention the names of some more benefactors from Epirus:

Manthos and George Rizaris
Lambros and Simon Maroutsi
Zois Kaplanis (1736-1806)
George Stavros (1788-1856)
Apostolos Arsakis (1792-1874)
Christakis Zografos (1820-1896)
John Dobolis
John Baggas
John Genadios
Helen Alexiou-Papazoglou
Elisabeth Kastrisiou
Melas family
George Haztikostas
Vasilios Pirsinelas
George Michaelides

This room is plain as was their life; good-natured figures, kind and dynamic too. Next to them, there are the Teachers of the Nation, who were funded by our benefactors. This is why the two rooms are side by side.

The patterns on the ceiling are basically separate pieces I made out of cork. I placed them in such a way that they give the impression of decoration with wood, and painted them slightly. The rosette on the ceiling is also made of cork of my own design. I then painted it with temperas. Their clothes were bought at Monastiraki, Athens.

Sources of their form of their face came from photos of busts and statues as well as descriptions from books. I gave each one of them posture and glance respective to the greatness of their soul and the satisfaction for everything they accomplished out of love and faith in Man and their Country.