Unforgetable People

Doctor George A. Masganas

George Masganas, an outstanding compatriot, was born in Vassara the year 1924.  He was the fourth child of Aggelis Masganas.  He finished elementary school in Vassara and consequently he graduated from Sparti’s high school.  He entered the medical school of the University of Athens from where he graduated as a specialist in Pediatrics.

 In 1956, he opened an office in Sparta and began his practice as a pediatrician.  He married Sophia Papagianopoulou and they had three children, Angelo, Joanne and  Constantine.  Angelo is a business man in Sparta, Joanne is a lawyer and Constantine, an orthopedic surgeon in Sparta practicing out of the same office his father had.

Dr. Masganas died at a young age in January of 1978, at the age of 54.  His premature death did not allow him to witness and enjoy the successes and progress of his children and grandchildren, as every parent dreams, and to feel the pride and self-satisfaction for his efforts and teachings. He believed in living an honorable life and a true useful, productive life- values that had already been practiced and achieved by his children and grandchildren.

He was an excellent professional man, a good family man, accommodating, sociable, nature lover, a fine tall dashing man with an imposing figure that is hard to forget.  

One can picture him now –walking briskly, carrying his medical case, with a big wide smile on his face, as he is on his way to visit sick children and give courage and hope to the agonizing parents.

His reputation and respectability not only as a doctor, but as a human being was of great importance in the Laconian community. He was considered the best pediatrician in the state and his fame had reached the smallest village in the area.  The name ‘Masganas’ in the state of Laconia was synonymous with the term ‘pediatric specialist’.

Dr. Masganas was held in great esteem and affection by his Vassaran compatriots   He eagerly offered his medical services to the village children, and it cannot be forgotten that he always gave medical advice and service to the older generation as well.  The red Volkswagon he drove created much excitement, fear and relief when it would suddenly appear at a distance in the valley of the village.  Those who had need of the doctor’s advice would stop him as he passed through the town square or on the street as his car passed on its way to visit his beloved Verroia. (Verroia is the summer resort area of Vassara ).

Dr. Masganas loved Verroia very dearly; one can say he adored being there.

Whenever he found the opportunity and time, he would go to Verroia.  In fact, he had confided to friends that every time he found himself in Verroia, he wanted to forget that he was a doctor.  Friends, such as Demetrios Sgouritsas, Kostas and Demetrios Velisaris, Marinis Georgakopoulos, and others would be waiting for him, and together they would go hunting for hare.  The visit would continue with an evening at the taverna, enjoying wine and a’ meze’, and singing the song ‘Trisefgeni’. 

The doctor also enjoyed eating fresh walnuts.  During the autumn months he would use his pocketknife to split open walnuts from the walnut trees and eat them as a ‘meze’ with his wine. He knew all the walnut trees in town.  He knew which trees were the ‘early’ ones and which were the ‘late’ ones, etc.

Distinguished personalities, academicians, professionals, colleagues and many others who got to know ‘Masgana’, as he was referred to by young and old, talk about this beloved gentleman, Dr. George Masganas, with great admiration.

REVEREND STAVROS (PAPASTAVROS)
A Worthy Advisor


Although many years have passed since Father Stavros has passed on, this ultra kind priest is still revered to this day as a great personality – one who gained the love and respect of every villager.

He was a good compatriot and a virtuous family man; but above all, he was the good spiritual father of all the people he served for one half of a century, and this he did always with his pleasing and winning smile. He was always ready to offer his own personal assistance and comfort to all who needed it.

Reverend Stavros was born in the village of Vassara in 1917, the son of Nicholas and Georgia Nikoletou.  He completed the six year elementary school in the village, and when World War II broke out, he served in the Greek Army and fought against the Nazi forces.  He married Lefkoula Masgana in 1941 and they had two sons, Nicholas and George.  Fr. Stavros worked hard during his young adult life to provide for his family and also for his parents who lived with him. This he did willingly and cheerfully.

After the war was over in 1945, he was drafted again and served in the government security forces for about a year.  But something was missing from his life; and in the year, 1951, he felt the call to serve the church.

He enrolled in the Theological School of Corinth and a year later he was ordained a deacon. Two years later he was ordained a priest and served the church in the neighboring town of ‘Chrysafa’ as its dean.  Soon after he was appointed dean of the Church of St. George in Vassara, his native village.

Papastavros was a handsome man with a stately figure and a good crystalline voice.  He was a pious priest and served the church well. He was a true Christian role model to all.  During the difficult days of the Civil War, he managed to demonstrate great endurance, holding steadfast to his principles and beliefs as a human being, and primarily as a priest. 

He celebrated the Divine Liturgy in every small country church in the village on its Name’s Day.  He visited every house in the village on the feast day of Epiphany, and he always answered calls to perform various ecclesiastical services in private homes.  He was truly loved by everyone. With time, he was considered the alpha and omega of the village. Even in his short visit to the city of Boston, MA, U.S.A., he charmed and captivated the respect and admiration of the entire Greek community.

 I feel privileged and honored to have served as an altar boy for a few years under the guidance of this unforgettable and humble priest, Papastavros. I had the opportunity to get to know him on a personal basis. He was my spiritual father, but I also felt he was my good friend.

One can say without reservation, that Papastavros was a great man, a great personality and above all, a great and pious priest.


THE TEACHER PSALIDAS

Among the outstanding Vassarans of the past, the most dominant personality belongs to the late elementary school teacher, George Psalidas.

This excellent minister of education, humanist and fervent patriot, was born in Vassara in 1911. His parents were John and Helen Psalidas. He attended and completed grammar school in Vassara. His teachers were the late Anastasios Theofilis and Angelo Anastasopoulos, both Vassarans. (These men had transformed the school into an educational nursery producing topnotch scientists/educators such as John Theodorakopoulos, Christos Sgouritsas, Aristomenis Kalliavas and many others.) George Psalidas graduated from Sparta Gymnasium {High School} and later from the Academy of Tripoli where he received his teaching diploma. He served in the Greek Army as a Calvary Lieutenant before he began his teaching career.

His early teaching assignments were at the elementary schools in the towns of St. Demetrios and in Zaraka of Laconia Province. While there, he would receive congratulatory letters from parents of his students regarding the excellent academic performance of their children. He later was transferred to the elementary school of Vassara where he taught and served as principal from 1937 to 1944.

As a teacher he proved to be equal to his predecessors. The Vassaran students were always top honor students in high school and at the Universities they attended. Students such as Demetrios N. Stavropoulos, George D. Sgouritsas, Voula Anastasopoulou, George P. Arvanitis, John B. Fourtounis were examples, to name a few.

As he taught his academic lessons, he simultaneously taught with great passion, his staunch beliefs in love for country, love of nature, and love for mankind. His wise advice is always remembered and put into practice daily in the lives of his students living today. 

With the help of students, George Psalidas beautified the grounds of the school and also the grounds of St.Nicholas and of St.Demetrios Chapels, planting many trees and flowers. In the village he was the forerunner in any _expression concerning progress. He was first to be at joyous events and first to help the suffering. His moral support and advice was considered to be of most importance, especially among the youth. 

On the 28th of October 1940 he received, by telegram, his county’s invitation to fight against the invading fascist forces. The very next morning at 9:00 a.m., he gathered together all the students of the school and announced to them. “Your Fathers and I will be leaving immediately to fight for our freedom and for our Country’s independence. You, who will be left behind, will have to take up the responsibilities of your fathers: to help your mothers and your younger siblings, as well as each other here at school. And don’t forget to pray for us.”

As he was talking his eyes were staring at the map looking at the border line of Greece and Albania, as if he were anxious to get there to protect the integrity of his country and to secure the freedom of his people. His mind, it seemed, was traveling quickly back into the past, to his country’s glorious history. And as if he were daydreaming, he continued: “The enemies are many and we are just a few, but I want you all to remember when our forefathers defended our country from the invaders, they were always few but they always managed to win. With the help of God the same will happen this time as well, we will win.”

He was proven right. The Italian Nazi forces that had invaded Greece were pushed back deep into Albania by the gallant Greek forces and kept them there for six months until the powerful and well-equipped German Army invaded Greece from the Bulgarian front.

Teacher Psalidas, as he was known, fought heroically as a cavalry lieutenant from 1940-1941. During the occupation years that followed, he remained strong in his belief for freedom and resistance and carried these beliefs back to the school. He was a bachelor, never married. The school was his home and the pupils were his children. He kept the spark of freedom and the hope of liberty alive in the hearts of his pupils. No one knew how long the occupying forces would remain in Greece, and he never neglected the duties he was bound by. The school became “the secret school” just as those formed during the Ottoman occupation years. In the large room at the new school building that housed the combined classes of the 5th and 6th grades, a ‘National Rite” was taking place on a daily basis. The teachings of the day was to draw a parallel between the last national uprising of the Greek people against the Ottoman Empire who had conquered and occupied Greece for 400 years. He talked to them about heroic figures they had studied in school and the role they played in the uprising that helped achieve their independence. They discussed people like the Freedom Fighters {Gorillas}, Souliotises, Society of Friends, Kolokotronis and others. He talked to them about ‘a new resurrection’ –about their duty to see to it that their Country is free again from the new oppressors. “Let’s see which of you will free Greece! Will any of you become another Kolokotronis, or the next Souliotisses?”

He joined the resistance movement for freedom and independence from the beginning of the occupation. Unfortunately he did not live to see the liberation day. A month before liberation he was captured by the collaborating forces and was executed by the Germans on August 3, 1944, at the age of 34. Liberty was achieved on September 3, 1944, but it was too late for this courageous teacher. His mother, an old respected lady, was also killed during the civil war that followed, the reason being the fact that her son had joined the resistance movement during the occupation years. How ironic!!

His death came as a great shock not only to the villagers but most importantly to the children of the school. Along with him, six other Vassarans, one of which was a woman, were executed for the same reason. This tragic and atrocious crime, as dreadful and horrible as it was, this terrible crime, the death of the town’s teacher, George Psalidas, overwhelmed everybody. The villagers were dumbfounded, silent and confused. The only thing people whispered was one word, ‘WHY?’ But to those illogical, senseless preposterous acts of hatred — there are no answers.

 May his life be an example and a guide for us and for all generations to come.