The residents of Makistos welcomed the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis yesterday, with a warm embrace, tears in their eyes, flowers and national benefactor honours, when she arrived there for the ceremony of the delivery of the village to its residents.

The residents of the village, who were sad and desperate three years ago, were full of happiness today and they were shaking Mrs Vardinoyannis’ hand with gratitude that she kept her promise to reconstruct Makistos, one of the most beautiful and historical villages of Ilia, which was affected by the fires of summer 2007, forcing its residents to lose their houses as well as the work of a lifetime.

At that time, the President of the “Vardinoyiannis Foundation”, Mr Vardis Vardinoyiannis and his wife, Ms Marianna Vardinoyiannis, were of first ones who rushed to be by the side of the fire victims and, having seen the size of the destruction and the despair of the residents of Makistos, decided to reconstruct the village.

In October 2007, the construction plan for each individual building began and by the end of 2009, all buildings, even the last one, were delivered. The whole work included the building and reconstruction of 70 independent residences and 2 churches as well as the reformation of the village square.

Mrs Vardinoyannis was welcomed yesterday by the President of Makistos, Mr Nikolaos Pothos, the Mayor of Zacharo, Mr Pantazis Chronopoulos, the Vice-mayor of Zacharo, Mr Dimitris Chronopoulos and the Metropolite of Trifillia, Mr Chrysostomos who performed the blessing in the beginning of the event.

Mr Nikolaos Lampropoulos, Professor of Mathematics, welcomed Mrs Vardinoyannis on behalf of the residents of the village, saying: “You, Mrs Marianna, your husband, Mr Vardis Vardinoyannis, Vardinoyannis family, Vardinoyannis Foundation which provides employment to many fellow people, made true what was beyond our expectations! … Seventy families keep on staying in their own homes, they did not have to migrate, our village is not deserted. Thanks to you. You took care of everything, you listened to our needs and in a very short time you delivered the new houses to us so that we and our children can live in. We are grateful to you, your husband, Mr Vardis Vardinoyannis and your family. We thank you because, with your actions, you proved that People, with capital P, still exist who can share the pain of their fellow people and keep their promises. Our prayers and wishes that we made inside the small church of Saint George and Mother Mary which you reconstructed will accompany you for ever”.

A greeting by the Mayor of Zacharo, Mr Pantazis Chronopoulos, followed who praised the work of Mr and Mrs Vardinoyannis, and expressed the wish of the residents of Makistos to thank their benefactors and to erect the bust of Mrs Vardinoyannis in the square of the village so that it always reminds that the woman who saved their village had passed from there.

Then, the President of Makistos, Mr Nikolaos Pothos, handed her the golden key of the village and Mr Schizas, member of the Municipal Council of Zacharo, read out the resolution with which the Municipality nominates Mr and Mrs Vardinoyannis as honorary citizens.

Mrs Vardinoyannis was touched and warmly thanked him for his nice words and, addressing the residents of village gathered in the square, said, inter alia: “Supporting you and your village was a human duty for me and my husband. We could not be indifferent to such a disaster.

It was a sincere expression of support to our fellow people who were in need. And it was not just simple promise and commitment from our side. It was care. So, we wanted to reconstruct the village with our own study; so that the village maintains its character, embraces its residents and provides them with security and protection. The greatest reward for us is the smiles on the faces of the children who we see here today and are the future of this place.

These children smiles clear our soul from the grey colour of the ash which covered the light of the grounds of Ilia at that time. These children along with their parents provide the new buildings that are erected today with life. I must say, however, that your words deeply moved me. Your welcoming honoured me in a touching way, and made me feel as one of you. My bonds with you are, henceforth, very powerful because they have been built stone by stone during the past three. They are bonds of mutual friendship and appreciation that will never diminish”. The ribbon cutting by Mrs Vardinoyannis followed, the unveiling of her bust as well as a surprise by the residents who named the square of their village as “Vardis and Marianna Vardinoyannis square”.

In the event, greetings were addressed by the Alternate Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Mr Nikos Sifounakis, who transferred the Prime Minister’s thanks and congratulated the Vardinoyannis family for supporting the area and the Prefect of Ilia, Mr Charalampos Kafiras, who thanked Mr and Mrs Vardinoyannis and pointed out the importance of their offer, because, during the past three last, the State was not in a position to help and support the fire victims, as it had not utilised and handed out the money that had been collected by the donations right after the fires to the fire victims.

The residents of the village offered commemorative gifts to Mrs Vardinoyannis, among which there were copies of ancient objects by the archaeologists of the Ministry of Culture, such as the bust of Hermes of Praxiteles which is in the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia, the bust of Apollo, an ancient Greek pot and a copper sign which refers to an Olympic champion, and they dedicated it to Mr Vardis Vardinoyannis.

The event closed with songs performed by the students of the 6th grade of the Primary School of Zacharo. Then, Mrs Vardinoyannis handed out to them the children’s book that was recently published by her institution “The country of two suns”, which is about the protection of the ancient monuments of humanity and the environment.

Mrs Vardinoyannis made a point of placing flowers where residents of the village and fire fighters lost their lives, and she also had the opportunity to visit Saint George’s small church, which is one of the two small churches that Vardinoyannis Group reconstructed right after the destruction, as well as some houses of the village where she talked with their residents.

In the event, there were present, inter alia: Mr George I. Vardinoyannis, who accompanied Mrs Vardinoyannis, the member of the Greek Parliament for the New Democracy, Mrs Fotini Pipili, as a representative of the Leader of the main Opposition party, Mr Antonis Samaras, the member of the Greek Parliament for LAOS, Mr Alexandros Chrysanthakopoulos as a representative of his party, the members of the Greek Parliament of Ilia, Michalis Katrinis, George Kontogiannis and Konstantinos Tzavaras, the leaders of Police and Fire Service Board, Mr Demosthenes Dalainas, Mr George Gaganis, the members of ELPIDA association, Mrs Helen Samara-Konstantakatou, Mrs Ketty Filippidou, Mrs Keti Voutsela, Mrs Ino Konstantopoulou, Mrs Aspa Giftopoulou, Mrs Georgina Ellina, Mrs Anna Papagianni, Mrs Beky Strabelaki, Mrs Christina Tsatsaki, Mrs Epi Nikolakopoulou, Mrs Elli Tzanetatou with her husband Evangelos, Mrs Lola Daifa, etc.