Rene Puaux :The last Greek friend and his collection at Tsiklitira’s house- By Evi Routoula

08/09/2014 22:46

Rene Puaux (1878-1937) was a French historian and journalist, he worked as a journalist at the French newspaper Temps and he visited Greece several times during the Balkan wars. During his travels Rene Puaux got to know and fell in love with Greece, not only because of her glorious ancient history, Puaux loved the contemporary, for his time, Greece, with all her faults and virtues. Puaux loved the reality he was experiencing.

Rene Puaux traveled to Pylos and he wrote his book “Greece the Gods’ beloved”: ” The road passes under the shadows of Olive trees and Eucalyptuses, it crosses rich plantations. On the left, the pale, tall line of the Messinian mountains. On the right, from time to time the deep green of the Ionian sea. The scenery is magnificent… for daydreamers, friends of peace and of the endless horizons.”

Rene Puaux in his book “The sorrows of Epyrus” defends the Greek origin of the place, he stated how unfair is the fact that North Epyrus was not united with Greece, he accuses the politics of the Great Powers, who acted according to their own interests. And above all he accuses the gigantic power of journalism and how it can mislead the public. In the case of North Epyrus, Puaux underlines the absence of the Italian and Austrian journalists from the declarative manifestos of belief of the inhabitants, both the Greek Christians and the Muslims.

In his book “The death of Smyrna” Rene Puaux accuses once more the politics of the Great Powers, that, within just a few days, changed the course of history. In this book Puaux describes the martyrdom of the archbishop Chrysostomos, his devotion to his parishioners, his abnegation. “We must note that the French patrol was watching the unfolding events, the men of the patrol were outraged, they were shaking with anger and wanted to intervene. But their commanding officer had orders to prevent them from interfering.  So, we didn’t see the end of the archbishop, just a few meters away”. A few minutes before this scene, Rene Puaux together with a group of twenty French, had found the archbishop and had begged him to follow them to the safety of the French consulate, but he had refused because he wanted to be near his parishioners. Maybe that is what Rene Puaux loved about modern Greece: the stubbornness, the unconditional love for this poor and beautiful homeland, the Greek religion that was kept united, the wild olive trees that were growing and keep on growing on the wild mountain sides.

Rene Puaux loved Greece very much, he defended her as much as he could, with his articles, his books; he lived during turbulent times (in truth, which are really the turbulent times? Maybe after a hundred years, the future historians will consider our times the most turbulent of all!) and he tried through his writings to be neutral, a mere observer of the facts. All through his life he was collecting lithographs, engravings, paintings, objects having to do with Greece and especially things about the Greek struggle for liberation from the Turks. These engravings present the simple Greek citizen of that period, the fighters, the friends of Greece, the cartoons made by European cartoonists of the time, Kapodistrias and king Otto, the generals and the admirals, all the people that took some part in the struggle for liberty. Rene Puaux gave his collection to the Greek state, today it is hosted at the house of the Olympic champion Konstantinos Tsiklitiras, in Pylos. The admission fee is two euros and the exhibition is open from 9 in the morning till 3.30 in the afternoon. For sure it deserves our attention, Rene Puaux is the father of the famous quote “I will remain faithful to Greece”, let’s say the same.

Translated by Stella Chatzi