History pin: Dourgouti district: a “refugee picture” of old Athens

Οne of my favorite neighborhoods in Athens, which still remains authentic and I highly recommend for a Sunday morning walk with coffee and great photos, to discover the beauty and why not the history of the area, is called Dourgouti.

The neighborhood behind the Metropolitan Athens hotel spans an area of about ten blocks. It is said that it took its name from a landowner in the area. In one version he was called Dourgoutis and was Greek, as in another one he was from Turkey and called Dourgout Aga. The neighborhood was built after the Asia disaster (the end of the Greek-Turkish war of 1918-1922) to accommodate refugees who arrived in Athens. Greek Orthodox families & populations, mainly Armenian, tranfered in this area so now it is known as the “Armenian” (armenika) or “Prosfigika” (means a place where refugees live) . It was actually a slum consisting of rough construction, with minimal infrastructure, without drainage, bathroom and electricity. Although that was very close to the center of Athens, the Athenians would not visit Dourgouti because of the refugee profile of the district.

In 1924 there was a first attempt to improve the living conditions of the residents of the neighborhood by building 24 houses in six series, also known as Italian, since the financing was made by the Italian state.

In 1934 and during the interwar the first refugee apartment blocks appeared, based on the architecture of the Bauhaus.

The more organized reconstruction of the area took place the decade of 60, by the initiative of George Papandreou. There was a famous phrase in a speech he made at the foundation of the new settlement: “Death to the shantytown.”

Important historical moment of the area was the block of the Germans on 9 August 1944, one of the biggest in Athens. On that day 1200 people were gathered there 120 of which were immediately executed, while 600  others transferred to camps. Later that day The Germans burned down most of the village, and then withdrew their occupation forces and security battalions.

Poverty and the architecture of the buildings in the area attracted many film directors who used the neighborhood as a backdrop for their creations. Typical example of those films in “Dourgouti” area is “The magical city “by Nikos Koundouros (1950),” A man with pride “Odysseas Kosteletos (1960) and the short film” Your eyelids shine “of Ferris Kostas (1961) which after being seriously censored, never got permission because they were considered as an anti-tourism propaganda of the poverty which was appeared in the scenes.

 


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