Mr Koksma letter to the ecumenical team



A letter written in Athens on 20 April 1961 from George Koksma to Mr. Kurtis Naylor of the Ecumenical team of the WCC in Geneva:

Dear gentlemen,

For our island, Kythera, we should like to ask you for some extra assistance, for non-budgetary openings in order to give a good start to a series of objects (projects) that have to be begun or finished.

Many of the items I informed you before about, in fact are Governmental public works, but practically all of them are originated by our group. Normal way is this: the group designs something, Government approves and take over but is not able to give all the means for the execution. Greece today may give perhaps 10 from 100 and in some cases 25 from 100, but not more. And some other sub-projects have to wait, how important they may be.

For your information this: the Kythera-Project is the repair of all defectuous phenomena of the island. In other words, two things, the two things, of the island are wrong: the population and the island itself and our task is to bring back the normal equilibrium.

  1. The population. We were able to plot the population-pyramid after we finished the sociological survey of the island. It shows a) an enormous balloon for the old-age people where there should be the normal top-part only; b) a wasps-waist where the triangle of normal circumstances has it gravity-centre, stating the lack of bearing young groups round 30; c) a far too little number of children.
  2. The land shows practically only eroded terrain, with a rapidly increasing number of idle-laying fields, a growing desert, diminishing number of trees and diminishing amount of water.

To a certain extend it is understandable that the population fled from such a country. Studying the island, our first impression was: “Well, people is right to go away from such a hopeless place.” All over the island we heard: “Our homeland cannot bear us. Living possibilities are too insufficient. Soil is bad and there is a great lack of water, even for domestic purposes.” We checked these statements and found them to be not quite right.

  1. Soil is not worse than elsewhere in similar cases and countries and e.g. far better than that what the Jews in the Negeb transferred into good terrain. Some parts on the contrary are very good for agricultural purposes.
  2. My wife and I, during long and sometimes perilous investigations, found an amount of water (even during the most dry periods) sufficient for 5 times the present population. More than that, for irrigation there would be left over double the amount used today.

A nearer specification of the reasons why they migrated is very interesting:

  1. The lust for freedom; after centuries of imprisonment especially accentuated during the last world-war.
  2. The influence of papers, magazines, films and stories of modern comfort.
  3. Reports from America, Australia and other wealthy countries and returning emigrants, gave the population the feeling that money is the greatest value and this would never be found in Greece.
  4. The general, world-wide aversion against agricultural work.
  5. The passive attitude of the Orthodox Church.
  6. Many other reasons, e.g. fear for communism, atomic bombs etc.

And because of the fact, that the population went, the old Aphrodite-Island is a desert indeed (90 % rocks with thorns. The rest is wonderful). And after they went, life at Kythera is going to be hard. Every day more. Poverty not yet has strangled the island at large, but this will come in the future if we are not able to change the picture.

That is: stop migration, bring back a possibility for a living to the population that is present and for their children.

How could this be done? Can it be done?

Well, we are already doing during several months and results like tiny little stars against the blackness of the present can be seen here and there. Our aim is:

  1. To fight the erosion by planting trees. In this respect we assist and urge the Greek Government and stimulate every private in the island. It is a terrific great job, but relatively in comparison with
  2. To economize the water supply available. (Later on we hope to be able to extend this principle in building dams.) the old ones now may be observed to towing buckets and barrels for their domestic water over a mile across stony rocks, some 300 – 400 feet high. Enough to chase anyone away who has not more than Job’s patience.
  3. To improve the backward agricultural methods. Better seeds, better animals, better stables, better irrigation methods, better roads, removal of many ruins, stimulating of better diet, use of milk, sanitarian help, flower gardens, etc.
  4. To bring work to the many unemployed hands of present and future. Industry!! And for all the famous Greek tourist industry.
  5. To bring the population together. First of course the youth. Youth-clubs. Now, nothing binds them anymore. There have to be created circumstances that make them feel at home once more in their own country.
1962 Chora mr and mrs Koksma at a sports demonstration


Can this all ever be effectuated?

Personally, my answer is: yes.

As I have stated, we are doing already. Of course there are more means to be practised and more ways to be taken. We work on every possible thinkable terrain. We write in papers about these things, we construct reports and we show pictures, we show how to work, working with our own hands. We design for them and give advices of every kind. We help them in every way, also financial and then in the name of all the churches of our Lord, all over the world. In short, we make here in this part of the world such a tremendous noise, that it has been heard by almost every Governmental Department and already slowly we find ourselves back in a sort of a pilot-Project, started by the World Council of Churches. That is to say, by you who reads this.

*Interesting read the work in 1960

For that reason we need your extra help.

Please do not let us down. Our people is expecting something from you. Expectations that were created by yourself.

In our first year, my wife and I, we fought our way into the complete confidence of the population and we succeeded. We succeeded. And we were rewarded with such an overwhelming mass of friendship, that we gladly go back again. But this year 1961, must be the year of deeds.

We need help and assistants. And we ask not too much, because the importance of the Kythera-Project will come into future touching international borders.

Separately we give you short studies of all the important projects we have started here at the island.

May God give you the right ways to find possibilities for our wonderful work.

For the Greek Team of the


(signature)          J.M. Koksma


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