A ten-year-old Greek student who lives on a small Ionian island had the privilege of parading all alone on OXI day. It sounds like an oddity, but it is a fairly usual situation in remote island student parades every year in Greece on the celebration of the great national day.
The boy, named Tasos, is the only student in Mathraki’s primary school. He moved to the Ionian island with his mother two years ago after they both saw some images of it online.
Mathraki is a tiny island and a former community of the Ionian Islands. It is a 45-minute boat ride from Corfu. It has three restaurants that double as general stores, villas, and “rooms to let.”
Its resident inhabitants number approximately thirty, and they are mostly elderly people. Mathraki is a quiet Ionian island that manages to stay clear of tourists except for the occasional hikers that brave the rocky coastline.
Most of Mathraki’s natives have sadly abandoned the picturesque Ionian island for more prosperous and spacious places in Greece. Moving there on a whim, young Tasos and his mother represent a breath of fresh air on the 3.532 square kilometer (1.36 square mile) island.
More than 20 years since the last parade
The year 2021 marked the first time in twenty-one years that children paraded on OXI Day in Mathraki. Naturally, the Ionian island’s residents are more than excited about Tasos parading alone, proudly carrying the Greek flag on Friday.
The decision to move to the Ionian island was taken in a matter of seconds after looking at some pictures online, says Tasos’ mother, Evgenia Giannopoulou. “It may be the most beautiful island in Greece,” she maintains.
The two of them visited Mathraki last summer and decided almost immediately to continue their life on the Ionian island. They knew it might be hard, without the comforts of the big city they were accustomed to, but that didn’t deter them.
When they arrived, Mathraki didn’t have a functional school since no children were living on the Ionian island. The municipality and the education ministry’s school services acted fast, however, and, in mid-September, the school was ready.
The reopening process was sped up by the assistance of several non-profit organizations so that Tasos could get to class on time. The school building was soon equipped with offices, computers, stationery, and other materials donated by island residents.
Ionian island OXI day parade and celebrations
Tasos’ classroom is situated in a municipal hall practically right on the island’s small port. It was decorated for the OXI day parade with Greek flags, and a small celebration was held on Tuesday with all the Ionian island’s residents present.
Tasos’ teacher is 29-year-old Eleftheria Viza, a substitute teacher posted on the island to serve the one-student class. She says their relationship extends beyond teaching. They spend their breaks together, and play games together, and they will also be together at Thursday’s parade.
Tasos is a gifted student, who already speaks three languages. His family, which originates from Thessaloniki, has spent time in Germany and the US. Tasos is proud to parade on his own, carrying the Greek flag on behalf of the whole island.
His only wish for the future is that more children his age move to Mathraki with their families. Next year, on OXI day, he would like to see more students parading with him on the island.