Two churches and four homes were robbed on Sunday night in the Greek mountain villages of Oreino and Xirovalto in the Pogoni municaplity, near the Greek-Albanian border, 195 miles southwest of Thessaloniki.
Police were called when a local farmer Sophia Demetriou and another villager noticed that the Church of Agias Paraskevis had been attacked.
“We saw that the church’s windows had been broken and were opened. Although we have a key to the church we didn’t open it until the police came, as we were afraid to find someone inside. We wanted to go to the other houses in the village to see what was happening, but we were scared. A month ago in the next village over at Pontikates, a local couple found some Albanians outside their home with Kalashnikov machine guns. We are in a state of panic,” Demetriou said.
“We don’t want to leave our homes that we built with our own blood,” she added.
When police arrived it was discovered that two icons had been stolen from the church. The same parish of Agias Paraskevis was also attacked a year earlier, when thieves removed icons from the iconostasis and stole the Epitaphios.
Greek media also reported that houses were burglarised in Ioannina over the weekend.
An icon, embroidered epitaphios and two metal candlesticks were also stolen from the Church of Agios Nikolaos in Xirovalto. Similar cases have been reported just over the border, in small Greek villages of Albania.
Pogoni mayor Kostas Kapsalis believes it is likely the same group is looting on both sides of the border. “The villages are at the mercy of Albanian criminals,” he said. “Despite the commitments repeatedly made by those responsible to reopen military posts and that police presence would be strengthened at the border, with cameras, we have as yet seen nothing.”
The lack of security has the villagers sleeping with guns and afraid to leave their homes, the mayor stressed.