October 14 marks the death of Hellenic Army officer Pavlos Melas who was one of the most important war heroes in Macedonia’s struggle for freedom.
Born in Marseilles, France, in 1870, he graduated as an Artillery Officer from the Evelpidon School in 1891, when he was 21 years old. In 1900 a Macedonian committee was founded to pursue the aim of freeing the Northern Greek territories from Turkish and Bulgarian control, and Pavlos Melas was a member of this committee.
In July 1904, he entered Macedonia under the name “Peter Dedes.” His objective was to assess the situation in Macedonia and determine the possibility of establishing a revolutionary military unit to fight the Bulgarians and Turks. He soon returned to Athens, having discussed the possibilities with those who supported the Greek cause living in the area.
The following month he recruited a small force of 35 men to join the Macedonian forces opposed to the occupation, and he became the leader of this unit. He had by now changed his name again, this time to “Captain Mike Zezas”.
Melas fought bravely with his men, until October 13th, 1904, when he was betrayed. According to reports, he was in the town of Statista and he was turned in by a Bulgarian gang. He was quickly surrounded by 150 Turks and was mortally wounded. His last words were “May a single Bulgarian not remain”.
In the village of Statista there is a statue placed in his honour and the village was renamed “Pavlos Melas”. His efforts were eventually to result in success, as Northern Greece became free in 1912, and his name goes down in history as one of the greatest heroes of the Greek Revolution.
Melas has become a national symbol of the Greek struggle for Macedonia and there are statues of Melas all over Thessaloniki, as Greeks are still proud of his actions and Melas is seen as a source of inspiration.