With tears in her eyes and a thought-provoking mind, Anastasia Gouma silently watches her husband Elias, often sullen, talking to Pontos News about the cowardly murder of their child in Himarra (Χειμάρρα, Albanian: Himarë) by nationalist Albanians only because he spoke Greek!
About 150 meters from his house, next to the church of Patrocosmas, the murderers blinded by nationalist fanaticism unnecessarily cut the thread of life of 37-year-old Aristotle Goumas, who then became a Greek martyr in the Northern Epirus of today’s Southern Albania.
It was August 12, 2010.
“Aristotle left Himarra in 1991 to find work in Athens. In the summer of 2010 he stayed with us to help a friend who opened a shop here. A few days before his death, he told me that he would leave to work in Crete. I asked him to leave at the end of August. How would I know that evil would happen?” said the father who bursts into tears, bearing the heavy fact that he did not let the child go and feeling unjustifiably guilty for it.
Aristotle was sitting with his friends at a beach cafe in Himarra that day in August, speaking to them in his mother tongue, Greek. Then seven Albanians approached him in a wild mood – and with pistols, as witnesses testified.
They aggressively asked him why he uses the Greek language while he is in Albania. Aristotle replied that he was Greek and that this was the language of his ancestors.
With the intervention of other Greeks in Himarra, a quarrel was avoided, however at that time a death contract had been signed without Aristotle knowing it.
The same people followed him on his way to his house in Ano Himarra; shortly before he reached a bridge, they rammed his motorcycle. Aristotle fell and they passed over him in their car. To be sure that they finished it, they turned back and passed over him a second time.
The news spread quickly and the Greek of Himarra took to the streets with their carbines.
The death and lack of immediate police response sparked outrage throughout the predominantly ethnic Greek region off Himarra. Demonstrators blocked the main highway between the towns of Avlona (Αυλώνα, Albanian: Vlorë) and Agioi Saranda (Άγιοι Σαράντα, Albanian: Sarandë) using rocks, while municipal workers in the town of Himarra held a strike.
According to the Himariote Union, the death of Goumas was the culmination of a series of recent provocations in the town of Himarra by Albanian nationalists. Local Greeks further called for the replacement of certain individuals in the Himarra police force, stating that attacks against ethnic Greeks have occurred frequently in the past and been duly reported, without the local police authorities showing the slightest interest.
Police intervened to prevent large-scale incidents and chased the killers. All of them were found in the quarry area, except for the driver, who was found in Tirana two days later.
Thousands of Greeks in Himarra said goodbye to Aristotle with Greek flags in their hands, shouting slogans and chanting the National Anthem. The coffin was also covered with a Greek flag.
“Aristotle was a calm and very smart man, with a high patriotic mind,” said Elias Goumas’ son-in-law, Montis Kolilas, to Pontos News. “He always helped his compatriots and that is why everyone in Himarra loved him. He was a diplomat and did not get angry easily. That is why he avoided the commotion with the Albanians. But his killers set him up and killed him.”
Sali Berisha himself, then Prime Minister of Albania, condemned the murder, noting that Himarra is a bilingual area.
The driver of the car was sentenced to eight years in prison and released in three, the co-driver was sentenced to one year in prison and the others just a few months.
Aristotle’s parents were never summoned to court. The father of the murdered man also has complaints from the Greek Embassy, whose help was limited only to the presence of the ambassador at the funeral.
The people of Himarra prepared a bust-monument of Aristotle and placed it in the courtyard of the church of All Saints. However, there were reactions and finally the sculpture was placed on his grave, from which the Greek flag was often removed by Albanians. Even the flowers that adorned it were uprooted.
But the memory of Aristotle is not uprooted.