Chombo

Both farms were located in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, just north of Moshi. Chombo was a fairly well developed coffee estate at Uru, while Lambo had been abandoned for some years and had just a few scraggly coffee trees in it, at Machame.

Name ID 1966

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Extract Author: Gregory C. Emmanuel,
Extract Date: December 2000

Grandfather Gregory Emmanuel "Nisiotis" (1875 - 1977)

This is the story of Grandfather Gregory's life from information contributed by his sons, Constantine (Costas) and Dimitri G. Emmanuel, and his daughter, Eleni P. Lekanidou (nee Emmanuel).

On their trip to Tenedos in July 1998, Dimitri G. Emmanuel and his family, and his sister Eleni P. Lekanidou, located the ancestral family house where their father grew up . The house, which was built by their grandfather Constantine N. Emmanuel "Nisiotis" around 1853, is still in excellent shape and now is a hotel . The Turkish lady that owned it kindly let them in to look around. Eleni and Dimitri also located the white marble headstone from their grandfather's Constantine's grave . It was found some distance away from the desecrated Greek Orthodox cemetery and lay beneath some bushes along the sides of the town's main square. The lettering on the headstone was made by pouring molten lead into the lettering incised in the marble. The lead letters that were originally there have all been removed, but one can still see the small holes that were used to fasten them to the marble.

As a boy, Grandfather Gregory attended the best Greek school in Asia Minor, the Grand National Academy in Constantinople, graduating in 1894 . In 1895 he signed his French-Greek dictionary using the family nickname, Nisiotis . You can read all about the origins and evolution of the family surname here.

Soon after his father passed away, Grandfather Gregory left Tenedos on one of the family’s sailing ships (probably the 200-ton bratsera Agia Trias) with a cargo of the family's wine and sailed up the Black Sea coast to Romania. He arrived there only to find that another captain from Tenedos, also with a cargo of wine, had come ahead of him and flooded the market, so Grandfather couldn’t sell his wine. Instead, he opened a taverna and over the next few months disposed of all his cargo, selling it as the taverna’s house wine. Following his trip to Romania Grandfather returned to Tenedos and, after some time, left for Egypt, which had a large and thriving Greek community, to seek his fortune . There he worked as an engineer for the Suez Canal . In Alexandria he met Constantine Meimaridis, a good friend of his from Tenedos, who persuaded him that there were good prospects in East Africa.

At that time there was a great deal of railway-related construction going on in the Kilimanjaro area of Deutsch-Ostafrika (present-day Tanzania), and a lot of cargo was being landed in Mombasa, British East Africa (present-day Kenya) , and transported by train to Voi. From Voi cargo was hauled by ox-wagon over a rough track through thick bush to Moshi (present-day Old Moshi), Deutsch-Ostafrika, as there was no road or railway line connecting the two towns. But the ox-wagons couldn’t haul very bulky or heavy loads. Meimaridis had purchased a steam traction engine, or road locomotive , and intended to take over the heavy transport business between Voi and Moshi , a distance of about 90 miles. He offered a partnership to Grandfather, who accepted.

Sometime in the early 1900s the two friends sailed from Alexandria to Mombasa, where the dismantled and crated steam engine waited. (They became two of the first Greeks in East Africa, and many of the Greeks who later settled in Tanganyika were their relatives and friends from Tenedos). The two men loaded everything on the train and went up the line to Voi, where they established themselves and assembled the large machine with the help of an Indian mechanic. The machine was named Tinga-tinga , a phonetic Swahili nickname derived from the pinging noises the large flywheel made as it turned. But Tinga-tinga was just too heavy and cumbersome to negotiate the primitive track. It often sank through the soft sand and got stuck , or it would smash through the crude wooden bridges at stream crossings, and in the rainy season it would get thoroughly bogged down in the viscous African mud. The number of successful trips made are unknown and we have no descriptions of these trips.

Around 1908 The plan to revolutionize the cargo hauling business in East Africa was given up and the partnership dissolved. As compensation, Meimaridis gave Tinga-tinga to Grandfather, who put it to good use. For the next two years he hauled building materials and other heavy freight around the Moshi area, and sometimes used it as a tractor, contracting with farmers to plough their fields. Tinga-tinga was eventually sold to a German settler in the Moshi area, who dismantled it and mounted the boiler and engine on a permanent base to power a saw-mill, where it operated until the end of its useful life. In West Kilimanjaro, Tanganyika, a short distance north of Engare Nairobi, there is a place marked on the maps as Tinga Tinga. The origin of the name is unknown, but perhaps some other steam traction engine met its end at that location.

After the Tinga-tinga venture, Grandfather became a contractor for the Dar-es-Salaam to Kigoma (on Lake Tanganyika) railway construction project , where he made good money. In early 1920 he returned to the Moshi area and, after borrowing money from another Greek from Tenedos, Nicholaos Christofis, he bought two farms from the original German owners and so became one of the first Greeks to settle permanently in Tanganyika. Christofis became Grandfather’s silent partner. Also, he was my father's (Costas) godfather. He was bought out by Costas, Dimitri, and Nikos Emmanuel in 1946. Both farms were located in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, just north of Moshi. Chombo was a fairly well developed coffee estate at Uru, while Lambo had been abandoned for some years and had just a few scraggly coffee trees in it, at Machame.

Grandfather lived at Chombo, where his first house had mud walls, an earthen floor, and a grass thatched roof. The house at Lambo, which was built of large river stones with a corrugated metal roof, was much smaller then than it is now. There was no verandah at the Lambo house; instead, a huge bougainvillea covered the whole front of the building and part of the roof. When Grandfather went to take possession he found a large male lion snoozing under the bougainvillea. Fortunately it ran off into the bush when it realized there were people about.

In 1920, when he was 45 years old, Grandfather returned to Tenedos to find a bride and get married. On that trip he wrote a postcard to a friend in East Africa, telling him how hard it was to find a bride. However, on September 9, he married Irini D. Perrou , my grandmother, who was 24 years old at the time . She was a refined, cultured woman, who spoke French and played the piano. She was also very high-strung, a contrast to Grandfather, who was calm and quiet to an extreme.

Sometime after their return to East Africa, probably in 1921, Grandfather tore down the mud house at Chombo and built a new one, of cement blocks with a metal roof. For the next four years Grandfather and Grandmother were busy having children; in 1922 they had a daughter, my aunt Eleni Lekanidou, in ‘23 my father, Constantine (Costas), was born , and in ‘24 and ’25 they had two more sons, Dimitrios (Dimitris) and Nicholas (Nikos), my uncles.

In 1922 Greece’s initially successful campaign to recapture Constantinople and the formerly Greek lands of Asia Minor ended in disastrous defeat. With the 1923 Treaty of Lausane, Tenedos and the Moskhonisia, the Emmanuels' ancestral homelands, were formally ceded to the newly formed, ultra-nationalistic and militant Turkish state which had replaced the moribund Ottoman Empire. During the pogroms and the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey that followed, about 1.3 million Greeks left their homes in Asia Minor and sought refuge in mainland Greece and other countries. As a result, during the 1920s the Greek population of East Africa grew dramatically. A large number of Greeks, many from Tenedos, came to Tanganyika, where Greeks became the second largest expatriate European community (Germans being the largest group). In both Moshi and Arusha there were thriving Greek communities and the need arose for a Greek school. As the house at Lambo was vacant, Grandfather leased it to the Greek community and it became the first Greek school in East Africa. It was a boarding school and was the first school attended by my father, Costas. (He told me that a student who sleepwalked was taken during the night by a leopard.)

Sometime in the 1920s Grandfather acquired his first car. Being a thrifty person, he economized on fuel by shifting into neutral and freewheeling all the way from his farm down to Moshi, a distance of about 10 miles. Of course, this played hell with the brakes. Also, it is said that the grevillia trees that lined the narrow, potholed dirt road on both sides bore scrape marks as evidence of his passage.

My father, Costas, told me this story from the early 1930s:

One night all of us were piled in Father's car, a Ford Model A, returning to Chombo in a heavy rain sometime in the masika (rainy season). There were Nikos, Eleni, Dimitris, your grandmother Irini, myself, and your grandfather Gregory, who was driving. There was also another Greek in there with us. Well, at some point we got stuck in the mud and we all got out while the old man, my father, tried to jack the car up. But there was too much mud and the jack wouldn't work. So your grandfather asked the Greek fellow to go find a block of wood to put under the jack, and off the fellow went into the coffee trees to look for a suitable piece of wood, in total darkness, in the rain. He didn't have matches or a torch (flashlight) with him. After a while he came back holding something big and shiny, and it looked heavy. When he got close to us the thing he was carrying started to move and he dropped it and ran yelling back to the car. It turns out that in the dark he had picked up a large coiled python, mistaking it for a block of wood.

Grandfather and Grandmother wanted their children to have a Greek education, but as the school at Lambo offered only a primary education, they decided to send the children to Greece. In 1933, Grandmother Irini and her four children left for Greece on the Deutsch-Ostafrika Linie ship S.S.Usukuma. In Athens the boys were enrolled in the Athens College, considered to be Greece's best school at the time. They leased a house at 163 Kifisias Avenue in Ambelokipi, a suburb of Athens. Grandfather came to see them for short visit in 1937 and then returned to Tanganyika.

Three years later, on October 28, 1940, war came to Greece when the Italian Army invaded through Albania. Grandmother wanted to return to Tanganyika and, after a lot of searching, she found tickets on a ship leaving for Egypt. On their way to the harbor to board it, the ship was bombed and sank, so Grandmother Irini and her children were trapped in Greece for the duration of the war and for part of the Greek civil war which followed, enduring incredible hardships. Irini and her three sons were finally able to leave and rejoin Grandfather in Tanganyika in 1945 , after a separation of 8 years. Their daughter Eleni and her family arrived in Tanganyika the following year.

At that time Grandfather worked the coffee farm at Chombo. His partnership with his nephew, Stelios, to develop the property at Lambo had just ended with the completion of agreed-upon work. So his eldest son, Constantine (Costas, my father), took over as manager at Lambo.

After the war the price of coffee was very high and Grandfather was able to pay off all the debts incurred by Grandmother during the occupation fairly quickly. (Paying off these wartime debts was an accomplishment; many people refused to do so, instead accusing their lenders of taking unfair advantage of them during the war). Since Grandfather was now financially solvent, his sons persuaded him to end the one-sided partnership with Christofis. Grandfather agreed and his son Dimitri went to see Christofis at his residence in Cairo. Christofis agreed to the dissolution, so the four brothers bought him out and in partnership with their father became the outright owners of Lambo and developed it as a sisal estate.

My mother told me that when I was born in 1953 Grandfather was very excited because I would be the first grandson who would bear his name. During the few weeks after I was born, he would visit every day to make sure that my eyes stayed blue, like his.

Grandfather continued working the coffee estate at Chombo until 1960. That same year Grandmother Irini passed on at the age of 64. Chombo was then sold and Grandfather retired; he was then 85. He left East Africa and returned to Greece for good in 1964 , the same year as his son Dimitri. In Athens he lived in an apartment at Spartis 7 Street, in the same building as his daughter Eleni, who lived on the 7th floor.

Grandfather's life in Athens was radically different from his way of life in Tanganyika . He usually wore a dark suit and a tie, and sometimes a hat. Every day his routine was exactly the same. He got up, shaved, had a healthy breakfast, and would go for a walk which ended at Platia Amerikis. He always patronized the same kafenio, where he sat with his friends discussing the news of the day, reading the paper, and watching people go by. Then lunch with some wine, a nap, and in the afternoon another walk and another kafenio session. Back to his house for dinner and some more wine, and then he would read and go to sleep. He ate a lot of yogurt, vegetables, and fruit, loved fish, and always drank wine with his meals. His habits were so regular you could set your watch by him. His children paid a housekeeper to clean and cook for him.

In Athens, Grandfather had a tan Peugeot 403 car and a hired driver, Anestis, who was a Greek refuge from Asia Minor. In the 1960s, when I was in boarding school at the Athens College, Grandfather would sometimes come to school to pick me up for the weekend and deliver me to my aunt Eleni, my guardian (as my parents were in in Africa). One time he took me to see the war movie "The Sands of Iwo Jima" just to please me.

When my family moved to Athens and lived in the apartment at Spartis 3, Grandfather would often come to visit. He would sit quietly, not saying much at all, and not hearing much either because he was losing his hearing, while we would try and make shouted, uneasy conversation. But Grandfather was quite content to sit quietly, just enjoying the companionship. A few hours later he would slowly get up and wander on home. When TV first came to Greece in the late 1960s Grandfather bought one and spent most evenings watching terrible, black and white Greek movies or the news. Sometimes my sister, Elli, and I would go over and watch the Lucy Show or Lassie. We would leave with our ear drums ringing as the volume was always too loud.

Grandfather spoke Greek, Turkish, English, Swahili, and some French. He was a tall, good looking man. One summer in the 1970s he came to visit us on his way to his afternoon kafenio session. He had just returned from a week-long holiday at Loutraki, a popular seaside vacation spot, and he looked great; he was deeply tanned and his blue eyes sparkled, and he was full of humor. As he left for the kafenio he chuckled and said, " Well, I guess I'll go to the kafenio to see which one of my friends died while I was gone, and which one is left." He was in his late 90s then and had just started to use a walking stick.

Once, my uncle Dimitri and I were talking to Grandfather about his days on Tenedos and about the sailing ship that his family owned. To our great surprise, he easily drew a remarkably accurate outline of it on a piece of paper.

In 1977 Grandfather Gregory fell in his bathtub and broke his hip. He was taken to the KAT hospital in Athens and to everyone's amazement the broken bones healed. Unfortunately, the prolonged period of immobility and lying on his back required to heal his hip led to pneumonia. On May 24 he passed away from complications due to pneumonia, at the age of 102. My Uncle Dimitri says that he was "blessed to the end of his long life with an amazing clarity of mind and remarkable memory."

Extract ID: 4292
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