A small island on the edge of the Aegean, marked by Greece’s modern political history, as it was a place of exile, Agios Efstratios – Ai Stratis to the locals – is blessed with the beauty of its landscape and, mainly, the fortitude of its people.
The only hamlet on the island lies in the valley formed by two dried river beds. Until the devastating earthquake of 1968 this is where the locals’ vegetable and fruit gardens used to be. The old hamlet was perched at the top of the hill, above the harbour, with stone built, two- or three-storey traditional houses, but after ’68 the few residents were forced by the military government to move to uniform homes, abandoning their old “Chora”.
Thankfully, some of the stone homes were saved from complete destruction; these were restored with reverence by the locals of Agios Efstratios. Οne of them, the Marasleios School of 1909, presently houses the Museum of Democracy.
Ai Stratis, with its 250 permanent residents, has intrigued many researchers, as it moves along at its own pace, cut off from the rest of the world by coincidence or temperament. A French director, Jean-Marie Tomasi, recorded the daily lives and stories of these islanders a few years ago, because – as she herself said – they remind her of her own island, Corsica, with its rebellious, independent spirit.