This article was published on June 10, 2012, the 68th anniversary of their death, June 10, 1944
There is nothing more precious than to sneak into the bedroom of my sleeping three-year old son and kiss him good night. The other night I prayed a blessing over him and sealed it with the sign of the cross on his forehead—as my parents had done for me. I felt God’s presence reminding me that Jamin Loukas was on this earth for a reason. The same goes for my father, Loukas G. Loukas.
On this day, June 10, 2012 as we remember the horrific massacre in the small village of Distomo, Greece, I am reminded of the God’s great grace intervening in another generation. It was 68 years ago that my dad crouched trembling in a basement with 13 other children. Where were his parents to sneak in and check on him?
Three days after the historical D-Day in 1944, Nazi troops were traveling through the region near Distomo. In that surrounding area there were numerous resistance freedom fighters that had attacked the German troops and injured the head Nazi commander. This act sent the Nazi troops into a rage of retaliation that they unleashed on the unsuspecting peasants, farmers, priests, expectant mothers and young children of Distomo.
A Nazi soldier beat down the basement door. When he discovered a room full of children, he positioned his weapon to shoot, then aimed at the ceiling—all the while motioning the children to keep silent.
When my Yiayia Pandora and Papou George got news of something terrible happening in their village, they raced home from a day at the market as fast as their mule would take them. They wanted to gather their children close, and keep them safe. However, they never made it home. Later, their bodies were found lifeless on the side of the road.
Meanwhile, some very frightened children sat listening in a darkened basement to the sounds of death all around them—awaiting a dreadful fate of their own. A Nazi soldier beat down the basement door. When he discovered a room full of children, God Almighty intervened. The soldier positioned his weapon to shoot, then aimed at the ceiling—all the while motioning the children to keep silent. He sealed the door back up as best he could and left, shooting chickens and goats on the way out. He posted the official Nazi sign on the door that confirmed that the job there was done.
That was the day my dad was spared. At ages 16 and 14, his two older sisters became instant guardians of a two-year old. My dad was too young to comprehend God’s hand on his destiny. The story retold time and again has become his memory of the event. His first real memory came when he was five years old and his aunt took him to “meet” his parents. She pointed to their exhumed skeletons in the ground and said, “That is your mother and your father. Give them a kiss.”
People usually talk about scars as a sign of terrible things that happened in the past. I like to think about scars as a sign of healing—a reminder of God’s ability to restore, forgive, cleanse and redeem. When I look at my own scars I remember the bad that could have been and once was, but is no more. There is grace there instead. My dad was orphaned at the age of two. As a daughter with her daddy around, and as a mother with a young son, it brings me to tears to imagine not being there for my son. What were my Yiaya and Papou thinking that day as they tried to race home? What were their last prayers for their four children?
I’m thankful for a dad who checked in on me at night. And as I bless my son, I think of the scars and the grace. Because God intervened that day, my son can sleep peacefully in his bed. The same goes for his two sisters and four cousins. Because of God’s grace in that basement in Distomo 68 years ago, my dad’s alive today, and God’s purpose lives on for another generation.
The memories of my Yiayia Pandora and Papou George are eternal. They live on in my father’s heart and in the generations that live after them and hear their story. Today we remember our loss and reflect upon our scars and the grace given to us. May the memories of all 219 villagers lost in Distomo that day be remembered today.
For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 110:5