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A modern newspaper archive

Looking for a needle in a haystack

The chronicle of an inexhaustible effort

Hopes caress a disaster, like blades of grass a ruin.

Romain Rolland

Athletic Echo advertisement, referring to the forthcoming publication of Coot’s biography.

It was January 1951, when in the columns of the Greek newspaper “Athletic Echo“, a text was published in succession, whose editor, journalist Timos Moraitis, claimed that it was the “lost” biography of the famous Greek wrestler and weightlifter. The journalist, in his preface, claims that these rare handwritten pages came into his possession through some of the wrestler’s relatives whom he does not name. He also says that the completely illiterate athlete set out to learn a few letters about ten years before he died, in order to leave as a legacy to future generations his memoirs. In yet another page of the same newspaper, it is stated that Coutalianos    during the days when he was seriously ill in a hospital of
Constantinople, he dictated to a cleric that he remembered the important events of his sporting life. Nevertheless, the fact that no photocopy of these – supposedly – handwritten pages was published makes us suspicious of the content of the publications titled “Coutalianos’ Biography”. However, for the most part, that is, what we managed to compare with reliable and contemporary sources of the athlete, these publications seem to be valid for the most part and that is why we started the process of highlighting them, leaving them to the judgement of our readers.

A more extensive advertisement of the Athletic Echo, shortly before the publication of Coutalianos’ memoirs.

Exactly how Coutalianos’ memoirs were written is something that preoccupied us and continues to preoccupy us. If we take into account what is reported in the columns of the “Athletic Echo”, a scholar expatriate, a resident of New York called Georgios Kastritsis, allegedly received these manuscripts from the athlete’s sons who had assumed the debt – following the father’s last wish them- to publish his memoirs. The scholar who received the envelope of manuscripts, after studying them thoroughly, thought it appropriate to mail them to Greece, to a friend and old classmate named L. Calfarenzo, whom he considered more suitable for writing such a work. In this adventurous way was compiled that book which is rumored to have once been circulated in the USA and whose fate we do not know.

Four years later, in 1955, another newspaper will publish an additional biography of the athlete. It was about the “Marmarina News“, published by the folklorist Nik. Sot. Lampadaridis.

The logo of the “Marmarina News”

These texts    both in terms of the structure of their material and in terms of their content, resemble the biography published in the pages of the “Athletic Echo”, which makes us speculate that this is a reprint of what was published in the pages of “Athletic Echo”. A little earlier, in 1933, a long interview was published in the columns of the Greek newspaper “Patris” which we could say looks like a “biographical testimony”. This is what the son of Panagi Coutalianos, Hellin allegedly told the journalist Giorgos Boukouvalas. The Greek, a wrestler himself, like both his father and his brothers, had arrived in Greece after wandering for years.

The athlete Hellin Coutalianos, who gave the interview in Patris newspaper

We know that he eventually settled in a poor neighborhood of Piraeus, that is where he was discovered by the aforementioned journalist. In the long published interview, we identified some inaccuracies    that    weaken the validity of what is reported. In our narrative, however, we have taken care to retain only such of the evidence as we have been able to cross, and those which have been free from exaggeration. Especially what is related to the tour of Panagis in old Russia, is highly revealing, interesting and rather reliable. It remains    however    all these elements we “fished out” to be cross-referenced in the future with archival material from the Russian newspapers of the time, which for us was extremely difficult – to the point of impossible – mainly because of the war conditions that prevail in the territories of Ukraine    and Crimea, places through which we know that Panagis Coutalianos passed triumphantly, making wonderful appearances.

“Patris” newspaper advertises on its front page the interview of Koutalianos’ son Hellen.
Kostas Michos

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