Monday, March 1, 2010

My Library; The Island; Spinalonga was a former leper colony;

The Island by Victoria Hislop.

Plaka 1953, a cold wind whipped through the narrow streets of Plaka and the chill of autumnal air encircled the woman, paralysing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief. As she stumbled....

A powerful story about the fate of people who were unlucky enough to be infected by Lepra, had to leave their families and friends and were banned to the Island of Spinalonga.

The Island of Spinalonga, off the north coast of Crete, was Greece's main leper colony from 1903 until 1957.

It is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. This was to maintain the religious tradition of the Greek Orthodox church, in which a buried person has to be commemorated 40 days, 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 years after their death. Other leper colonies that have survived Spinalonga include Tichilesti in Eastern Romania, Fontilles in Spain and Talsi in Latvia. As of 2002, few lazarettos remain in Europe.[1]

There were two entrances to Spinalonga, one being the lepers' entrance, a tunnel known as Dante's Gate. This was so named because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived. However, once on the island they received food, water, medical attention and social security payments. Previously, such amenities had been unavailable to Crete's leprosy patients, as they mostly lived in the area's caves, away from civilization.


nicoletted said...

Hi there, Great to read your piece on the Island by Victoria Hislop - it is a great read isn't it. I was wondering whether you would mind adding a link to our website - we are mentioned in the Book - the charity LEPRA Health in Action

We are a medical development charity and work to fight diseases like leprosy that are associated with extreme poverty today.

Kind regards Nicolette

Kilauea Poetry said...

This is what I intended to comment on as well but didn't really didn't want to leave a link to my last post (I pulled it).
I like this post.
This reminded me of a book I read long ago (Margaret of Molokai) she was the last leper to leave the
Kalaupapa peninsula in Hawaii.

Titania said...

Nicolette. I send you an e-mail.

Hi Regina M. thank you for your interest and comment. It was a terrible fate people were facing; not only coping with a disease with no cure but also leaving their families, to no return.