In English

My name is Michalis (or Michail) Sivvas and my website presents recordings in Aromanian, a Romance language spoken in Greece and in other Balkan countries. The recordings are with members of my family, all native speakers of the language, descending from the Aromanian village Megala Livadia (known as Călivi or Livădzi̯ in Aromanian).

Aromanian, also known as Vlach, is one of four Romance languages spoken in the Balkans, along with Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian, and Daco-Romanian (today’s standard Romanian), all evolved from Vulgar Latin. It is a language that is not standardised, and the number of speakers is dwindling. My aims are to help document it and maintain a small audio archive with the voices and narratives of my loved ones. I hope it will be of use to people who want to learn Aromanian. There is no standard writing system for Aromanian, but I explain here (in Greek) the system I have adopted for transcribing recordings and writing texts.

View of Mount Paiko from the town of Giannitsa. 2021

Megala Livadia was built on Mount Paiko, approximately 70km northwest of Thessaloniki, at an altitude of about 1200m. Research by Asterios Koukoudis (the source for much of the historical information provided in this text) suggests that the first settlers arrived in the area in around the 1760s. More families and clans followed with their livestock. The majority of the settlers hailed from historic Grammousta (or Grammos, in Greek), today a very small village at the Greek-Albanian border, but a sizeable Aromanian centre then.

Successive migrant waves followed from both Grammousta and Moscopoli, a prominent Aromanian settlement in the Ottoman Balkans (today’s Voskopojë, in Albania), as these towns were attacked and looted more than once by bandits and the troops and mercenaries of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, the Albanian local ruler in power between 1788 and 1820. A few families from the Aromanian towns of Perivoli and Samarina followed the same migratory route later.

Fleeing east, the settlers found a safe haven on Mount Paiko and the surrounding area, where they founded minor settlements, including Mikra Livadia. The first homes were temporary huts, which is where the name Călivi (‘huts’) comes from. Megala Livadia itself started resembling a proper settlement from the 1830’s onwards.

These formed the permanent summer settlements, as the population followed a transhumant cycle moving with their livestock annually to winter pastures. My great-grandparents were born and raised within this community in the 1870s-1880s, and my grandparents in the 1920s (you can see my family tree further down the page). It was a large community, with estimates of over 5000 inhabitants, together with Mikra Livadia, at its peak.

1936, Megala Livadia. Right to left: my great-grandfather Anastasios (or Tasos) Gerokostas (1878-1941), with his close friends Ilias Ponis and Stergios Sotiriou. From the archive of Chrysoula Sotiriou Tachibarba, Stergios Sotiriou’s daughter.

However, about one third of the population migrated to Romania permanently in the interwar years, in the climax of an era of competing nationalisms. Families were permanently split in two. Being Orthodox, the community had a largely pro-Greek sentiment and generally aligned with the Greek cause. But earlier, during the Balkan Wars over the fate of the Ottoman territories in Europe, the village had been a theatre of conflict; the Romanian state, through its church services and schools operating next to Greek ones, and pro-Bulgarian Komitadji also vied for control in this strategic region. Moreover, many people, especially women, succumbed to the Spanish flu, brought to the area by the Allied troops during WWI. The loss of grazing lands to Asia Minor refugees, after the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, deteriorated the economic condition of many families. Economic hardship, after years of armed conflict, disease, and loss of grazing land, led for some to an exodus to Romania.

View of the village of Megala Livadia in winter, circa 1936. From the archive of Nikos Abrazis.

The Aromanian language was used as an instrument of propaganda in WWII too. The actions of a small Aromanian paramilitary group of Axis collaborators, the Roman Legion (1941-1943), and its project for an autonomous Aromanian state with the support or tolerance of the occupying (Italian, German, and Bulgarian) Axis armies and Romania, brought further stigma to the Aromanians and the language.

Megala Livadia was practically abandoned after being looted and destroyed twice: first by the German occupation army and their Bulgarian collaborators on the 4th of May 1944, and then once more in September 1946 in the Greek Civil War. Seeing their permanent summer homes destroyed, the Megalolivadiotes settled permanently in the surrounding low-lying winter grazelands in the prefectures of Thessaloniki, Pella, Kilkis, and Imathia.

My mother’s side of the family settled in the Greek-speaking village of Drymos, about twenty kilometres north of Thessaloniki. Only four to five Aromanian families settled there. My father’s side of the family, together with a large number of other families from Megala Livadia, settled in what is now known as Nea Efkarpia, a suburb of Thessaloniki. Nea Efkarpia became a new settlement populated largely by two groups: Aromanians, and Asia Minor refugees (who moved there from Turkey after the 1923 Greece-Turkey population exchange treaty). Following the old Aromanian practice of endogamy, my parents, who were third cousins and the eldest children of the two families, got married in 1968 and settled in Nea Efkarpia.

Click on each red marker on the map below to see the locations mentioned in this text.

Megala Livadia has seen some growth in the past few decades. The small number of families who returned in the aftermath of the destruction were followed more recently by descendants of the old inhabitants, who built their holiday homes there; the village on Mount Paiko is still considered the ancestral home of Megalolivadiotes.

My website is only available in Greek, and partly in Aromanian, but here is an example of an entry from the Recordings page, in English (recording number 48).

48. Pită di praşi̯ (Leek pie)

Recording with my mother, Maria Lendziou Sivva (Nea Efkarpia, 7 November 2021). Ihuγrafişi̯ cu dada, Maria Lendziou Sivva (Limbeti̯ , la 7 di Brumaru̯ 2021). My mother is explaining how she made the fresh leek pie we had just tried. The second recording contains two language corrections my mother wanted to make. Azî̯ adrai ună pită di praşi̯… Şi cîtu̯ mîcămu̯ di i̯a! Si adră multu nostimă. Cumu̯ u adrai… (Today I made a leek pie… And we’ve eaten so much of it! It was very delicious. How I made it…).

The leek pie (left) and cheese pie (right) my mother made on 7 November 2021.

Copyright © 2005-current year, Michail Sivvas. All Rights Reserved. No recordings, images, texts or any other information on this site may be reproduced, transmitted, copied, duplicated, modified or adapted for any purpose without prior written permission. You can use the Contact Form to get in touch for further information or specific requests.

My family tree: (I am following the Greek conventions for the feminine form of surnames, e.g. masculine forms: ‘Sivvas’ and ‘Lendzios’, feminine forms: ‘Sivva’ and ‘Lendziou’ etc.)