Few wood-clad private houses survive in the region of Thrace and even fewer in Greece. One of the most beautiful old wooden mansions of Didymoteicho on Theofilos Street was also the house of the Jewish merchant Nissim Tarapoulos, which was built in the 1890s. It was managed to be acquired by the Didymoteihai hagiographer-painter Yiannis Sarsakis and his wife Georgia Dalagiorgou (mosaic painter). who completely saved her from the ravages of time. With a lot of personal work, passion and dedication, they completely renovated it while keeping its original character and handed it over to the local community even more beautiful and charming.

The renovation was completed in 2017 and the "Porphyron Keimilion", one of the many wooden houses that existed in Didymoteicho at that time, was reborn. With ornate paneled wood paneling, corner posts with false capitals, arched recessed entrances and ornate ironwork. The entrance, imposing and majestic in relation to the size of the building, which is accessed by a two-sided staircase, attracts attention. The general image of the building shows that it was designed by an engineer and despite all its traditional constructional elements, it has gone outside the framework of guild "folk" architecture.

This house belonged to the family of Nishim (it means miracle in Hebrew) Tarabulos, who were Sephardic Jews (they were expelled in the 15th century from Spain, where the kingdom put them with the dilemma of either converting to Catholicism or leaving the country) and they arrived in the Ottoman empire mainly in coastal cities or transport hubs. The leaders of the Ottoman empire proved more tolerant and incorporated the large communities of Sephardic Jews into their empire.

The Taraboulos family owned a large commercial store in Didymoteicho and sold glassware, pots, coffees, chocolates, confectionery and sweets from Chios. At the same time, however, he bought fish from Istanbul, such as turikia (the big bonitos) and mackerel, transported them by train to Didymoteicho and sold them fresh, while a large batch was processed into lacerda under the brand name "Istanbul's lacerda" which at that time she was famous. Most of the merchants of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace procured fish and lacerda from the Jewish merchant.

During the years of great persecution by the Nazis, Nissim Tarabulous together with a cousin of his managed to escape via Constantinople to the Middle East, with the aim of fighting with the forces of the Greek army against the Axis. When after the end of the war he returned home he met only ten Jews who managed to survive the concentration camps. The Jewish community of Didymoteichus was a prosperous and thriving community of about a thousand people, which unfortunately in May 1943 was taken to Nazi concentration camps and almost completely exterminated.

Today, the two daughters of the Taramboulos family live in Greece, Astro in Thessaloniki and Rachel in Rhodes. Yannis Sarsakis and his wife, the current owners of the "Porfyros Keimilio" were kind enough to open this historic house for us to photograph and admire its beauty, magnificence, and exemplary restoration. We thank them very much.

SOURCE: By Stathis Harpantidis, ATHENS VOICE 3.2.2024