Dave and Gerry's Alonissos Island Information Site

Family Bereavement on Alonissos

This section has been written by Beau and Bert Dendy and is in memory of Dick Dendy who died on Alonissos on Monday 12th May 2008 and is sadly missed by all his family and friends.

In the Event of a Bereavement

The following information is based on our experience and hopefully will help you through the procedures of what happens during this very difficult and emotional time.

  1. Inform the doctor by phoning 24240 65208.
  2. Inform the police by phoning 24240 65205.
  3. Go to the police station with the deceased passport and your passport.
  4. The police will arrange for collection of the deceased via the Dimos office (council) who will give you some paperwork.  Dimos office phone number is 24240 65555.
  5. Go to the health clinic with the paperwork to see the doctor.  He will provide a certificate to take with you to the port police.
  6. Go to the port police to obtain a certificate to enable you to transport the deceased over to Larisa (if an autopsy/post mortem is required) or to the mainland in Greece or wherever you are needing to go within Greece from Alonissos.
  7. Purchase tickets for yourself and the deceased showing the ticket office the paperwork and the deceased passport and your passport.  The coffin is charged at the same rate as a passenger of 48 euro single to Volos as of May 2008.  The Dimos will arrange for a driver in an open back truck to take the coffin to the ferry jetty.
  8. The police will contact the hospital if an autopsy is required and arrange for transport from Volos to Larisa (a "funeral director" in an old VW bus was our experience) to meet you.  We were lucky because he spoke good English.
  9. You have to go to the hospital with the deceased with the arranged transport and wait until they have completed their post mortem.  There is only room for one person in the transport on Volos (along with the driver and attendent of course!).  So if there are two of you it is an ideal time to make phone calls to inform family and friends and to make arrangements.  We certainly didn't have time before we left, in fact only just time to quickly pick up a couple of bits from home before we left!
  10. Transport back to Alonissos will be arranged with help from the "funeral director", but you have to go through the same procedures as before of getting tickets and permission to transport by boat back to Alonissos from the relevant authorities in Volos.
  11. MEANWHILE inform the priest Father Avraam of the death and ask him to arrange for the funeral to take place.  Father Avraam speaks very good English.
  12. The Dimos office and Father Avraam will arrange transport for the deceased on your arrival back to Alonissos.  You will need people at the harbour to load the coffin onto the Dimos truck and will probably have to go straight up to the cemetery from the port for the service and burial.  The paperwork for burial will need to be collected from the Dimos office and make sure a white pillow case is available as this may be required as part of the service at the grave.
    N.B. The deceased body will be removed from the grave, usually about three years later because space is limited and after a short ceremony will be boxed and placed in the ossary behind the church at the graveyard.
  13. If you want flowers then the florist at the top of Patitiri opposite the main car park can provide them for you, although we asked that everyone attending the funeral service should bring wild flowers.
  14. Within five days of the death you may have to make a statement to the police, stating the circumstances of the death.  You will need to take your passport with you.  If you do not speak much Greek, we would strongly advise that you take someone with you who can speak both English and Greek for translation purposes.
  15. You collect the death certificates from the council office behind the Koutouki taverna a few days later.
  16. Payment must be made to the council here for the funeral and transport.  In May 2008 it was 130 euros.  If you had transport for the coffin elsewhere, such as from Volos to the hospital in Larisa and back, this must be paid by bank transfer directly into the "undertaker's" bank account.  We paid 1,100 euros "special price" in 2008.  The price included overnight storage of the deceased.  There was a charge of 23 euros made by the bank for transfer of funds to the funeral director on Volos as their account was not with the National Bank of Greece.  The coffin is charged for separately, payment to Skopelos Council by bank transfer and cost 400 euros in May 2008.
  17. As we understand it, the grave digger is usually casual help employed by the council, although it is customary to give him a cash "thank you" of 40 euros.  Papoulis may or may not require payment; it is customary to ask him directly for any fee which will be in the region of around 100 euros. Although the council here have charged for transport, it is customary to give the transport guy here a cash "thank you" of 40 euros.
  18. The grave is covered with earth and flowers may be placed on top and any other small personal items relating to the deceased life.  However, within Forty Days of the death, it is expected that the grave should have some sort of structure around it.  This can be the traditional marble surround, or a small rendered wall, a surround made of wood or a small fence.  The choice is personal.
  19. The top of the grave can be covered in white chippings or marble, white symbolising purity.
  20. Plant pots and flower vases may be placed around the grave and either a candle or solar light.  A lady who works at the cemetery can be asked to water any plants and light the candles at night.  She makes a small charge for this.
  21. A cross may be erected and it is traditional to have a box containing a photo of the deceased and small items relating to their life here on earth.  Things such as photos, ornaments of animals, model car, etc are often found, but do have a look around the cemetery to see how things are done.
  22. The Greek Orthodox Church will hold a small service after 40 days, but it is not compulsory, as it is a Greek Orthodox religious service.  We understand that this must be paid for if required.
Please read the next section on legal issues.
Legal Issues

The following information is to inform you of what the legal procedures are in Greece following the death.

  1. The deceased passport will be sent by the Dimos (council) here on Alonissos, by official post, to the British Embassy in Athens.  If you need it for any reason, I guess that you would need to contact the British Embassy in London.  You can request official copies.
  2. You will need to apply for probate in England.  Once you have been granted probate, and have been given the official "Letter of Probate" you will be able to visit banks to close any accounts and have access to savings.  You will need to take the letter of probate with you, together with a copy of the death certificate.  You will also need to take your own identification (your passports and birth certificates).
  3. The letter of probate, if I remember correctly, is applied for via a solicitor of your choice, but a registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths would no doubt be able to advise you of this, free of charge.
  4. The death certificate will probably need to be translated into English.  Check with the local register of births, marriages & deaths first though.  If this is the case, I understand that both the Greek and British Embassy have official translators for this purpose.
  5. You will also need to inform the local tax office, any accountant, local council, electricity board, telephone company, etc., etc. and the pensions service (DHSS) of the death, all of whom may want copies of the death certificate and a copy of the letter of probate.
  6. You will need to come back within one year, but sooner the better really, to see Maria, who is the solicitor on Skopelos who dealt with the sale/purchase of the house.  She will need the original letter of probate, which she can translate into Greek.  She will need the death certificate and to see your birth certificates and passports.
  7. Once she has these, she can arrange for the property to be transferred legally into your name(s).  You will need to decide if you want the property in joint names or not.
  8. You will also need to complete a Greek Tax Return Form, which the solicitor will help you with.
  9. As far as the law in Greece is concerned, whatever the nationality of the deceased was, so the law relates to that country as far as who inherits, etc. is concerned.  However, any property held in Greece must be dealt with under Greek law in terms of legal ownership transfer and any sale of the property.  If bank accounts are held in the UK, then UK procedures apply to them.
Useful Contact Information

Maria Rizopulu (Solicitor on Skopelos)
Tel: 00302424023283
Mob: 6979281233
Fax: 23379
E-mail: rizopulu@otenet.gr

Greek Embassy, London
1A Holland Park, London, W11 3TP
Tel: 0171 7345997

British Embassy
Web site: http://ukingreece.fco.gov.uk/en

Lexicon (Tranlation Company in Thessaloniki)
Tel: 00302310478280
Fax: 00302310478283
E-mail: info@lexicon.com.gr
Web site: www.lexicon.com.gr/en/
The company can translate Greek to English or vice versa and get it notarised.

Our Contact Details - Bert & Beau Dendy
Tel: 00302424065743
E-mail: beaubertatalonissos@hotmail.com
Post: Post Office Box 87, Alonissos, 37005, Greece

Greek Funerals

Most people are aware of how funerals are organised in their own countries but we thought you might like to know what happens in Greece following the death of a family member.

Greeks mourn and show respect for their dead a long time after they have departed from this world.  When somebody dies, it depends somewhat on the time of day that they die as to the ritual that ensues.  Close relatives living in the same house as the dead person must stay up with the body all night or up to 24 hours.  Friends and relatives come round to the house, nobody sleeps and they will make company together, on this, the last night on this earth of the departed.

Nothing in the way of food or drink must be served in the room in the house where the body is kept.  No meat is eaten at all for 9 days by anybody in the household as they believe that the body is not yet dead.  Flesh represents the flesh of Christ and all living things and the abstinence from eating meat is a mark of respect, until the person properly leaves this world.  The body and particularly the face, is covered with a sheet as soon as the sun goes down and is not uncovered until the sun rises.  This has to do with evil spirits that may corrupt the soul during the night.  The body must be placed in the middle of the room where it is kept, facing the direction of the sunrise.

After the 24 hour or night vigil, everybody goes to the church ith the dead body leading the procession and everyone following.  The coffin is open during the procession for all to see and then for 1 hour in the church to give people a chance to pay their last respects, while the priests read from the bible.  The body is always buried with the other family members, on top of the previous member's grave.  A daughter who has been married will be buried with her husband's family, as she becomes part of that family when she marries him.  The family looks after the grave as if it is the new home of the departed, keeping it clean at all times and laying fresh flowers regularly.  Sometimes candles are lit.

After 9 days the family makes a special dish called "Koliva".  Koliva consists of raisins, wheat and walnuts and is displayed inside the house and then taken to the grave, as food for the dead.  The priests attend and give readings.  Part of the food is scattered over the grave and the relatives eat the remainder.  This is a mark of respect and acknowledgement that the dead person is still part of the family and can still eat with them.  After 40 days, normally the nearest Sunday mass, another plate of Koliva is made and taken to the church.  It is passed around the congregation in the chuch and everyone eats from the plate.  The same ritual is performed after 6 months and then again after 1 year, as the Greeks believe it can sometimes take this long for the body to ascend to God.  Some families repeat the ritual again after 3 years.

The wearing of black as a mark of respect depends on how close the family members were to the deceased.  For the immediate family, black is worn by women for 1 year.  If a husband dies, the wife is supposed to wear black forever to respect her husband, unless she is young enough one day to marry again.  Otherwise, the wife is expected to grieve for the remainder of her life.  The only time she may go away from black is if she attends family weddings or baptisms, as black is bad luck at these joyous occasions.  Then she may wear grey or dark blue instead.  If a wife or female member of the family dies, the husband or relative wears a black armband.  In some villages a black material is hung over the doorway of the house to show that someone has recently died.

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