Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Helen Keller and Epirus

The Anagnostopoulos School in Konitsa, Epirus (Greece) / © I.A. Daglis

Helen Keller was one of the most famous women in America in the early 20th century. Both deaf and blind, she overcame her disabilities to become a bestselling author and popular lecturer. Keller’s tutor, Anne Sullivan, became rather famous in her own right, for her role in training the young Keller. Less well-known, but just as significant, is the man who put Keller and Sullivan together — Michael Anagnos, an immigrant from Greece, and the longtime head of Boston’s Perkins Institute for the Blind.
Anagnos (shortened from Anagnostopoulos) was born in Papingo, a mountain village in Epirus in 1837. The son of a peasant, he grew up tending his father’s flocks and studying in the village school. He eventually earned a scholarship to a better school, and ultimately was admitted to the University of Athens. There, he was so poor that he couldn’t afford textbooks, and had to copy the required readings by hand. He worked his way through college, graduated, and then studied law.
Below follows a letter of Helen Keller to Michael Anagnos, written 122 years ago.

Tuscumbia, Ala., May 18, 1889.
My Dear Mr. Anagnos:--You cannot imagine how delighted I was to receive a letter from you last evening. I am very sorry that you are going so far away. We shall miss you very, very much. I would love to visit many beautiful cities with you. When I was in Huntsville I saw Dr. Bryson, and he told me that he had been to Rome and Athens and Paris and London. He had climbed the high mountains in Switzerland and visited beautiful churches in Italy and France, and he saw a great many ancient castles. I hope you will please write to me from all the cities you visit. When you go to Holland please give my love to the lovely princess Wilhelmina. She is a dear little girl, and when she is old enough she will be the queen of Holland. If you go to Roumania please ask the good queen Elizabeth about her little invalid brother, and tell her that I am very sorry that her darling little girl died. I should like to send a kiss to Vittorio, the little prince of Naples, but teacher says she is afraid you will not remember so many messages. When I am thirteen years old I shall visit them all myself.
I thank you very much for the beautiful story about Lord Fauntleroy, and so does teacher.
I am so glad that Eva is coming to stay with me this summer. We will have fine times together. Give Howard my love, and tell him to answer my letter. Thursday we had a picnic. It was very pleasant out in the shady woods, and we all enjoyed the picnic very much.
Mildred is out in the yard playing, and mother is picking the delicious strawberries. Father and Uncle Frank are down town. Simpson is coming home soon. Mildred and I had our pictures taken while we were in Huntsville. I will send you one.
The roses have been beautiful. Mother has a great many fine roses. The La France and the Lamarque are the most fragrant; but the Marechal Neil, Solfaterre, Jacqueminot, Nipheots, Etoile de Lyon, Papa Gontier, Gabrielle Drevet and the Perle des Jardines are all lovely roses.
Please give the little boys and girls my love. I think of them every day and I love them dearly in my heart. When you come home from Europe I hope you will be all well and very happy to get home again. Do not forget to give my love to Miss Calliope Kehayia and Mr. Francis Demetrios Kalopothakes.
Lovingly, your little friend,
The Anagnostopoulos School in Konitsa, Epirus (Greece) / © I.A. Daglis

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