Lefteris Papadopoulos is an important lyricist, journalist and writer. He was born in 1935 to a refugee from Asia Minor father and to a Russian mother who was not literate. (And later she learned by herself to read and write because she was ashamed of it). They lived near Kiriakou square (now Victoria Square) in Athens in a building in which there were eight rooms around a courtyard with each family living in a room. One nearby street was Aristotelous Street, a dirt street without asphalt which, as someone wrote, during the German occupation, emaciated and barefoot children were playing….
And about this street Lefteris wrote one of the most beautiful songs of all time, in any language -Aristotelous Street, set to music by Giannis Spanos.
Saturday early evening and acetylene lights
in Aristotelous in which you are ageing
I was taking out of my pockets mandarin’s peels
spraying on your eyes to hurt you
The smallest ones were playing Cups and Thieves
and the leader was Argiro
And they were lighting fires up the streets
I think it should had been St. Giannis Day
Veteran soldiers were taking off their cups
the square was covered with children
And there was a green, green moon
to stab you right in the heart
Here is Haris Alexiou singing to Lefteris Papadopoulos in the audience:(press cc for English caps)
The original version
In his book “Maties” (Glances, 1983) Lefteris Papadopoulos wrote:
“Every Saturday I am going down to my old neighborhood there, in Kyriakou Square… I went yesterday even though it was Friday. I went yesterday as if something was pushing me, to my childhood haunts. And I met, coincidentally, Fotini, who told me about Argiro and made me very sad…
Maybe you have heard some song of mine with a music by Giannis Spanos which has the title “Aristotelous Street.” In this song, two lines say, “The smallest were playing Cups and Thieves and the leader was Argiro”.
It is time to say that Argiro was not born in my imagination. She existed. She was a girl of my neighborhood.
She was a girl who was dressed as a boy, and she was a shoe-shiner in those years of occupation. One morning as she walked to work, a German car hit her and wounded her seriously. She was taken to hospital .There, it was discovered that the little shoe-shiner was not a boy. The Austrian driver who hit her got shaken. And he decided to stand beside Argiro and her family.
The Austrian said and did. Argiro got well, she grew up, married. But the difficult years of hell which she spent as a child left in her soul their traces. And my neighbor from the old days at some moment was hit by the disease and reached, psychotic, to Dafni. Where, as informed me Fotini, she died few months ago.”
When I head read the line “the square was covered with children”, my own childhood square, Dizengof Square in Tel-Aviv came to life. And suddenly I realized that we, the children, were also lightening fires on a nearby plot, and we played “Hands up” in a yard not far away, and in the next corner to the square a girl broke my heart…. Exactly like in Aristotelous Street in Athens…and, I think in everywhere….Everyone has his own Aristotelous…
Odos Aristotelous-Aristotelous Street
Lyrics: Lefteris Papadopoulos
Music: Giannis Spanos