1. Position and morphology
Gyaros is an arid and treeless island situated between Kea, Andros and Syros.This unwelcoming place was used as a place of exile by Roman and Byzantine rulers.
2. Gyaros and the political exiles
In recent years, during the periods of 1947-1952, 1955-1961 and 1967-1974, the island of Gyaros was used by various post-war Greek administrations as a place of imprisonment and exile. 22,000 political detainees in total were forced to live for months, or even years, in the “purgatories” of Gyaros, under inhuman conditions.
Five enclosed camps were built on the island’s SE side, on the corresponding five coves, were people lived mainly in tents under very harsh conditions. The first building projects began in 1947. These included the removal of rocks and earthworks, road building, the erection of special buildings, storehouses, guardhouses, pill-boxes a.o. The building of the prison, located between cove D and cove E, was erected with the forced labour of the prisoners. Its construction started in 1948 and continued until 1951. The building is a large oblong structure, rectangular in plan. It is arranged symmetrically around an E-W axis, and rests on slanting terrain bulldozed into four levels. In terms of morphology, the building is modelled after similar prisons of Western Europe.
A cemetery exists on the island, where 20 political prisoners have been buried.
3. Gyaros as a place of memory
In 2001, with a decision of the Minister for the Aegean, the prison buildings, as well as all of the other structures and installations in the area of Gyaros’ five bays, were characterized as preservable, and special conditions and building limitations were established. With a 2001 decision of the Minister for Culture the island of Gyaros was characterised as a site of historical value.
In 2003, following a commission by the Ministry for the Aegean, the department for Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens (scientific responsibility: professor A. Vrychea) completed the study “Creation of a network of Remembrance Pathways” for the entire area of the camps.