George Voulgaris (1769-1812), ancestor of Oikia's founder, Christina, was the first of the family to put down roots in Aegina.
In 1785, Voulgaris, aged 16, was called up by the Turkish army. During one of the expeditions, at great personal danger, he saved the chief naval officer Captain Pasha from a murder attempt. In gratitude he was named the bas-reisi - commander of all the Christian troops in the Turkish fleet. His success against Maltese pirates, using a corvette ship and officers from the island of Hydra, brought him further recognition. From then on his homeland Hydra, as well as all the Hydriot sailors, benefited from special protection. He was later designated Bey, a title which was rarely given to Christians.
On one of his voyages from the island of Hydra to the port of Piraeus, bad weather forced him to weigh anchor in Aegina at the gulf of Perivola. The area enchanted him and he bought a great piece of land, part of which includes the Oikia estate. Voulgaris constructed the mill and a house (the one next to Oikia), where Prime Minister Ioannis Kapodistrias stayed when the town of Aegina succumbed to plague, as the air in Perivola was considered healthier.
Voulgari's son Dimitrios (1801-1877), became a member of the Council of Hydra at the age of 17 after his father's death.
In 1822, at the age of 22, he was sent to Nafplion as leader of the delegation from Hydra, for the first National Congress. As a plenipotentiary in all national congresses he became involved in politics and was appointed prime minister five times. The treaty which reunited the remaining Ionian islands with mainland Greece was created under his presidency and he enthusiastically supported the Cretan revolution. He was intelligent and stable but authoritarian. He dressed in an eccentric manner, wearing a long cloak and a strange hat that gave him the nickname of "Tzoumbes".
In around 1850, Dimitrios Voulgaris built Oikia.
After Dimitrios' death, his son Lazaros inherited Oikia, which was later left to Lazaros's daughter Maria. Maria married Alexander Karapanos, a diplomat and Minister of Economics. He was the son of banker, politician and archaeologist Constantine Karapanos (who unearthed the ancient site of Dodoni). From then on, the Oikia Voulgari has been known as the Oikia Karapanou.
Maria Voulgari-Karapanou died at Oikia in 1967, and the house remained empty until 1990, when her great-granddaughter Christina Chorafas arrived in Aegina.
First came the dream.
Then came the house.
At the time of the dream, I lived in-between sea and sky in a small wooden homemade cabin, on my home island of Cephalonia. I was at the time writing a book. The beauty of nature around me was almost unbearable, and I was constantly in awe of the sacredness of existence. Thus I started dreaming about a place that would be dedicated to it.
At that time I had no idea that Oikia Karapanou would one day come into my hands.
A few years later I inherited! And from the cabin I moved to the … "palace" - as the older locals used to call Oikia! Although there were some similarities: both the cabin and the palace were as if from a fairytale.
And when it rained, they both leaked!
I can still remember the moment when I sat, for the first time, outside Oikia's kitchen.
What immediately came into my mind was:
"Here we are. The dream has found its place".
Some years later I met Olivier Clementz, a frenchman who was to become my life companion, and Oikia's most stable foundation. Since then there are two of us caring for the place, surrounded by a precious team of collaborator friends, our daughters Daphne and Lea and a whole flock of birds, dogs and cats.
Photo: A representative of the Indian Nation meets Coco Melas, Christina's great-grand father and maire of Athens, during the visit of a greek delegation to the U.S.A.