The 1950s and 1960s can be considered as the second golden period in the history of industrial Eleusis. Despite political turmoil and economic difficulties caused by the Second World War and the subsequent Civil War, the city became a favourite destination for many ambitious entrepreneurs in search of all the basic prerequisites for the fulfilment of their dreams: there were roads and railways, cheap land, a harbour with growth opportunities, plenty of job seekers and a large nearby urban centre (Athens).
The industrial development of the city destroyed the environment but had a positive impact on the residential, population and cultural development of Eleusis. At a time when Greek workers were fleeing en masse to factories in western Europe, North America and Australia, the population of Eleusis grew rapidly. A new wave of migration, the second in the hundred-year-old history of the city, brought to this corner of Attica numerous internal immigrants who shaped the modern character of Eleusis.
The new industries
The first major post-war industry that appeared in Eleusis was the “Halyvourgiki Hellenic Steel Industry” in 1953. The company decided to take advantage of the increased demand for iron products during the country’s reconstruction phase to open a factory in Eleusis with the capacity to produce almost two million tons of steel per year. Two years later, the “Olive Oil Cooperative Union of Olive Oil Producers of Greece” (a prize should be awarded for such an unwieldy name) built a factory on the coast of Eleusis next to “Kronos”. The “Eleusis Shipyards” began operating in 1969, while “Petrola”, an expansive crude oil refinery, was added to the mix in 1974.
There were also numerous smaller companies, such as the “Savva Shipyards” and the Gastouniotis ice-making factory, while numerous heavy industries were established in the wider area of the Thriasian Plain (“Aspropyrgos Refinery”, “Skaramagas Shipyards”, “Petrogaz”, “Halyps”). Even the historical companies of Eleusis (“Titan” and “Votrys“) expanded their facilities to meet the demands of the new era.
From the mountains to the plain
These industries selected Eleusis in part because of the presence of a large number of available workers (many of whom were refugees from Asia Minor). However, the emergence of industries also attracted migrants from the barren regions of Epirus, Macedonia, the Peloponnese, and the Aegean islands. All these areas had limited capacity to sustain their population and most had suffered great devastation during the Civil War (1946-1949). Poverty and destitution forced more than seven thousand people to seek a better life in the factories of Eleusis.
The first islanders to settle in Eleusis in large numbers were the inhabitants of Symi. The repressive measures taken by the Italian government after the occupation of the island in 1912 forced many Symians to resettle to the industrial centres of Piraeus and Eleusis, where they arrived in two distinct waves (in 1919 and 1924). Several people from the islands of Kalymnos and Tilos followed them for the same reasons. After the end of the Second World War, there was also an increase in the number of Chiots, many of whom were former soldiers who had fought in the Middle East, North Africa, and Italy. At the same time, several Corfiots settled in Eleusis and were supported by the manager of a local factory (at least according to local legend).
In 1950-1951 Eleusis welcomed the first immigrants from Epirus; they were forced to abandon their mountainous villages in Ioannina, Arta, and Thesprotia due to lack of arable land or local industries, as well as the climate of fear that prevailed in rural Greece after the end of the Civil War.
The Pontic Greeks of Eleusis
The Pontic Greeks deserve a special mention. The first 67 families arrived in Eleusis after the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922. Their numbers increased greatly though in the late 1960s when the Pontic Greeks who had migrated to the Soviet Union began to resettle in Greece. Approximately eighty families from Kazakhstan and the Caucasus region came to Eleusis in 1966. There was cheap land near the military airport, an ideal solution for people who were forced to emigrate with little money and few possessions. Gradually their numbers rose to more than three hundred families and their settlement to the west of the airport became known as “the Russians”.
A city transformed
The new industries and the internal immigrants transformed Eleusis. At a time when many villages in the countryside were abandoned by their inhabitants, the population of the city of Eleusis grew by 4300 people in the 1950s and an additional 3000 residents in the 1960s. The new arrivals brought with them their traditions, their morals and their hard work ethic. They founded cultural and local improvement societies, built churches and homes, worked in the factories and turned the city of the Arvanites and the Asia Minor refugees into a dynamic and creative urban centre.