BiographyArgirakis, Matthew Mateos (ΑΡΓΥΡΑΚΗΣ, M.; Argirakec, Matt; Maisanes, Christ; Matt; Party name S. Mason); b. February 15, 1896 (October 15, 1898; November), Kiros (Kios, Chios, Cios), Greece; Greek American; POW; Education through the 5th grade; No prior military service; Single; Steel Mill Worker and Driver; CP 1936, CIO, IWO; Domicile 2009 (3009) 7th NE, Canton, Ohio; Sailed January 26, 1937 aboard the Chamberlain; Arrived in Spain on February 2 (11), 1937; Served with the XV BDE, Lincoln BN, Co. 2, Section 1, later with Co. 1; Lincoln-Washington BN; Later with Albacete Auto Park; Rank Soldado; Served at Jarama, Brunete, Quinto, Reported MIA Retreats; Captured near Gandesa during the Retreats; Imprisoned in Burgos; Exchanged April 22, 1939; Arrived in the US as as stowaway aboard the Thalia on November 1, 1939, sailed from Antwerp, Belgium and arrived in Galveston, Texas; Held until March 10, 1940 before being cleared for entry; d. December 31, 1989.
Source: Cadre; Americans; BN 58 Retreats; Lincoln; Voros-Jarama; POW; Greek; RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 413, ll. 20-22; Opis 6, Delo 858, ll. 35 (ver arch gen amer); I, D. Paleologopoulos Greek Antifascist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Athens 1986; Steve Tsermegas and L. Tsirmirakes, No Pasaran. Greek Antifascist Volunteers in Spain, Athens 1987, L-W Tree Ancestry.
Biography: Agirakis, Matthew, was born in Kios, Greece. After completing the fifth grade, Matthew migrated to Canton, Ohio. Large and strong for his age, he found work in steel fabrication. He did not have time or energy to continue his formal education, but did learn to read English print but not script. Matthew sailed on the SS Chamberlain January 26, 1937 because “I’m for working class, against dictatorship.” He fought with the Lincolns until captured near Gandesa after evading fascist patrols for twelve days.
“At first I was part of thirteen men and then only one soldier and myself stayed together. Completely exhausted and weakened, I rested my back against a tree. My eyes were closed. I heard my comrade saying: ‘Matthew, I’d be better off with a bullet than to live like this.’ I opened my eyes. He was gone. I never saw him again. “I hid and crawled always seeking the front. Crossing a pasture I came upon a herder tending goats. He gave me some water. Very shortly after, seeking refuge among the trees, I was surrounded by twelve enemy soldiers. From then on I was in one concentration camp after another.”When captured, he assumed the name of Chris Maisanes, a Greek killed at Jarama. Matthew was exchanged April 22, 1939. At Havre, the US Consul refused to give him a reentry permit because he was not a citizen. Matthew made his way to Belgium, where he stowed away in the coal bin of a freighter headed for the states. He had brought along some apples, bread and cheese and a quart of water. After three days he was driven out by the stench and the thirst. A sailor mistook him for a Black and brought him before the Captain, also Greek. Because Matthew insisted no crew member had helped him board the ship, Matthew spent four very uncomfortable days in solitary “under the pitching bow.” In Galveston, Texas, Matthew served a six month sentence for illegal entry. Released, he tried to become naturalized “but suffered investigations.” He returned to Canton and again worked in steel construction with one respite, a visit to Greece, “beautiful but no living relatives.” At 84, suffering from arthritic pains, Matthew continues to register as an alien. “My memory fails me at times. But the experiences of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade are very clear to me still.” He died December 31, 1989. ~ Bob Steck and Carl Geiser POW Historical Commission