The Flint Coney and its Refugees from the Balkan Wars

The left image is page 70 from the Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1914. The upper map was defined at the Conference of London of 1912 – 1913, while the lower map was the result of the Treaty of Bukarest (sic) of 1913. The draft map on the right shows the location of Akritas, which was known as the village of Boufi prior to the 1913 Treaty.

The following is an excerpt from the Flint Coney history we’ve been working on since 2012. This is currently an unpublished work and its devlopment is ongoing. Copyright remains with us.

The village of Boufi, Florina, Macedonia, was quite small, with populations never exceeding a couple thousand people. But numerous violent events happened there and, as of the late 20th century, the renamed village of Akritas had a population of only around 200 people, depending on the source of the record. The events that occurred there in the early 1900s were downright brutal, and require a closer look as they were the cause of a mass emigration from the area to other parts of the world.

Akritas, formerly known as Boufi, as currently shown in Google Street View. This is the active Street View, and can be manipulated as usual.

In the early 20th century the prefecture of Florina was in turmoil, along with the rest of Macedonia. On August 23, 1903, the Los Angeles Herald reported that the previous day “… the villages ‘of Boufi, Rakaro and Armcsko, near Florina, have been bombarded and their insurgent garrisons annihilated. At Boufi alone 500 Bulgarians are reported to have been killed. The women and children escaped to the mountains.'” In 1914 the Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated that during this time “… there are a thousand deaths and, in the final result, 200 villages ruined by Turkish vengeance, 12,000 houses burned, 3,000 women outraged, 4,700 inhabitants slain and 71,000 without a roof.”

In Macedonia during the second Balkan War in the summer of 1913 it seems Boufi remained untouched, as there is apparently nothing described in official documentation. The fighting appears to have occurred elsewhere, most of the atrocities occurring east of Florina in villages such as Serres and Doxato. But as it had been only ten years since the atrocities in Boufi of 1903, it’s quite possible there was simply not much left.

Boufi was later renamed Akritas as per the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913 when the Florina prefecture was granted to Greece.

In Boufi, Simion married Velicia Vishen in 1909, and in 1912 Velicia gave birth to Anastasia, aka Anna. But by then people were leaving the area in droves as the Balkan Wars continued. Macedonian and Greek emigration to the United States subsequently increased in rather significant numbers. The Carnegie report lists Greek emigration to the United States on page 391, beginning with 172 emigrants in the year 1885 (the number of steamers being 78) and climbing with a rapid steadiness to 36,580 in 1907, before leveling off, the chart finishing with a number of 37,021 in 1911 (the number of steamers being 347). The total number from 1900 to 1911 alone was 208,237 Greek refugees, which were part of a much larger number of unrelated immigrations from all countries combined.

Brayan emigrated to the United States on October 6, 1916, aboard the Re d Italia from Napoli, with his final destination listed as the home of a cousin, Tim Brayan in Youngstown, Ohio. It must be noted that Simion immigrated alone. Velicia (nee Vishen) and Anna (Anastasia) didn’t make the same trip until 1925, arriving at Ellis Island aboard the Olympic on April 30th. Their last name on the manifest was listed as “Brayanni” and Boufi was listed, once again incorrectly, as “Bouto”. Sons Peter, Boris and Carl were born later in Flint.

An even more striking a connection to Boufi was a certain Vangel T. “Angelo” Nicoloff. He gave his birthplace as “Boufi, Florina” for the manifest of the S.S. Asia when he immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island at the age of 16 on September 25, 1928. He was listed as joining his father Anthony, owner of Flint’s earlier San Juan Chili Parlour, who of course had also come from Boufi. After arriving in Flint, Angelo worked as a cook and waiter at Brayan’s Flint Coney Island, and then at the Nite Owl in the 1930s and 40s. He would later be the namesake and fellow founder of an iconic Flint Coney restaurant.

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