THE FOUNDER E. Averoff-Tossizza
Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza was born in 1908 in Trikala, Thessaly, where he lived for the first ten years of his life. The offspring of a historically prominent family and the grandnephew of the national benefactor Georgios Averoff, he was raised in still alive tradition of beneficence and his own Vlach heritage that maintains closeness to the earth, nature and the Greek ideal. A person of intellect and action, a writer and politician, art lover and visionary, he was a major figure in the public life of contemporary Greece.
A lawyer and economist by profession, his interest in public affairs began early on, and he played a primary role in the political life of Greece for nearly half a century. In the early years of his career, he served his country as Prefect, Parliamentarian, and Deputy Minister and Minister of Supply, Finance and Agriculture.
He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1956 to 1963, acting on behalf of Greece in the critical national issues of that period. In the years 1967-1973, he fought using every legal and illegal means to overthrow the military dictatorship, and was imprisoned for his activities. When democracy was restored, he undertook the sensitive role of Minister of National Defense (1974-1981) and within a few years successfully managed the difficult task of reorganizing and purging the armed forces. He later served as Vice President of the Government, Leader of the Official Opposition and, in 1984, was proclaimed Honorary Chairman of the New Democracy party.
A multi-faceted personality with many interests and talents, Averoff was a man of broad social action. He also left a rich literary corpus of novels, short stories, plays, essays, and historical analyses. His writings have been translated in many languages and have received international recognition and awards, such as the Gold Medal of the French Academy (1974), the Acropolis literary prize (1978), and others.
Averoff felt a special bond with nature, the earth, and his hometown of Metsovo. His initiatives were responsible for the creation and success of many welfare, economic, and social measures that contributed to the development of Metsovo and the surrounding are. As the soul and driving force behind the Baron Mihail Tossizza Foundation, Averoff oversaw the construction of more than 100 schools in the Ioannina prefecture, as well as the creation of a Student Residence in Athens, which offers free housing to university students from the Epirus region of Greece. In addition, he founded a museum of folk art in Metsovo, a model cheese-making plant, a woodworking factory, a ski resort, and a retail outlet for regional handicrafts. He encouraged every kind of activity that preserved the folk traditions and fostered the prosperity of the community. The creator of the fine Katogi wine, he envisioned vineyards flourishing on the most precipitous slopes of Mount Pindos and was the first to plant French Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Greece.
Towards the end of his life, he founded the public service Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza Foundation to which he bequeathed his valuable collection of some 200 works by 19th and 20th century Greek artists. Along with these works, which he accumulated over the years with the aim of founding a Museum, he also transferred to the Foundation the three-story Museum building he had built according to regional architectural tradition specifically to house his collection. He personally inaugurated the Museum on 27 August 1988.