He was the first benefactor to be officially awarded the title “National Benefactor” by the Greek state. He was born in Grammeno, Ioannina, the capital of a cluster of villages, Grammenochoria. He was the son of Konstantinos Kaplanis, while his mother, originally from Judila, now Zoodochos, died when he was four years old. After some years he lost his father, who in the meantime had remarried. “Pikrozois”, as his fellow villagers called him, was forced to support himself and his mother from a very young age, selling firewood in Ioannina. At the age of fourteen he was hosted in Ioannina by his relatives, who allegedly gave him the opportunity to attend a school in the area, in order to be provided with the necessary education.
In 1754 he took his first steps in the fur trade as an employee of Panagiotis Hatzinikos, who quickly realized the potential of Kaplanis, becoming his partner. Zois first went to Bucharest, to a branch of Hatzinikos, then to Ninza, Ukraine, and ended up in Moscow, the most important fur trade center, where he lived until the end of his life, in 1806, before the liberation of Greece (Boutatos, 2018). Kaplanis ended his collaboration with Hatzinikos and after working hard, he made an untold fortune, but he continued to live modestly in a cell of the Monastery of St. Nicholas in Moscow, while he never married, in order to dedicate himself completely to the benefit of his homeland.
From a very early age, with his settlement in Moscow, he considered it his duty to meet the poor expatriates. In 1797 he deposited 10,000 rubles in the Moscow Orphanage, with the agreement that the interest would go to the Hatzikosta Hospital in Ioannina (Boutatos, 2018). A year later he undertook the maintenance of the “Maroutsia School of Ioannina”, made donations to the “Hellenic School of Patras”, to the “Athoniada School of Mount Athos”, to the Holy Sepulcher, to the prisons of Ioannina, to the hospital of Nizna, while he endowed needy girls from Written, Giudila and Ioannina.
In the year 1806, as he was suffering from a chronic illness, he decided to write his will, through which he wished his property to be used for the care and social care of the Greeks, enhancing health and education. With the appropriate actions and the allocation of 124,500 rubles, he founded in Ioannina a progressive school for those years, the famous “Kaplanio School”, the management of which Kaplanis himself had assigned to Athanasios Psalidas. The “Kaplanios School” contributed greatly to the recognition of Ioannina as a great center of the Modern Greek Enlightenment.
Kaplanis’s contribution is also recognized in the complete maintenance of the school in Grammeno, which had been operating since 1650 and from which great personalities had graduated, such as Stefanos Rados. This building was destroyed by fire, the new school of the village was built in 1924 and is probably the work of the architect Periklis Melirritos. In this new building, which still adorns the village square, was housed since 1946 the “Agricultural Transitional Housekeeping School of Grammenos”, the textile school, which was founded by Kaplanis himself in Grammenos “and operated there until 1972 , when she was transferred to Limnopoula due to lack of schoolgirls. Zois Kaplanis passed away on December 20, 1806, was buried in the Donskoy Stavropegian Monastery and the phrase “He gave everything for others and nothing for himself” is written on his grave.
Τhe school of Zoe Kaplanis
Τhe new school built at the expense of Zoe Kaplanis
Grammeno also featured other great benefactors, lesser known, who continued the work of their predecessors with dignity, such as Georgios Balakostas, Ioannis Bustros and Fokion Rados. From the rest of Grammenochoria but also the wider area of the current Municipality of Zitsa, it is worth mentioning the following: Georgios Gorgolis, Anastasios Gorgolis and Dimitrios Papapetros from Polylofos, Stylianos Tsigoulis and Panagiotis Tsitsikas, had Thanasis Vadokas, Anastasios Goudinos, Nikolaos Gyras, Nikolaos Emmanouil, Dimitrios Zitsaios, Nikolaos Xylanis, Sotirios Prassos and Anastasios, Dimitrios and Konstantinos Filitis. Stefanos Vakalis and Ioannis Iskos came from Protopapa, Dimitrios Nikodimos from Rodotopi, Ioannis Kamperis from Zoodochos, Grigorios Paliouritis from Eleousa and many more from every corner of Epirus.