“It happens(-ed) of Popi” is a common expression used primarily in Greece to describe absolute chaos, panic or a situation which has gotten out of hand.
But where did this come from? And how did a tragic event become a story?
The “famous” Popi!
Popi (apart from being a woman’s name) was a freight- and passenger ship. It had started as a private boat, but after many changes of owners it ended up in a company which changed it to a ship that would be used in order to link the Aegean islands with Piraeus port. On November 27, 1934, it was loaded with passengers and merchandise for a trip to several islands. This was its last trip (under the name “Popi”) because soon after its departure it struck on rocky islands, not too far from the area which today is known as Vouliagmeni.
Popi in new adventures!
The place where the accident took place was particularly favourable and all the passengers (which were many more than was allowed) could have climbed the deck and simply walked on the rocky islands right next to them. In any case, even though the ship turned to the side it never sank completely.
However, the lack of crew presence at this time of danger, in combination with the lack of visibility due to the night, brought disaster. The panic spread out when a voice in the night was heard: we are sinking, save yourself! At the same time, the crew following the orders of the captain, instead of helping passengers, started to transfer the goods to the rocky islands so as to minimize the damage.
The result was that many passengers drowned due to panic, while the lucky ones just got out on the deck and stepped out where the merchandises had already been unloaded.
The end of Popi’s era
These events were a very strong reason for the public and the newspapers to castigate the company (which had suffered more accidents in the past) and also the ship and this way the name “Popi” remained as a synonym of an utmost chaotic situation.
Concerning the ship, it changed its name to “Epirus” and continued its travels, despite everybody knowing its bad story and nobody trusting it again.