Elder Porphyrios was born on the 7th of February 1906, in the village of St. John Karystia, near Aliveri, in the province of Evia. His parents were poor but pious farmers. His father's name was Leonidas Bairaktaris and his mother's was Eleni, the daughter of Antonios Lambrou.
At baptism he was given the name Evangelos. He was the fourth of five children, and the third child of the four that survived. His oldest sister, Vassiliki, passed away when she was a year old. Today, only his youngest sister, who is a nun is still alive.
His father had a monastic calling but obviously did not become a monk. He was, however, the village cantor, and St. Nectarios called upon his services during his journeys through the area, but poverty forced him to emigrate to America to work on the construction of the Panama canal.
His childhood years
The Elder attended the school in his village for only two years. The teacher was sick most of the time and the children didn’t learn much. Seeing the way things were, Evangelos left school, worked on the family farm and tended the few animals that they owned. He started working from the age of eight. Even though he was still very young, in order to make more money, he went to work in a coal mine. He later worked in a grocer's store in Halkhida and in Piraeus.
His father had taught him the Supplicatory Canon (Paraklisis) to the Mother of God (Panagia), and whatever else of our faith he could. As a child he developed quickly. He himself told us that he was eight years old when he first started shaving. He looked much older than he actually was. From his childhood he was very serious, industrious and diligent.
While he was looking after the sheep, and even when working in the grocer’s store, he slowly read the life story of St. John the Hut-dweller. He wanted to follow the example of the saint. So he set off for Mt. Athos many times, but for various reasons he never made it and returned home. Finally, when he was about fourteen or fifteen years of age, he again left for Mt. Athos. This time he was determined to make it and this time he did.
The Lord, who watches over the destinies of us all, brought about things in such a way that Evangelos met his future spiritual father, the hieromonk Panteleimon, while he was on the ferry boat between Thessaloniki and the Holy Mountain [Mt. Athos] Father Panteleimon immediately took the young boy under his wing. Evangelos was not yet an adult, and so should not have been allowed on the Holy mountain. Fr. Panteleimon said he was his nephew and his entrance was assured.