Napoleon Zervas

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General, Captain of EDES (1891 – 1957)

Napoleon Zervas was a statesman and general who played a protagonistic role in the events that took place during 1941-1949, the most difficult times of modern Greek history. A dynamic, brave and determined individual, Zervas founded and led the most significant resistance movement in Greece, fighting against Greece’s most formidable enemies simultaneously: the German Occupation Axis and the Communists.

In 1910 he was admitted as a volunteer in the military. He fought in the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913 as well as against the Germans and the Bulgarians in Macedonia in 1917. As an ardent proponent of Eleutherios Venizelos during the National Schizm, Zervas was imprisoned by the Metaxas regime. Soon afterwards, when Nazi Germany invaded Greece in 1941, Zervas founded the National Republican Greek League (EDES from Greek ΕΔΕΣ), the most powerful resistance group in Greece.

As leader of EDES, Napoleon Zervas and his men fought relentlessly against the Germans while simultaneously receiving attacks from EAM-ELAS, the communist army led by Aris Velouchiotis. The battles in which EDES participated were numerous and of great importance. The first operations began on October 1942, when Napoleon Zervas and EDES, having insufficient weaponry confronted the Italians. On November, 1942, together with the help of the British they detonated the Gorgopotampos viaduct.

Zervas and his men had devoted their entire lives to the war, battling with extraordinary heroism, displaying acts of self-sacrifice in the name of freedom. From 1942 to 1947, Zervas and the members of EDES fought continuously in every battle of the resistance, day and night. By 1943, EDES’ army comprised of 3500 men.

In 1944 he liberated Ioannina and saved Epirus from falling into the hands of the Germans and the Cham Albanians. Furthermore, he rescued and protected the children of the Cham Albanians after they were abandoned by the fleeing Albanians in Epirus. Zervas attempted to negotiate terms of co-operation with ELAS, who not only rejected his terms, but turned against him and all other resistance movements with the aim of exterminating them all. Zervas was accused of having co-operated with the Germans, especially by the communists, something which never happened.

After the war, Zervas joined politics. He founded his own political part and was elected member of the Parliament several times. He held different ministries under different governments for a short period of time, without notable success. Nevertheless, he was the most powerful and competent general during the years 1941-1947, whose contributions to the war have been invaluable. It is estimated that without his service to the country, Greece would have succumbed to the communists and would have become part of the Autonomous Macedonian Country of Soviet influence.

Bibliography

  1. Barbis, Kostas. 1941 -1949 Έτη Αγώνων, Θυσιών και Αίματος, 3 tomes. Athens: Pelasgos publications, 2008. Print.
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Napoleon Zervas

Stratis Myrivilis

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Writer (1890 – 1969)

Stratis Myrivilis’ true name was Eustratios Stamatopoulos. He was one of the most important representatives of the Generation of the 30’s, a generation of writers, artists and scholars who flourished during the first half of the 20th century. Myrivilis belongs to the generation of Greeks who lived all the major wars fought by Greece, developed a deep patriotic esteem and made Greece reach an internationally recognised level in literature.

He participated as a volunteer in the 1st and 2nd Balkan Wars, where he was injured. Later, he fought in the 1st World War and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. He settled in Athens and worked in a number of newspapers, radio stations and as a librarian in the Greek Parliament. He founded the National Society of Literary Writers of Greece as well as the Greek Society of Literary Writers.

Myrivilis was primarily noted for his novels and short stories. His first novel, Ζωὴ ἐν Τάφῳ (Life in Tomb) in 1924, was written during the Balkan Wars and was about the atrocities of war, which Myrivilis had personally experienced. It was followed with The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes in 1933, which tells the story of a man returning from war and falling in love with his friend’s widowed wife and The Mermaid Madonna in 1948, a story about the struggle of the refugees from Asia Minor to find a new home in the island of Lesbos. All three of his novels have powerful anti-war messages. A big part of his work consists of short stories, novellas, essays and children’s books. Most of them were translated into foreign languages and gained worldwide followers.

Characterized by a strong sense of realism, lyricism and tradition, Myrivilis drew inspiration from his own life experiences and from Hellenism, the eternal source of influence. He believed very much in the Megali Idea (the Great Idea), the liberation of the subjugated Greek territories and as a patriot, he strongly opposed communism.

Myrivilis was awarded the National Prize of Prose in 1940 for his novella The Turquoise Book. In 1958 he became a member of the Academy of Athens while in 1959 he was honoured with the Order of George I. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960, 1962 and 1963.

Bibliography:

  1. Η Ζωή του Μεγάλου μας Πεζογράφου. Στράτης Μυριβήλης. Stratis-myrivilis.weebly.com. Web.
  2. Στράτης Μυριβήλης 1890 -1969. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Stratis Myrivilis

The Lady of Rho

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(1890 – 1982)

Every day at sunrise, Despina Achladiotou raised the Greek flag in the island of Rho and then took it down at night. She did this for 40 years. With this act, she spread the message that Rho was part of Greece and that nobody would violate its sacred ground. She became known as the Lady of Rho.

In 1924, she, her husband and her blind mother inhabited the small island at the southern coast of Turkey. When all the other inhabitants left the island, Despina and her husband faced challenges from the Turks, who wanted the island for themselves. In 1929, the Turks invaded the island and hoisted the Turkish flag. As soon as she saw the Turkish flag, Despina took it down, sew a Greek flag from white and blue fabric she carried and hoisted it in its place.

During World War II, Despina Achladiotou went to Kastellorizo to work in one of the bases of the Allies by helping out the soldiers. When the Allies ordered the evacuation of Kastellorizo, everybody fled from the island to Cyprus and Egypt. Despina Achladiotou was the only one to remain in the island and in spite of the Germans’ bombardments, continued to raise the Greek flag every day.

Despina Achladiotou stood as the protector of both islands Rho and Kastellorizo. In her brief absences, the Turks would find the chance to invade the island and raise the Turkish flag. When she returned, she removed it and placed the Greek flag once again. In 1974, when such an event occurred, the Greek navy arrived at the island to award her for her valor, her acts of patriotism and services to the nation. She received numerous decorations from the state thereafter, including from the Academy of Athens and the Greek Parliament.

Despina Achladiotou died in 1982, at the age of 92. Her final wish was to be buried at the island of Rho, right next to the pole she used to raise the flag every morning for almost half a century. History wrote her down as the Lady of Rho, the woman who ensured that the two islands always remained part of Greece and withstood every hardship to achieve it.

Bibliography

    1. Σαν σήμερα “έφυγε” η κυρά της Ρω, Δέσποινα Αχλαδιώτη, που επί μισό αιώνα σήκωνε την Ελληνική Σημαία απέναντι από τους τούρκους. Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος Χρυσή Αυγή. Xryshaygh.com. May 13, 2017. Web.
    2. «Πέρασα κακουχίες, αλλά εδώ νιώθεις πιο πολύ την Ελλάδα, χαμένος στο πέλαγος». Η κυρά της Ρω, η νησιώτισσα που ύψωνε την ελληνική σημαία για 40 χρόνια στο ερημονήσι του Αιγαίου. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web.

 

The Lady of Rho

Manos Hadjidakis

manos

Composer (1925 – 1994)

His name is known all over the world. He is one of the greatest pioneers of modern Greek music who set the foundations of classical and folk Greek music as well as Entekhno, a new style of music. His eminence in the Greek musical world is comparable to that of Mikis Theodorakis.

Hadjidakis started playing the piano at the age of 4. He studied music and philosophy in the University of Athens but did not obtain a degree. During the axis occupation in WWII, he worked as a heaver, an ice salesman and a nurse assistant. During that time he met many important literary figures such as George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Angelos Sikelianos and Nikos Gatsos. Gatsos would play an important part in his career as the two became close friends and worked together for the majority of his life.

Hadjidakis’ debut in music was in 1944 when he composed music for the plays of Carolos Koun in the Art Theatre of Athens. This collaboration, which lasted 15 years, opened Hadjidakis’ path to composing music for theatrical plays for the National Theatre of Greece. Furthermore, he composed music for multiple ancient comedies and tragedies such as Medea, Assemblywomen, Lysistrata, Birds etc.

Hadjidakis composed classical music, music for ballet and put into music the works of famed Greek writers like Nikos Gatsos. In 1959 he helped introduce the music of Mikis Theodorakis to the public. Over the years, he scored multiple Greek and international films, most notably Michael Kakoyiannis’ Stella and Dragon, Elia Kazan’s America-America and Dusan Makavejiev’s Sweet Movie. In 1960 he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song Never on Sunday from the film with the same name by Jules Dassin. It marked the first time such a distinction was awarded to a non-American composer.

In 1966 Hadjidakis went to USA where he scored the Broadway musical Never on Sunday based on the aforementioned film. Additionally, he composed several unique compositions. His career in the United States further boosted his fame internationally. Upon returning to Greece in 1972, Hadjidakis occupied important cultural positions. He became director of the State Orchestra, director of the radio station “Third Program”, served as deputy director of the National Opera, and founded his own festivals and competitions to give prominence to future stars of music. Hadjidakis founded his own record company, named Sirius, and printed his own magazine dedicated to music and culture.

In 1989 he founded the “Orchestra of Colours”, a symphonic orchestra with himself as conductor. The orchestra gave 20 concerts and 12 recitals featuring renowned Greek and international soloists.

Throughout his entire lifetime he was in the epicenter of Greek music. He helped significantly rise to fame some of the most important musical figures of Greece such as Mikis Theodorakis, Nana Mouschouri and Iannis Xenakis. Until the end of his life in 1994, Manos Hadjidakis remained highly respected among the musical world and recognized as a musical genius, whose work influenced modern Greek culture more than anyone.

Bibliography

  1. Manos Hadjidakis Biography by Steve Huey. All Music. Allmusic.com. Web.
  2. Μάνος Χατζιδάκις. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Manos Hadjidakis

John Lycoudis

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Physician (1910 – 1980)

John Lycoudis was the physician who first discovered that gastric ulcer was primarily caused by a bacterial infection, now known to be H. pylori, and used his own treatment consisting of a combination of antibiotics to cure thousands of the disease. A man way ahead of his time, he faced extraordinary opposition from the medical and pharmaceutical establishment both inside and outside of Greece. Widely dismissed and discredited by the academia, he was justified 4 years after his death and his work accepted worldwide after almost 50 years.

Lycoudis practiced medicine in his hometown, Mesolonghi, where he was known as the “Doctor of the Poor” for not charging money for his visits. This resulted in him being very beloved by the people and was elected mayor of Mesolonghi twice. The money he earned went to a public pharmacy, which he had established for the poor.

His discovery was not my chance. Lycoudis suffered from chronic gastritis himself and in 1958 he suffered from haemorrhagic gastritis. This led him to search for a cure by himself. Believing that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterium, he tried different combinations of antibiotics to see which would cure the disease. His discovery was patented and published in 1961 under the title “A method for the production of a pharmaceutical mixture for the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastritis”.

The new drug which he had created, named Elgaco (from the Greek words ἔλκος, γαστρῖτις and κολῖτις meaning ulcer, gastritis and colitis respectively), was used successfully to treat an estimated of 30.000 patients suffering from peptic ulcer. Elgaco was never allowed to circulate in the market by the Greek authorities. Clinical trials were never performed by any university in the world that he had contacted to prove its efficacy. Throughout the following years, Lycoudis lectured around Greece in attempt to raise awareness about his treatment method.

The medical establishment and the academia did not remain apathetic to Lycoudis’ discovery. In spite of his enormous treatment success, the medical establishment, driven by profit and envy, sent him to court, charged him for “Creating and distributing unapproved drugs… He was using his method to attract patients to earn money from it” and fined him 4000 drachmas (11 euro).

Lycoudis was ultimately vindicated four years after his death in 1980, when scientific validation came from the other side of the globe by two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. The two won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 2005 for Lycoudis’ discovery. Barry Marshall, who had been treated in a similar way by the academia, said “If he had been accepted by the scientific community, then he would have won the Nobel Prize 20 years before myself and Dr. Warren”. When asked about the Nobel Prize, Lycoudis prophetically replied “Bring it to my grave, when it has been discovered that I was right”.

In 1999, an article was published in the eminent medical journal The Lancet titled John Lycoudis: An unappreciated discoverer of the cause and treatment of peptic ulcer disease, in honour of John Lycoudis and his work. In 2002, Barry Marshall dedicated an extensive text to him in his book, entitled John Lycoudis: The general practitioner in Greece, who in 1958 discovered the cause of, and treatment for peptic ulcer disease. Marshall would always cite Lycoudis in his lectures. He was posthumously awarded by the Academy of Athens, the same people who 50 years ago had restricted him from treating his patients.

Today, 50 years later, Lycoudis’ reputation has been restored and his name is known worldwide as the man who challenged the medical world with his radical discovery, considered the greatest medical discovery in modern Greek history.

Bibliography:

  1. Δημ. Γουλές – Ι. Σουφλερή. Γιάννης Λυκούδης: Ο Μεσολογγίτης ιατρός των φτωχών, το ΕΛΚΟΣ και το Νόμπελ. MEGAMED. Megamed.gr. Web. November 20, 2016.
  2. Παπαβασιλείου, Ευστάθιος. Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη του Ιωάννη Λυκούδη. Πρακτικὰ 11ου Ελληνικού Συνεδρίου για το Ελικοβακτηρίδιο του Πηλωρού, Αθήνα, 2006. eemep.gr. Web.
  3. Ρογδάκης, Αθανάσιος. Ιωάννης Λυκούδης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. Web. May 26, 2011.
John Lycoudis

Nikos Kazantzakis

Writer, Poet, Philosopher, Statesman (1883 – 1957)

Nikos Kazantzakis is the most widely translated Greek writer in the world. His enormous bibliography, ranging from philosophy and poetry to plays and literature places him at the top of modern Greek literature. He is regarded as one of the giants of modern Greek literature whose reputation still holds ground all over the world.

He was born in Crete. He studied law in the University of Athens and in the University of Paris. From a young age he began studying Nietzsche and attending lectures of Henry Bergson, two philosophers that would have great influence on his career. His two greatest teachers would remain Dante and Homer. His debut in the Greek letters was in 1906 with his essay The Disease of the Century and his novel Snake and Lily.

He was a close friend of Angelos Sikelianos and the two traveled extensively throughout the world. It was a spiritual journey that introduced him to the ideas of Buddhism, communism and most importantly nationalism. Both Kazantzakis and Sikelianos had envisioned the revival of the ancient Greek spirit, something that brought him in conflict with the Orthodox Church.

Except novels and essays, Kazantzakis wrote plays, poems, travel books, philosophical books and memoirs. He gained worldwide attention with his book Zorba the Greek, the story of a young man who meets and befriends a strange man full of energy for life called Alexis Zorbas. The novel was adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Michael Kakoyiannis in 1964, which won 3 Academy Awards, as well as a musical.

Other works that made his name famous across the world are novels Captain Michalis, Christ Recrucified and The Last Temptation of Christ, all of which were negatively received by the Orthodox Church for their themes and Christ’s portrayal. The latter was included in the now abolished Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Church. Kazantzakis replied to them by saying “You gave me a curse, Holy Fathers. I give you a blessing; may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I”.

Ascesis: The Saviours of God, published in 1927, is considered to be Kazantzakis’ greatest work on philosophy influenced by Bergson, Nietzsche, Marx, Christianity and Buddhism, expressing the writer’s metaphysical faith. Other works include his spiritual autobiography Report To Greco, Toda Raba, The Fratricides and God’s Pauper: St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1938 he published his epic poem Odysseus, a part of his epic poem called The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel based on Homer’s Odyssey. It too was written in 24 rhapsodies and consisted of 33.333 lyrics, each with 17 syllables. What was to become Kazantzakis’ magnum opus was reworked 7 times and was published after his death. It picks up from where Homer’s Odyssey ends. Furthermore, he did renditions of Homer’s epics from ancient Greek to modern Greek.

Kazantzakis was involved with politics sporadically throughout his life. In 1919, he was appointed Minister of Public Welfare by Eleutherios Venizelos for 1 year, until he resigned. During this short time period, he was responsible for evacuating 150.000 Greeks from Asia Minor. He served as Minister of State from 1945 to 1946 and worked in UNESCO for promoting the translation of classic literature to foreign languages in order to bridge civilizations.

Kazantzakis was nominated a total of 9 times for the Nobel Prize of Literature. The first time was in 1946, when he lost the award to Albert Camus. Camus himself expressed his opinion that Kazantzakis deserved the award more than him. In 1956 he was bestowed the International Peace Award in Vienna. He died in 1957 in Freiburg from leukaemia. His funeral was held in Herakleion and was a major event in Greece. On his tombstone is inscribed: “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing. I am free”.

Bibliography

  1. Editors @ TheFamousPeople.com. Nikos Kazantzakis Biography. TheFamousPeople.com. Web. Retrieved on August 5, 2017.
  2. Νίκος Καζαντζἀκης. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Nikos Kazantzakis

Alec Issigonis

NPG x165931; Sir Alec Issigonis by Godfrey Argent

Car Designer (1906 – 1988)

Alexander Arnold Issigonis was an engineer and car designer born in Smyrna, Asia Minor to a cosmopolitan family. He was the man who made the legendary Mini Cooper, one of the most significant cars in British history.

He fled from Smyrna in 1822 during the Great Fire and settled in London. He enrolled in the University of Surrey to study engineering, but failed mathematics three times, forcing him to continue his studies in the University of London.

He began his career in the automobile industry initially working for Humber and then for Morris Motor Company. His first major success as a car designer was when he developed the Mosquito in 1948, shortly after World War II. The Mosquito would continue being manufactured up until 1971. Another vehicle designed by him was the sports car 750 cc Lightspeed Special.

In 1952, Issigonis retired from Morris Motor Company and joined Alvis Car, until 1955, when he joined British Motor Corporation. It was in August, 1959 when British Motor Corporation unveiled the Morris Mini Minor or Mini Cooper, as it came to be known, designed by engineering genius Alec Issigonis. Hailed for its overall simplicity and comfort, the Mini Cooper was an unprecedented success that changed the way cars were designed by the industry. It later went on to become the best-selling British car in history, producing 5.3 million vehicles. Numerous models were released over the years which continued being manufactured until 2000. Another one of his major success, the Austin 1100, was developed in 1961. His last car was the Austin Maxi in 1969.

Issigonis, the “Greek God”, as he was called by his contemporaries, received enormous recognition in England. He was made Knight Commander of the British Empire and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1969. Streets were named after him in several towns of England. Today, the original surviving Mini Cooper vehicles have become very valuable for collectors.

Bibliography

  1. Sir Alec Issigonis 1906 – 1988. jannaludlow.co.uk. Web.
  2. Sir Alec Issigonis (1906 – 1988). Uniquecarsandparts.com. au. Web.
  3. Αλέξανδρος Ισιγώνης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Alec Issigonis