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A silent martyr
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-08-13 08:09:19
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Most likely most of you have no idea what it means to live under a dictatorship and I really hope none of you will ever experience anything even close to it. How can you defend your self against dictators who would arrest a ten-year-old boy and threaten him with a gun when his only crime was that he said out loud verses from Sophocles? How weird it is that these people will do everything in the name of democracy but when you mention the name 'democracy' they are ready to kill you!

How do you stop these men, especially their mastermind, a man in uniform who swore to defend his country against any enemy, when they become the enemy of the people? Is murder a solution? An assassination? I really don’t know, but what I will always remember is the words of Oriana Fallacy when she was talking about Alexandros Panagoulis and his attempt to assassinate the dictator George Papadopoulos on 13th of August 1968, “I didn’t want to kill a human being, I’m not able to kill a human. I wanted to kill a tyrant, a monster!”

I met Alexandros Panagoulis in a friend’s house back in 1975 and the only thing I could think of is, how much this man should love democracy to be ready to kill for her; her because for him democracy must be a female he was deeply and eternally in love with. The man who entered that living room on that typical Athenian summer evening was nothing more, nothing less, than the usual Greek man you would meet on the streets of Athens, wearing a thick moustache, as most men of his age did that period, and with a mixed aura around him - the aura of the pipe tobacco he constantly had in his mouth and the aura of a man with destiny. Destiny found him just a year after. Alexandros Panagoulis was murdered on the 1st of May 1976 in a very peculiar ‘accident’ I will never forget and forgive as long I live.

Alexandros Panagoulis came from a very democratic family with well-established democratic roots, the idea of a dictatorship in the land that gave birth to democracy and taught freedom to the world was just too much for him. He was serving in the army that period and he defected from the army to self-exile in Cyprus, but he had to return; the enemy was in Greece and he felt that he could not give his battles from abroad, that was not his way. He came back to organize a resistance to the dictators and he comes with a plan to assassinate the leader of the coup, George Papadopoulos.

He plants a bomb before the ‘Papadopoulos tunnel’ - for the ones who know the place in Varkiza, an Athenian suburb waiting for his car on his way home. Papadopoulos had bought a gigantic villa in the area with the money he ‘earned’ from his treason – strange that dictators always think that the republic’s money and their own money is one and the same – but the bomb failed and he was arrested. When they finished with him and all the torturing he was half dead and some of the torturing methods they used on him when heard in the court after the dictatorship shocked everybody. He survived, he survived the torturing, he survived the death conviction, he survived death and when freedom came …they killed him!

A mystery car pushed him to his death, it was an accident police and government said that day in May but we know that this was not an accident. Panagoulis kept fighting for democracy, perhaps at the time he was one of the few - you see, most felt comfortable with the end of the dictatorship and the arrest of those responsible forgetting that after seven years and, who knows how many more preparation, the cancer of the dictatorship had entered a lot of parts of the Greek life.

Worst of all, the politicians were afraid that the Greek society left a lot of the criminals (I’m sorry but I cannot find another word for the 'torturers') to walk free or even got back their old jobs. Panagoulis could not forget and why should he? So he started investigating and looking for the truth, he started looking for those really responsible for the dictatorship and the real masterminds - domestic and from abroad because there were from abroad as well. The CIA was happy at the time to see the colonels taking over!

When he was in prison during the dictatorship Alexandros Panagoulis was writing all the time, was writing even using his blood when he couldn’t find paper and he was writing on the walls, how could this man stop after the fall of the dictatorship?

While all Greece was delirious with the man who was promising change, the ‘socialist’ Andreas Papandreou, Alexandros Panagoulis called him Greece’s Mussolini and a dangerous man, a fascist and Panagoulis was asking people not to scarify their ideals for lies and promises… he was ignored. When his friends and probably his enemies knew that his research for those really responsible for the dictatorship was ending he was killed and of course the socialist leader of the opposition was the first to accept the …accident, after all, his death was convenient for everybody in the name of democracy and the rest of the Greek society or better as it was put a few years later: It’s time to forget and forgive! Sadly I know a ten-year-old boy that will never forgive or forget!

I’ve met Alexandros Panagoulis twice in my friend’s house. I was a young lad writing poems and doing his first illustrations and my friend was kind enough to be my first publisher. Both times we talked about poetry, I always loved T.S. Eliot and he was talking about Italian poetry, the second time I met him Oriana Fallaci was with him but I didn’t have the chance to talk with her. If you want to know more about him you can easily find it in the internet and if you want to find more about the man read Fallaci’s books.

As I said, he was not my friend or anything like that, but his eyes will accompany me for the rest of my life to remind me that when it comes to democracy and people’s freedom you must really love them and fight for them without any remorse because democracy is a woman you fall in love eternally and I might never been his pal but the ten-year-old boy has been his friend for ever.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-08-13 09:09:38
This article brought me back to another man who has been all but forgotten, a Christian Protestant theologian, who actually participated in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his “Letters and Papers from Prison” which were published after the end of World War II, Bonhoeffer writes on the anguish of deciding ethical dilemmas such as the one he confronted. The attempt to assassinate Hitler failed on July 20, 1944. Bonhoeffer was rounded up and sent to Buchenwal concentration camp. He was hanged on April 9, 1945. Those who paint with a wide brush the whole of Christianity for the complicity of some misguided clerics with Hitler, dishonor silent martyrs such as Bonhoeffer or Panagoulis who had the moral backbone to stand up to ethical monsters.

AP2008-08-13 16:11:57
How beautiful, Thanos.

Dimitrios2008-08-14 16:19:09
By the way, I just read in a greek newspaper (Eleftherotypia) that the dictator's villa in Varkiza was a gift from Onassis. I had no idea...

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