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Seferis' denial to dictators
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-03-28 09:10:30
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It is very difficult to describe to anybody who hasn’t lived something similar, how it was during the Greek military dictatorship in Greece. It is difficult to explain it even to people who have lived dictatorships and when you actually live it is not at all like the films you might have seen with military dictatorships in South America, Asia or Africa. This was in seferis02Europe, in the country that actually practiced first democracy. And it was not only the forbidden freedom of speech or even the freedom to talk politics at all but it was the fear. The fear that the next one might be your father, your mother, your brother or anybody around you, the fear that they would take them and you didn’t know how they would return if they would. It was like a very dark cloud had covered the country and the soul of the people with no exit, no hope.

seferis03The dictatorship found everybody unprepared; they just could not believe that something like that could ever happen in Greece. Of course there were the warnings and all the signs but nobody could actually believe that there was any chance for that to happen. And it did in April of 1967, and people got killed from the very first moment, and people led to prisons or the exile and despite to what most presume or believe these people didn’t belong to one party or one side. Anybody who didn’t obey the dictators, surrendering conscious and will to the criminals was doomed didn’t matter if they were left wing or conservatives.

Rocks in the middle of the sea habituated only by snakes and scorpions became the educating camps for the restive, with torture the main lesson and by 1969 the dark cloud had become darker. The only chance to hear what was happening and get some hope was the illegal for the dictators broadcasting of the BBC and Deutsche Welle in Greek. It was just like it was during the occupation when people were expecting some hope and help from the radio abroad. And it was on the 28th of March 1969 when the voice of the most important Greek abroad, the Nobel Prize winner poet Georgios Seferis with a statement against the dictators that ended with the words “this anomaly must end!” started the beginning of the end.

seferis04The feeling was there, the will was there it was just that somebody had to wake everybody and Seferis did with this statement, the same time he had shown to the international community that the Greeks were opposed to the dictatorship and the excuses of the dictators for the communist danger were just pathetic to excuse their criminal act. The tortures, the murders, the exiles didn’t stop but the fear stopped and in 1970 while the dictators were still ruling Greece huge crowds gathered for his funeral singing Mikis Theodorakis (banned and imprisoned composer) setting of Seferis poem “Denial” ignoring the threats of the police and the army. The conservative poet and diplomat had become a popular hero for the resistance movement in Greece and abroad against the dictators.

It’s really hard to explain how it makes me feel listen to this statement even today, forty years after with the dictatorship a dark memory in history books from the archives of BBC. A very close friend made me the honor in early-80s to meet his late wife, and it was magic hearing her describing his anger and determination while getting ready to head for the BBC offices in London. A few years later living in London I was very proud to see one of the characteristic blue plaques on Sloane Square where he lived for a period when he served as the Greek ambassador in U.K.

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