Σάββατο, 16 Νοεμβρίου 2013

School (or national) holidays 101...

When we first moved to Corfu, I was about 5 years old. My parents enrolled me in the Ionian School kindergarten, (one of Corfu's two private schools) where I proceeded to excel in making dinosaurs out of Plastecene, and becoming known as "The English Kid".

The school was on Alexandras avenue, and our house not far at all. I used to set off to school on foot daily. One day I came back early, with the following story. Three teachers had been killed and we had been told there would be no school that day. I presumed it to involve some kind of traffic accident...


Further investigation showed the names of these three teachers to be:

John Chrisostomos
Basil the Great
Gregory Nazianzinos or "the theologist"

This is them:


And  just in case you haven't cottoned on yet... it was a school holiday in honor of the 3 "Hierarchs" sort of like the patron saints of learning and school in Greece... held on the 30th of January every year.

For people like my mother at the time, and so many others since, living and bringing up kids in Greece, while essentially a foreigner, means that you have no knowledge in reality, of the goings on in Greek schools or the holidays and general program...

Well, to give you a quick rundown... you have the 28th of October known as Ochi day, the day the Greek dictator Metaxas refused passage to the Italian troops...thus starting WW 2 for Greece... (this is interesting, one dictator refusing another dictator..)



Then there is the 25th of March day of the great revolution against the Turks, Xmas and New Years (for real Greeks much more important...), Clean Monday, Easter, our very own 21st of May, commemorating Corfu and the Ionian islands rejoining with Greece...

But there is another one, a "newer" one.

As most know, starting 21st April 1967 Greece had been under a military junta, known as "The Colonels"... they had ruled with an iron fist, essentially being a totalitarian regime backed by the Americans,  that had no hesitation to use brute force or torture and killings to keep themselves in "office" so to speak. Very close to what was known as a "banana republic" but without the bananas...

In November 1973 the increasingly vocal student population, inspired by France's May of 1968 and a general feeling of increasing discontent, took over the Athens Polytechnic, set up a Radio station inside and proceeded to broadcast revolutionary songs and messages. Soon supporters of other related causes, were flocking to the Polytechneio to see if they could help or support the cause in some way...

On the night of the 17th of November, the government lost its "patience" with the wayward students and issued an order for the army to move in. A tank ran over the gate, killing a number of students hanging on it. All the while there were chants at the army soldiers asking them to think about turning their weapons on their brothers and sisters... At the same time secret police and police snipers started picking off people on the street around the Polytechneion.

The Tank that ran the gate down

Students protest

Many protesters inside and outside of the Polytecnhneio

The radio station "Edo Polytechneio!"

Crowd in the street


The following days officials would put the number of dead at 11 and the wounded at 138, put other reports and investigations since have elevated that number to more like 80 people dead and thousands wounded, among the dead, a 5 year old boy caught in the crossfire...

A few months later the Junta whose "clout" and political "acceptance" was fast running out, fell, to be replaced by a legal government, headed by Mr Constantine Karamanlis, a widely accepted politician of note who had been in "exile" throughout the Junta years.

What many people do not know, is that essentially the Junta never went away. Yes it 'changed" some people were punished for the torture etc. and the main "heroes" of the so called "revolution of the 21st April" were locked up.

But politicians like Mitsotakis, Averof, Tsatsos and a number of others had been junta collaborators. These people now took power, simply changing the Junta profile from a military to a political one. People continued to be fakelomenoi (sort of like having tabs kept on anyone of a left wing background) the police continued to use brutal tactics against anyone with long hair....and occasional torture even...)

One very well known method was the phalanx, repeated heavy beating of the victims soles of the feet, while hanging upside down, and often with shoes on...this meant the foot would swell inside making the pressure unbearable and of course any thought of walking or running afterwards impossible...

But I have "digressed"..or have I?

This 17th of November it is 40 years since the student revolution. Greece is yet again under a Junta. That is how many of us feel. It is a Junta run by banks and major financial interests. They have no use for torture, for through the use of a completely sold out media they have managed to instill fear in the majority of the population. Consumerism has run rife in Greece the last few years before the crisis and even now...Personal debt, the fear of losing your house or your land, and heavy taxation make sure that most people feel they can't move let alone change something... But also for many years education has suffered and an uneducated people is a powerless people...

 Will something change? Maybe. The pressure for change is increasing. The political system remains the same, dirty, corrupt, nepotist regime it has always been...



I suggest to anyone interested to find out more , to get a copy of Oriana Fallacci's book "A Man". It is essentially a biography of Alekow Panagoulis a hero of the fight against the Junta. He is also a hero of mine. A fiery, hot blooded lover of justice and freedom, he was roatically involved with Fallacci and her book gives a lot of very "close" information... not easy to get hold of either...

Anyway, that is my little bit of recent Greek history for you, feel free to comment or ask any questions and I will do my best to answer...  

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