- Chapter 2. 1936–1944: The Metaxas Dictatorship, the Italian Attack, the German Invasion, German Occupation, Resistance
- » And Then Came the One with the Erased Face
This woman (let's call her Eleni) was married to a man, Pavlos, who was also a Rightist but whose brother was a Leftist and had died of torture on Makrónisos in 1948. That evening Eleni was very upset because her son, who was about my age, whom I had known all my life, and who was a rather quiet and not politically involved or aware person, had fallen in love with a young girl. I walked into the room and saw Eleni crying. I asked what the matter was, and my mother said, “Don't ask, Pavlos [the young boy had, uncharacteristically, the same name as his father] has fallen in love.” She looked at me as if she wanted to tell me not to ask any more. But ask I did.
“She is a Communist!” Eleni screamed, collapsing in tears. I shrugged and said something to the effect that if they fell in love and they were happy together, what difference did it really make in 1981?
Eleni looked at me as if I had come from another planet. “But don't you understand?” she said as she composed herself and dried her eyes. “What does it mean that they are in love? She is a Communist! They killed my cousins, bam, bam, at Pegada.”
“They,” of course, were the Communists. I knew the case, where the partisans of Aris Velouchiotes in September 1944 executed a battalion of TA at Pegada, in Meligalas (in the Peloponnese), after the TA had collaborated with the Germans in reprisals against civilians when the andártes had attacked a German detail. I was stunned. Never before had I seen anyone react so passionately to something that to me was history, something that neither I, nor her son, nor her son's beloved had witnessed, since we were born nearly fifteen years after the incident in question. What was even more disturbing to me at the time—and it took me some years to appreciate its depth—was the fact that not only did this particular young woman have no involvement with the war and the andártes of Aris but that no one knew what her family's involvement was in the Communist (or just the Resistance) movement, since they came from a different part of the country and had no prior acquaintance with Eleni's family.
In 1943 EAM accused (the now royalist) EDES of collaboration with the Germans, a gesture that led to battles among ELAS, EDES, and the Germans that continued until February 1944, when British agents in Greece negotiated a ceasefire (the Plaka Agreement). On March 10, 1944, EAM, now in control of most of the country, established the Politikê Epitropê Ethnikês Apelefthérōsēs (Political Committee of National Liberation, or PEEA), a third Greek government to counter the collaborationist one of Athens and the absentee one in Cairo. Its aims were “to intensify the struggle against the conquerors… for full national liberation, for the consolidation of the independence and integrity of our country… and for the annihilation of domestic Fascism and formations of armed traitors.” PEEA's authority was significantly reinforced after the National Congress (Ethniko Symvoulio) recognized it as a legitimate government. PEEA's first president was Euripides Bakirtzis, the military leader of EKKA. On April 18, PEEA was reorganized when a new group of people joined it, including Alexandros Svolos, a professor of constitutional law at the law school of the University of Athens, who replaced Bakirtzis, and Petros Kokkalis . PEEA consisted not only of Communists but also of progressive bourgeois, who had little to do with Communist ideas.
Mary (left) and Demetra, as university students, in front of the Grande Bretagne a few months before graduation, in 1946. Private photograph.
The physician Petros Kokkalis, born in Levadeia in 1886, was educated at the University of Athens and then studied surgery in Switzerland and Germany. He returned to Greece in the late 1920s, where he became the director of the City Hospital and, later, of the Third Surgical Clinic at the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens. He took a teaching post at the School of Medicine at the University of Athens, where he rose to the rank of full professor. In 1942 he was dismissed from his post at the university and joined the Resistance. He not only became a member of the PEEA, as minister of education, but he also fought in the civil war and held the office of minister of health in the Provisional Government. Sometime during the civil war, Kokkalis left Greece, first for France, and he eventually sought refuge in Romania and then East Germany. He took a teaching post at Humboldt University and became a member of the Berlin Academy. He lived in exile until his death in 1962.
His son, Socrates Kokkalis, born in 1939, returned to Greece under the amnesty granted to political refugees by the George Papandreou government in 1963 and received Greek citizenship in 1965. Eventually Socrates Kokkalis became one of the richest and most influential Greek citizens, initially by manufacturing and providing parts and services for the Greek network of telecommunications, acquiring the first mobile telecommunications services, then running the lottery trade, and, finally, expanding to the old Communist countries after 1989. Kokkalis established a TV and a radio station, and he bought (and still owns) the football team Olympiakos. Educated in East Germany and Moscow, Kokkalis was accused by the Greek state of having been an agent for the East German secret service Stazi, an accusation of which he was eventually acquitted. In 1997 Kokkalis established the Kokkalis Program in Southeastern European Studies at the J. F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1998 he established the Kokkalis Foundation, a charitable organization concerned with promoting the study of modern Greek political formulations. He is thought of as the Bill Gates of Greece.
Perhaps ironically, given Petros Kokkalis's position toward the involvement of the United States in Greek politics and domestic affairs, the street that flanks the American Embassy, was named by the Greek state after him: Hodos Petrou Kokkali.