By all accounts King Konstantine and his mother, Frederika, had been preparing a coup of their own, which would have been carried out by a group of generals, not colonels, a few days before the general elections scheduled to take place on May 14, 1967. The royal family moved to Rome shortly after the April 21 coup and from Rome organized and directed a counter-coup involving the royal navy. The members of the naval forces who carried out this counter-coup were eventually arrested, tortured, and exiled just like any “common Communist [san koinoi kommounistes],” as one of them said (a story passed on to me by one of the members of the ASPIDA group who was in the same prison as one of the naval officers). For a personal account of the involvement of the Palace in the politics of the country before the junta and during the turbulent decade of the sixties, see Deane 1976. Deane [Gigantes] was a personal counselor to the king until shortly before the coup.
Then he continued, “At Truman's statue there was a police car. They stopped us, or rather, we stopped to ask what was happening. They said they weren't sure. 'We don't even know,' one of them said. We said that we were going to Kalithea [the district where they worked]. 'I don't know if you can get there,' he said, and then he said, 'Why don't you turn back, go back to your homes? We are not sure what this is.' I explained to him that I was responsible for shutting down the equipment at the lab [my father worked as a chemical and mechanical engineer] and the whole plant, and that my friend had to report to the electric company where he worked. 'Try to go, what can I tell you,' he said. 'But I don't know if you are going to manage to get through to the other side [apenanti was the word used]. So we kept going a bit longer. We tried to go by the Stadium so that we could catch Kalirroes [Avenue] to go down to Syngrou, but they turned us around before we could get there. We pleaded with them; we wanted to go by the Stadium and get a glimpse of the palace, see if we could see anything. Impossible, impossible, they wouldn't let us. 'Go by Pangrati,' they said, a young lieutenant. 'You might be able to go across from there.' At any rate, I don't want to belabor the point [na min sta polylogo], we went up to Pangrati, we went through the refugee settlement [ta prosfygika], we tried to go by there, it was impossible.”
“Did you realize what had happened?” I asked.
“Eh, after two hours on the road, with so many road blocks [bloka], we knew that this was a junta. But who had done it? No one was expecting it to happen then. At any rate, we realized that we wouldn't make it to Kalithea, so at some point somewhere in Dourgouti, behind Aghios Sostis [so, really, on the other side of Syngrou Avenue, about five hundred meters away from where they wanted to be, but on the wrong side] we decided that even if we did make it to Kalithea, we probably wouldn't be able to make it back, and I turned around and tried to go back to Zográphou. We couldn't go by the same roads because they were closed by that time. Everywhere we were being turned around and away. Finally I found the old streets, what streets, some goat paths they were, over on Hymettus [the mountain of Athens], and we came back from there. I think we made it back home around noon”—which explains why my father was not there when my mother was preoccupied with the potential danger posed by her red housecoat.
No one was expecting the dictatorship to happen just then, so even the members of the KKE, even the leadership of the Party, went to bed that night not suspecting anything. By the morning almost every single one of them had been arrested. Account after account of that day shows how unexpected it was for everyone, from the Palace to the Party. These accounts show that even specific warnings, by people who knew that the coup would happen that night, who had specific information, went unheeded. Yet published accounts of that day have been scarce. As I was researching this particular experience in the summer of 2006, the journal Archeiotaxeio, the flagship publication of the Archives of Contemporary Social History (ASKI), issued a special volume on the memories of specific people of the Left from that particular day. Leonidas Kallivretakis recounts how, like me, he cheered when his mother told him that there would be no school that day, but the rest of the accounts are from people slightly to significantly older than Kallivretakis and myself, people (the older ones) who were arrested in their pajamas or (the younger ones) who were not arrested that night because they had been out with friends and had not yet returned home when the police were sent to pick them up between 2 and 3 a.m.
Accounts of that day, but also scholarly research on the junta as a whole, are scarce. Very few conferences have been organized, very few studies have been published, and most of the existing information is either anecdotal or comes from the media of the time. The historian Leonidas Kallivretakis, commenting on this lacuna in Greek historical research, mentions that the National Research Institute has established a special research program with the expressed project of systematically collecting archival material concerning the political and social history of the twentieth century. Kalivretakis 2007 gives a good bibliography of memoirs, journalistic reports and accounts, and scientific studies. For an analysis of the political and ideological parameters of the junta, see Athanassatou et al. 1999; see also Clogg and Yannopoulos 1972 and Tsoucalas 1969. Poulantzas 1976 remains an important political analysis of the junta and the neo-imperialist project.
For all practical purposes, these are the archives of the Communist Party prior to the split of 1968, established and directed by the late Philippos Eliou, son of the late EDA deputy Elias Eliou, and one of the group of soldiers who were the last to be transported from Makrónisos when it was finally shut down in 1958.