The anonymous heroes of the Greek resistance

In the epilogue to the article “The night the flag of Nazi Germany was torn down from the Acropolis”, Manolis Glezos emphasized that their courageous action – taking down the flag – should be dedicated primarily to the estimated 120,000 anonymous Greek heroes of the Greek Resistance who died, were executed or killed fighting the Nazis in 1941-1944. Most Greek families have the memory of at least one such lost member who sacrificed everything for their homeland.

Today, Georgios Xyftilis, blog writer and founder of the Greek Expedition, presents one of those sad stories, from his own family:

Grandma Kalliopi lost her 16-year-old son Kostas, the uncle we never got to know, when he was arrested and executed at the end of World War II, for being active in the Greek resistance. This is a fate sadly shared by too many families during the dark days of occupation. Listen to how Kalliopi recounts the tragic event in a film by Matheo Yamalakis (English subtitles):

This is an excerpt from Matheo Yamalakis film “Στην Αθήνα (In Athens)” from 1982,The whole film can be found at Matheos YouTube channel: / @matheoyamalakis5763
URL till the whole film: – ΣΤΗΝ ΑΘΗΝΑ
Matheos’ homepage:
Matheo Yamalakis was a Swedish-Greek film director and artist that sadly left us just about two years ago.

Grandma Kalliopi’s story in her own words

One morning I got up early, my husband had a morning shift. He had to be at the station at 5 am. I got up with him and followed him to the front door as usual.

Then I saw – there was a bakery opposite – I saw a man standing at the door outside the bakery. I was surprised because at that time people were not up so early. I wondered why he was standing there…

5 – 10 minutes after my husband left, I heard gunshots. I wondered what it could be and went down to the window to look. There I saw two Germans and two Greeks standing at the crossroads of Agiou Dimitriou, the main road leading here.
They were standing there with guns in their hands.

My one son Kostas was at home but my other son, Andreas, was not here. I hurriedly went into Kostas’ room and told him that there were Germans outside. He also came and looked. “It’s Bougiouris,” he said. I didn’t know who he was.

The house door kicked open

Kostas started to run but barely made it back to his room before the men kicked in the door – the outside door we still have downstairs – so that part of it broke off (I start crying when I remember) part of it broke off and they came in two Greeks and two Germans.

The German soldiers did not go into Kostas’ room, only the Greeks went there.
One was Stamatakos, the Germans used him as an interpreter. The other was Bougiouris, whom Kostas had mentioned. They started rummaging through cupboards and drawers, throwing our things around. Stamatakos slapped Kostas in the face.

I cried and screamed, “Why are you doing this?” “What has my child done to you?”
He replied: Do you forget that he brushed on the walls of the house “Down with Bougiouris!” “Down with the traitors!”? Now that I’m sending him to the Germans, he’ll see!
They took Kostas with them and left.

Kostas, 16 years old, was executed by the occupying forces in 1944 for participating in the Greek resistance movement
Kostas, 16 years old, was executed by the occupying forces in 1944 for participating in the Greek resistance movement

The detention camp in Chaidari

On his way out, Bougiouris says, “You’re lucky your other son isn’t here, otherwise I would have taken him too. So he meant Andreas.

They took Kostas and many others to the prison camp in Chaidari.

The following Sunday we also went there with another neighbor’s wife. We went there to give them clothes and to take their dirty laundry Kostas had left a little note among their clothes. He wanted us to send bandages next time.
I wondered why he needed bandages.

The next time we were there we managed to see him.
He was out working in the camp and had blisters on his skin.
“What is it?” I asked him. ‘It’s from the sun, mom.

His pants were also completely torn I asked him why he hadn’t put on the full pants I had sent along. ‘I haven’t, Mom, but I will,’ he said.
We asked where they had taken him. He said they had taken him to the police station.

Interrogation by the police

There he had met another neighbor of ours, Dritsakos was his name, he was a constable and wanted Kostas to reveal where one of his friends lived.
Kostas replied that he did not know. The officer said, you bastard, pretend you don’t know, I’ve seen you go to his house.

“Who wants to hit?” the officer asked the other policemen. And they all started hitting him. So he was in a bad way and needed the bandage he had asked for.

His father suggested we send in an application to be released.
“No,” said Kostas, “they’ll take me in for questioning again. They will hang me upside down from the winch, like when they interrogated my father and brother.

The end

One morning, my husband and I were on our way to visit Kostas again. We didn’t get any further than the bus station when we met one of the other arrested boys’ father. His name was Politis and I thought he looked very upset.

He asked us where we were going. “We’re going to the boys,” I replied.
“What boys?” he asked. It’s already over, they’ve been killed”.
My husband asked how he knew that.
“It was in the papers”.

We bought a newspaper and it had all their names and the place of execution.
So and so many have been hanged, in retaliation for a German soldier being killed.

After the liberation

Later, when the Germans left the country, we went there to do the excavation.
They lay foot to foot, in a big pit, they lay like this… buried in long rows, foot to foot.

We stood there all parents and watched as they shoveled away the earth, then I saw … recognized him … my Kostas, recognized him by his clothes.
The sweater he was wearing, the cross he was carrying… That’s our Kostas, I said to my husband.

We dug out the skeleton … he had his hands … hands clenched together… like this…
Only the knuckles were left.
Why does he have his hands like that, my Kostas, I wondered.

Voice of arrator in the video: Kalliopi will never know why her son clenched his fists when the fascists hanged him. Was it perhaps in defiance of the great injustice that had already begun to befall the people? The nationalist informers had begun to serve their new masters: the British and the king, who had now become the leader of local Fascism.
Later, during the Civil War, Kalliopi’s elder son, Andreas, was sentenced to death three times by the local fascists for fighting against Nazism. He was rescued just before his execution.

Late recognition of the Greek resistance

It would take decades before the anonymous heroes who fought against the occupation received their rightful vindication and recognition. It was only in the 1980s that their memory and the sacrifices they made for Greece’s freedom began to be openly honored.

In August 1982, the Greek Parliament adopted a bill recognizing the united national Greek resistance against the occupying forces during the period 1941-1944.

It is particularly important today to shine a light on the anonymous heroes of the Greek resistance, as far-right and xenophobic forces are once again gaining influence. As the echoes of boot-stomping paramilitary groups are once again heard on our streets and minorities are subjected to hatred and incitement, we should learn about and honor those who once stood up and gave their lives in the fight against oppression and totalitarianism.

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The night the flag of Nazi Germany was torn down from the Acropolis
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