High life

My ghosts of Athens; a shooting and a royal wedding

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

Athens

This grimy semi-Levantine ancient city has its beauty spots, with childhood memories indelibly attached. There is a turn-of-the-century apartment building across the street from my house where in 1942 or ’43 I watched a daughter and wife scream in horror from their balcony as three nondescript assassins executed a man as he bent over to get into his chauffeur-driven car.

His name was Kalyvas and he was a minister in the Vichy-like Greek government of the time. He was bald and from my vantage point I saw the three red spots as the bullets entered his skull. His wife and daughter wore black from that day onwards. The daughter was a teenager — and a pretty blonde one at that. I was six and have never forgotten them or their screams of anguish. Last week I looked up at the third floor and it was all closed up. I wondered what has happened to the daughter. If she’s still alive she’d be in her late eighties.

Athens is full of ghosts for me. One is the greasy-haired man wearing a raincoat and carrying a rifle who someone killed from my house as he ran towards us in the black Christmas of 1944. He lay in the street for days. Was it my father, the policeman guarding us or the red-beret British paratrooper who crashed through our kitchen skylight  later, shot dead? He was barely 18, according to my mother. And then there was the man dying of hunger lying close by, who we tried to help, my older brother and I, by putting a yoghurt underneath his chin. He never touched it. Fräulein said wistfully that we had wasted a yoghurt. And the priest who stole a small loaf of cheap bread at the height of the hunger and was chased down the street by the baker for it.


It’s funny how childhood images remain undimmed. I had a front-row seat when the wartime king, George II, died in 1947. There were thigh-high boots and even purple Prisoner of Zenda-like uniforms, all adding to the royal mystique.

Last week I looked at pictures on a menu from a royal wedding of 50 years previously, that of King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie, both then in their early twenties and by far the best-looking royal couple in the world. I was at a reception and dinner dance at the Royal Hellenic Yacht Club, overlooking Turkolimano, where 54 years earlier the King had returned in triumph after winning a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics. There were European royals galore, two reigning queens and the uncle of King Abdullah of Jordan, who had to fly over Israel in order to attend.

There was a great orchestra, which played haunting old Greek tunes that only added to my nostalgic memories of Athens and the sweetness of life in one of Europe’s most romantic cities. No longer, and yet there are snatches of that ‘douceur’ when dancing under the stars at the yacht club overlooking Phaleron Bay. The Queen gave a wonderful speech in impeccable Greek, noting the extreme happiness of these 50 years, plus the heartbreaks, and her five children read their father’s speech, as I suspect King Constantine gets emotional when speaking of the country he so loves — one that has treated him so shabbily.

For starters, most members of Balkan royalty — including those in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia — have had their properties and palaces returned and are treated with great respect. In my country, royal properties that have been paid for with their own funds have been expropriated without compensation by the crooks that rule the Olive Republic of Hellas.

I know Constantine well, but cannot figure him out. At times his expression shows the imperishable pain that his destiny has forced upon him. Losing the throne of Greece is not like losing that of, say, Albania. But he never mentions his sadness, never hints at what might be going through his mind. He always insists that being in Greece is the only thing that makes him happy, his family apart. He lives under the strictures of royalty without the privileges. He remains an enigmatic character — to me, at least — because, although he does not have a compulsion to connect with people, and can even be distant, he does connect, especially with poor Greeks, which accounts for the power of monarchy. Neither he nor his three sons possess the macho primitivism of Prince Harry, but then why should they? They’re born far more royal than any one of their Brit cousins, and then some, if one needs to dot the i’s.

Athenian democracy was the first ever. It emerged in 507 BC after the last tyrant, Hippias, was thrown out. Once tyranny had been abolished, the fear of wise men was that power would revert to the rich that had opposed Hippias. Enter Cleisthenes, who had a stroke of genius. In the words of Herodotus, ‘he took the people into partnership.’

The system worked for close to 2,000 years and spread across the West. It’s now about to disappear again, with bureaucrats and special interests replacing the demos. King Constantine had great powers in Greece, and voluntarily gave them up after he moved militarily against the colonels in 1967. Successive politicians have been sure to steal from the royal family and to keep the people from embracing the monarchy. The media have been the enforcers. All I can say is how much better off we’d be if the monarchy were restored. At least our head of state could exchange ideas with his counterparts without using only his hands.

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Show comments
  • Liz

    “In the words of Herodotus, ‘he took the people into partnership.”

    Well the male ones anyone, the female ones were property.

    • GenJackRipper

      Well bo-ho.

      • Liz

        Ooh a serial killer acolyte, the best kind of sexist.

    • Terry Field

      at least it was 50% right. Now it is 0% right

  • Fritz123

    “How shall this experiment, that started in a greek village, survive in the gobal village?”

    • Fritz123

      There are people who know how to coin big problems in simple sentenses.

  • Taki, follow the money!

    Graecokleptocrats got
    rid of the king in order to keep the military bribes to themselves instead of
    the king. 10% of billion-euro military
    procurements is a lot of money. But Greece would be
    much better off if the monarchy were restored.

    The largest bribes originate in the
    military industry. Military procurement is a corrupt business from top to
    bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few checks and balances.
    Most people in power love this system of doing business and do not want it
    changed. War and preparation for war systematically corrupt all parties to the
    state-private transactions by which the government obtains the bulk of its
    military products. There is a standard 10% bribe to kleptocrats for military
    purchases.

    Basil Venitis, venitis@gmail.com, http://venitism.blogspot.com

  • Kennybhoy

    You are without a doubt a grotesque, louche, Jew hating auld wretch Theodoracopulos. But I must say this is one of your better efforts…

    • Malus Pudor

      I wouldn’t say Taki is a Jew-hater… he merely expresses his revulsion for some of the injustices in the Middle East… and of which many are aware…

      He also expresses some candid opinions on certain ugly and morally revolting people in the US of A who happen to be Semites…

      Go figure …

      • jjjj

        The other injustice is that ignorant neo-Nazi scum can post in the Speccie. Especially ones who deny the Holocaust. Luckily their heads are full of Odin and the rest of the Drek. Isn’t that true, Shmutz?

    • jjjj

      You forgot to mention that he is also a hypocrite.

      • Kennybhoy

        Aye but that is a given surely…?

  • WalterSEllis

    “Was it my father, the policeman guarding us or the red-beret British
    paratrooper who crashed through our kitchen skylight later, shot dead? He was barely 18, according to my mother.”

    What are we to make of this? The author would surely know by now if it was his father who was shot dead.

    • jjjj

      Perhaps Taki was under the influence when he wrote this. Perhaps it never happened…Surely not.

    • Spyros Lampropoulos

      He does NOT even know the year…!!! To inform him and… refresh his “memory'(!) it was NOT 42 or 43, but January 24th of 1944 at 7.15 in the morning!

      • jjjj

        Excellent!

  • amphibious

    Tacky’s brave king had his escape plane warming up when he “moved militarily” against the colonels. He must have spent, ohhh nearly an hour ‘moving’ (probaby his pusillanimous bowels) before fleeing.

  • Spyros Lampropoulos

    Really Taki???… What about the REAL nightmares of the Greek people under your friend’s royalty? Do you have ANY opinion about that? And… «In your(???!!!) country, royal properties that have been paid for with the people’s funds have been paid again to the «enigmatic character» when he was «begging» and never mentions his sadness…
    And Tacis stop writing for Greece. Because it is an insult!

  • Lloyd

    Spyros Lampropoulos – anyone who knows anything about Greece and how it was that the Danes provided a king knows that those kings brought their own cash because Greece was so poor; all the royal properties were bought and paid for by the kings out of their own cash sourced from outside Greece; the political pirates then stole those properties. The mess that Greece is in today is because of all the unending pilfering by those political pirates since 1974

    • Spyros Lampropoulos

      So YOU are someone who knows anything about Greece? And I am NOT? OK!!! Try again, reading HISTORY! FIND documents, not articles full of lies written by a playboy, fan of the catastrophic Monarchs and their families and also the Neo-Nazi greek party of Golden Dawn! WE PAID those people (Monarchs etc) with a lot of money and blood! So be careful and use documents not rumors or gossip!

  • Spyros Lampropoulos

    And something about Taki’s article-«heroes»-friends…

    DESPISED GREEK SLAIN
    Labor Minister Nicholas Kalyvas Shot by Three Youths

    By Wireless to
    THE NEW YORK TIMES.
    CAIRO, Egypt,
    Jan. 28 — Greek Quisling Labor Minister Nicholas Kalyvas, reported by the Germans to have been shot yesterday by three youths, is described in patriotic Greek circles here as possibly the most despised man in the entire country.

    Mr. Kalyvas, formerly of left wing tendencies, became a turncoat under the Metaxas regime, acting as chief of the labor center organization set up to replace the outlawed trades unions. Several times accused of treachery during the war, he expressed willingness to collaborate with the Germans as soon as they entered Athens.

    Later as secretary of the labor union under German domination, Mr. Kalyvas came out in favor of the compulsory sending of Greek workers to Germany and agreed to the entrance of Bulgarians into Macedonia and Thrace.

    Published: January 29, 1944 Copyright © The New York Times

  • Lloyd

    Spyros
    Lampropoulos I lived in Athens 1974 and 1975/6 – there were
    no internet articles to be read in those days.
    I was on holiday when the colonels were ousted. You come across as an ignorant left wing
    malcontent. You must be very sad and
    bitter.

    • Spyros Lampropoulos

      Well, that’s a big joke!!!! YOU call ME names and ignorant of my OWN history because you… “lived in Athens 1974 and 1975/6… on holiday(???!!!!)… AND… “there were no internet articles to be read in those days”!!!!!! …
      And you KNOW that I AM… “ignorant left wing malcontent”, “very sad and
      bitter”.

      Lioyd or whatever your real name is, READ and LEARN from BOOKS, NOT from the internet, the yellow pages or neo-Nazi Sir(!). THEN you could talk about history and not the… Robin Hood or Harry Poter!!! Until then dont’t answer because you “look” like arrogant, ignorant, uneducated, uncivilized, stupid and rude!

  • Lloyd

    Spyros
    Lampropoulos- left wing losers never read what has been written; I LIVED in Athens for something like 30 months – I was away on Crete when the colonels were overthrown; you were not even born then. Don’t read books – they are written by your commie mates. Learn by listening to people who lived through it all – those who can compare today with what used once to be the case. This is the end of this correspondence – I will not waste more time on someone who is clearly an academic or similar loser.

    • Spyros Lampropoulos

      For your information: I am 68 yo and i was doing my service in the Navy that time, NOT on holiday… So, I AM the people who lived through it all!!! Don’t TRY to be a smart guy, a psychiatrist, a prophet or… a CLOWN!

      AS I SAID, DON’T ANSWER TO ME!

      Lloyd or whatever your real name is, READ and LEARN from BOOKS, NOT from the INTERNET, THE YELLOW PAGES OR NEO-NAZI SIR(!).

      THEN you could TALK about HISTORY and not the… Robin Hood or Harry Potter!!!

      Until then don’t ANSWER TO ME because you are arrogant, ignorant, uneducated, uncivilized, stupid and rude! AND IDIOT!!!!

      When someone dislike or EVEN hate Monarchy and fascism that does not make him leftish!

      JUST TELL YOUR OPINION ABOUT MONARCHS, THE NAZIS… AND THE MAGIC WAY TO LIVE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY ON HOLIDAY FOR SUCH A LONG TIME… SIGNED BY YOUR REAL NAME, LIKE ME!

      NOW IS THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO… FO!

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