NEEDHAM—Olga (Gatzoyiannis) Bartzokis, formerly of Worcester, who in 1948 led her brother and two sisters on a night escape down a mine-laden mountainside from her Communist guerrilla-held village during the Greek Civil War, passed away here at home at the age of 90 surrounded by her family and friends. Known for her dedication to her four children, two of whom became doctors and two lawyers, she was born in Lia, Epirus, Greece on November 28, 1927.
As recounted in the bestselling 1983 book and 1985 film “Eleni” by her brother Nicholas Gage, when Olga’s mother, Eleni (Haidis) Gatzoyiannis planned a nighttime escape from their Communist-held village in 1948, an order came from the guerrillas for two women from their house to go to a nearby village to harvest wheat. The mother chose herself and her third daughter, 15-year-old Glykeria, to go and told her oldest daughter, Olga, then 20, to lead the rest of the family on the perilous escape she had organized with several other relatives.
Olga and her siblings fled down the mountain on foot under the cover of darkness and reached Greek government forces the next morning. In retribution, their mother was imprisoned tortured and executed by the guerillas for planning the escape. After learning of their mother’s fate, Eleni’s children spent eight months in a refugee camps, then sailed to America to join their father, who had emigrated to Worcester years earlier. Glykeria, who died in 2012, escaped a year later and joined the family in America.
While her two sisters, Alexandra and Glykeria, worked at Table Talk Pies to help support the family, Olga took charge of the Gatzoyiannis household and looked after the two youngest children, Fotini and Nicholas. Two years after her arrival, she married a Greek immigrant from the nearby village of Costana, Konstantinos (Dino) Bartzokis, and they started their own family. Eventually her two older sisters also married fellow Greek immigrants and jointly they bought a three decker at 369 Chandler St., in Worcester, where they created a vertical compound for their children to grow up together.
In 1966 the Bartzokis family moved to Needham, where Dino and his brother opened a successful pizza restaurant. Olga worked next to her husband while raising four children, all of whom won scholarships to top universities in the Boston area. From the savings they were able to put aside from the pizza parlor, Olga and Dino, who predeceased her in 2006, invested wisely in real estate and were able to live their later years in comfort. Olga spent her last years in the same house in Needham where she lived her happiest years with her family. She was attended by caretakers from Greece supervised by her physician daughter, Elenie Bartzokis, who also lives in Needham.
In addition to her daughter, Olga is survived by three sons: Spyro Bartzokis, a lawyer in Orlando, FL and his wife Calliope; Christos, also a lawyer in Orlando and his wife Patricia, and Thomas, a cardiologist in Boca Raton and his wife Peggy. She is also survived by seven grandchildren: Katherine Ashford and her husband Jason of Orlando, Dean Bartzokis and his wife Shannon of Orlando, Kristin Bartzokis of Orlando, Alexander and Elizabeth Bartzokis of Boca Raton, Marina Bartzokis of New York and Melina Chadbourne of Los Angeles.
Three siblings also survive her: Alexandra Stratis of Worcester, Tina Haithis of Milton, and Nicholas Gage and his wife Joan of North Grafton. She is also survived by two great grandchildren and eight nephews and nieces.
Olga was active in both St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Worcester and St. Demitrios Greek Orthodox Church in Weston, as well as several organizations formed by natives of the Epiros region in Greece.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 102 Russell St., Worcester, where the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Burial will be next to her husband of 55 years at Hope Cemetery. All those attending are invited to a luncheon at l:00 p.m. at the Manor in West Boylston to celebrate Olga’s life.