LIA, GREECE – The U.S. Ambassador to Greece, David Pearce, honored renowned author Nicholas Gage with a visit to his home village of Lia in Greece.
Each year, Gage holds a memorial service to honor the death of his mother Eleni, who was executed by communist guerillas in 1948. As Gage described the event at a previous memorial: “My mother, Eleni Gatzoyianni, and four other Liotes – Alexandra Gatzoyianni, Vasilis Nikou, Spyros Mihopoulos and Andreas Mihopoulos, were all executed along with eight others on Aug. 28, 1948, by Communist guerrillas who murdered innocent civilians in every village in these mountains, as well as 114 captured soldiers, all in their twenties. Two weeks after the executions in Lia, the guerrillas were driven out of these mountains and took all the people from these villages with them and scattered them throughout eastern Europe, where they all endured years of hardship.
“Those who committed those horrible crimes have all gone to their final judgment by now and their ideology has been consigned to the ash heap of history. They will be remembered, if they are remembered at all, with scorn and contempt.”
Gage wrote about his mother’s saga in the bestselling book, Eleni, which was also made into a feature film.
Ambassador Pearce is the fourth U.S. envoy to Greece to visit Lia and was preceded by Daniel Smith, now Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, two years ago. A number of ambassadors from other countries have journeyed to Lia to pay tribute to Gage’s martyred mother, including those of Japan, Canada, and Hungary.
Many famous political leaders, executives, writers, educators, actors, directors, and human rights activists have made the pilgrimage to the village over the years to view the settings of the dramatic scenes Gage describes in his famous memoir, which has been translated translated into 34 languages. They have included former Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, film directors Elia Kazan and Peter Yates, actors John Malkovich and Kate Nelligan, New York Times editors A.M. Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb, former U.S. Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt, former Time-Warner co-Chairman Nick Nicholas, and Robert L. Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch.
Every day, especially in the summer, readers a with the book in hand arrive in the village from countries all over the world as well as busloads of students who are assigned the memoir to read by many colleges and universities. On July 28, a bus with 32 students arrived in Lia and were delighted to find the author there, who personally showed them around the village, and then answered their questions over lunch at the inn of Lia, which Gage built for the village 25 years ago.
“It’s a testament to the love my mother demonstrated when she sacrificed her life to save her children, that decades later so many people want to come and see the world in which she lived and died,” Gage has said. “That love is what brings everyone to Lia.”