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This Week in History: April 30 to May 6

May 1st:

On this day in 1946, the Paris Peace Conference concluded that the islands of the Dodecanese should be returned to Greece by Italy. Italian rule over the Dodecanese, which lasted for over twenty years – officially beginning in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne – was “firm and efficient but never popular.” Italian became the official language, and in 1925 the Dodecanesians were obliged to take Italian citizenship. In response to such restrictions, significant numbers of islanders migrated to the United States. The generation of islanders that remained under that regime was largely bilingual as a result. After World War II, the islands temporarily came under British occupation, with Greek participation. The conference of foreign ministers in Paris agreed in 1946 that the islands should pass to Greece and were formally ceded in 1947.

May 4th:

On this day in 1913, Lady Katherine Brandram, Princess of Greece, the last surviving great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was born in the New Royal Palace in Athens. Princess Katherine of Greece was the youngest child of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and Princess Sophie of Prussia. She lived a life of exile – moving from Greece to Switzerland to Italy to England and then to South Africa (all before the age of 28). In Cape Town, Katherine worked as a nurse at a hospital, where she was known as ‘Sister Katherine’ and for a time she cared for soldiers who had lost their sight. After World War II, Katherine returned to England, sailing the last leg of her trip from Egypt to England on the ship liner Ascania. On board, she met Major Richard Campbell Brandram MC, an officer in the British Royal Artillery. They were engaged three weeks after they arrived in England. According to her obituary in The Daily Telegraph, "Lady Katherine lived quietly but remained in close touch with her own [Greek] and the British royal families. She attended the Queen's wedding to Prince Philip (her first cousin), and was a guest at the service to mark Prince Philip's 80th birthday at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in 2001." Princess Katherine lived to the age of 94.

Also on this day in 2001, Pope John Paul II visited Athens and apologized for the sins of the Crusader attacks on Constantinople in 1204. The visit to Greece marked the first Papal visit to the country in 1291 years. The Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos, the former head of the Church of Greece. After a private 30-minute meeting, the two spoke publicly with Christodoulos reading a list of “13 offences” of the Roman Catholic Church against the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054 – including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204. The Pope responded by saying, “for the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness,” to which Christodoulos immediately applauded. John Paul II also said that the sacking of Constantinople was a source of “profound regret” for Catholics. At the end of their public appearance, Archbishop Christodoulos and Pope John Paul II issued a common declaration, saying, “we shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved … We condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism, and fanaticism, in the name of religion.” They then said the Lord’s Prayer together, breaking an Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics.

May 6th:

On this day in 1954, Theodora (Dora) Bakoyannis, the Greek politician, was born in Athens. Daughter of the late Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Bakoyannis was educated at the German School of Paris. After studying Political Science and Communication at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, she continued her studies in Political Science and Public Law at the University of Athens. She speaks fluently English, French, and German. She is a member of the Greek Parliament, Coordinator responsible for Economy and Development for the New Democracy party, and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (EPP/CD group). She has been consecutively elected as a member of the Greek Parliament since 1989. From 1990 to 1992 she served as Under-Secretary of State and from 1992 to 1993 as Minister for Culture. She was the first female Mayor of Athens (2002-2006) and the first female Greek Foreign Minister (2006-2009). Moreover, she was the President of the United Nations Security Council (2006) and the Chairperson of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2009).

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