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This Week in History: December 10th to 16th

December 10, 2021

DECEMBER 11TH:

On this day in 1950, Christine Onassis (Andreadis), the American-born Greek heiress (Aristotle Onassis’ only daughter), was born in New York City. Christina’s parents divorced in 1960, precipitated by her father’s affair with opera singer Maria Callas. Christina had a tempestuous personal life of her own which included four marriages. Within a 29-month period, Christina lost her entire immediate family. Her brother, Alexander died in a plane crash in Athens in 1973 at the age of 24, which devastated the family and her mother died of a suspected overdose in 1972, leaving Christina her $77 million estate. Following Alexander’s death, her father’s health began to deteriorate, and he died in March of 1975. Before he passed away, Christina began working in her father’s business as a secretary and, after his death, she inherited half of his estimated $1 billion estate – the other half going to create the Alexander Onassis Foundation. She suffered a fatal heart attack in 1988, leaving one child, a daughter named Athina, who became the sole heir to the Onassis fortune.

DECEMBER 13TH:

On this day in 1959, Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus was elected the first president of Cyprus when Britain granted the island independence in the same year. In his three terms (1959-1977), he survived four assassination attempts and a 1974 coup. Born Michael Mouskos, the son of a goat-herder in the village of Ano Panayia (near Paphos in western Cyprus), he studied in Cyprus and at the University of Athens and later at the School of Theology of Boston University. Makarios was ordained in 1946, eventually elected bishop of Kition in 1948, and then Archbishop of Cyprus in 1950. Leader of the Greek Cypriots in the movement for enosis (union with Greece), he was exiled by the British in 1956 on charges of encouraging terrorism. Makarios was released from exile after a year, although he was still forbidden to return to Cyprus. Instead, he went to Athens, where he was rapturously received. Basing himself in the Greek capital, he continued to work for enosis. Upon his eventual return to Cyprus in March 1959, he was welcomed by the Greek-Cypriot community and in December of the same year, was elected president of the future Republic of Cyprus. Makarios’ funeral in August of 1977 was interrupted by a rainstorm – something unheard of in Cyprus for that month. Some called it a miracle – a Greek-Cypriot newspaper referred to the event as proving an old Greek proverb that when a good man is buried, even the heavens shed tears.

DECEMBER 14TH:

On this day in 1883, Manolis Kalomiris, the Greek opera composer, was born in Smyrna. The son of a middle-class family, Kalomiris went to study piano in Athens and later on in Constantinople. He studied music at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and following his graduation worked as a piano teacher in Kharkov, Russia (present-day Ukraine) where he became well-acquainted with Russian music. He wrote articles and published a famous manifesto for the creation of a ‘National School’ of Greek music – making it his life’s goal to establish such a school. In 1919 he founded the Hellenic Conservatory and then in 1926, the National Conservatory – which he managed until 1948. Kalomiris wrote three symphonies, five operas, one piano concerto, and one violin concertino, along with various other chamber music and numerous songs and piano works. Kalomiris is honored as the father of Greek national music as he played a decisive role in shaping the musical landscape in Greece – and even more so in the founding and development of the Greek National Opera (where he served as Director General and Chairman of the Board from 1950 to 1952).

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