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This Week in History: December 31st to January 6th

December 31, 2021

DECEMBER 31ST:

On this day in 1933, Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali (AKA Chryssa), the Greek-American artist known for her neon, steel, aluminum, and acrylic glass installations, was born in Athens. Born into the historically famous Mavomichalis family from the Mani Peninsula. While not rich, her family was described as educated and cultured. Chryssa began painting during her teenage years and studied to become a social worker. In 1953, based on the advice of a Greek art critic, Chryssa’s family sent her to Paris to study art. After Paris, Chryssa set sail for the United States where she studied at the California School of Fine Arts. She then moved to New York in 1955 – finding inspiration in the spectacle of the advertising neon signs of Times Square. She started using neon in 1962 and was one of the first artists to transform it from an advertising tool into an art material. Chryssa worked in New York studios for the majority of her life, until 1992 when she began working in the studio she established in Neos Kosmos in Athens.

JANUARY 1ST:

On this day in 2008, Cyprus and Malta adopted the Euro, joining 13 other European countries using the single currency. The government of Cyprus approved the designs for the national sides of the euro coins on June 22, 2006, following an open competition. The designs show three national motifs – the mouflon, the ship of Kyrenia, and the prehistoric idol of Pomos. The euro replaced the Cyprus pound (CYP) at the exchange rate of €1 = CYP 0.5852. Cyprus has been a member of the European Union since May 1, 2004 and is a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union.

JANUARY 3RD:

On this day in 1911, Alexandros Papadiamantis, the influential Greek novelist, journalist, short story writer, and poet died of pneumonia on his native island of Skiathos in the western part of the Aegean. He has been referred to as the father of modern Greek literature. Papadiamantis studied in Athens as a teenager, eventually enrolling in the School of Philosophy at the University of Athens. However, he never received his degree due to economic reasons. His father was a priest and believed in the simple life. Papadiamantis shared the same philosophy as his father – he did not care much for money and would often ask for lower fees if he thought he was getting paid too much for his various assignments. His stories provided lucid and lyrical portraits of country life in Skiathos, or urban life in the poorer neighborhoods in Athens, with frequent flashes of deep psychological insight. He never married and was known to be a recluse, whose only true cares were observing and writing about the life of the poor, and chanting at church; he was often referred to as ‘kosmokalogeros’ (‘a monk in the world’). Many of his works have been translated into English and can be found on Amazon.com. Papadiamantis’ house in Skiathos Town was bought by the Greek State and has been turned into a museum.

JANUARY 6TH:

On this day in 1850, the Don Pacifico Incident, also widely known as the Don Pacifico Affair, took place. This event typified the approach to foreign policy taken by the long‐serving British Whig foreign secretary and future Liberal prime minister Lord Palmerston. When the Athens home of Don (David) Pacifico (a money-lender) was attacked by an anti‐Semitic mob (injuring his wife and children), Palmerston insisted that the Greek government honor Pacifico’s grossly exaggerated claim for compensation, and ordered the Royal Navy to blockade Piraeus in order to ensure compliance. Don Pacifico was a Portuguese Jew who claimed British subject status on account of having been born in Gibraltar, and Palmerston used this tenuous claim as a pretext for naval action which settled a number of existing disputes between the British and Greek governments. His heavy‐handed response proved highly controversial at the time, and is widely held to have been a classic example of gunboat diplomacy.

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