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This Week in History (February 26 to March 4)

February 26th:

On this day in 1906, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika), the Greek artist, writer, and academic, was born in Athens. During Ghikas’ teen years, his family began recognizing the potential of his talents and arranged for him to study painting with the artist Parthenis. In 1923, he went to Paris to study French literature and aesthetics at the Sorbonne. He also studied ancient and Byzantine art as well as folk art – partially due to this adoration for the Greek landscape. Less than four years after arriving in Paris, he had his first exhibition at the Gallerie Percier. It has been said that Picasso himself noticed and commented on the works of the young Greek artist. He gained recognition as the leading Greek cubist and today Ghikas is celebrated as one of the most important modern Greek painters. His house has been converted into a museum and is being run by the Benaki Museum. In 2018, the British Museum hosted an exhibition which focused on the friendship of Ghika with artist John Craxton and the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. His works are featured in the National Gallery of Greece, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

February 27th:

On this day in 1943, Kostis Palamas, the Greek poet, author, theatre playwright, historian and literature critic, passed away. Born in Patras, Palamas became one of the most important individuals in the evolution of modern Greek literature. When he was 6 years-old, both of his parents died. He and his older brother were taken by his uncle who took care of them until 1875 in an “atmosphere of misery and sorrow” which greatly influenced Palamas’ psyche. He was educated at Mesolongion and in Athens and eventually became the central figure in the Demotic movement of the 1880s, which sought to shake off traditionalism and draw inspiration for a new literary and artistic style from the life and language of the people. Palamas became the founder of the “new school of Athens” which condemned Romantic exuberance and reverted to a more restrained type of poetry. He was the first poet to express the national sufferings and aspirations of the Greeks, and with his lyricism, metrical variety, and robust language, he remolded a great deal of Greek history, mythology, and philosophy, fusing it with many western European and even Eastern ideas. His funeral in 1943 became a public show of defiance to the occupation authorities. To this day, Palamas is considered one of the most important Greek poets and one that has made a considerable contribution in the development and renewal of modern Greek poetry.

March 3rd:

On this day in 1968, five foreign embassies, including the Greek embassy, as well as a U.S. Army officers club were subjected to bomb attacks in London, The Hague, and Turin during an unprecedented rash of violations of diplomatic sanctity in the brief time frame of a few hours. In The Hague, bombs exploded in the Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish embassies and Police raced to the U.S. embassy after an anonymous telephone caller warned it would be bombed as well. No casualties were reported among the staff of the three embassies, but six firemen and four policemen were taken to the hospital with injuries after the first two explosions. Police said the blasts at the Greek and Spanish embassies caused considerable damage. The Hague Police believed the bombing of the embassies were acts of protest against the governments of the countries involved.

Coincidentally, also on this day in 1945 (during World War II), the Royal Air Force mistakenly targeted and bombed the Bezuidenhout neighborhood in the Dutch city of The Hague. At the time, the neighborhood was more densely populated than usual with evacuees from The Hague and Wassenaar. Tens of thousands were left homeless and had to be quartered in the Eastern and Central Netherlands. The British bomber crews had intended to bomb the Haagse Bos (Forest of the Hague) district where the Germans had installed V-2 launching facilities that had been used to attack English cities. However, the pilots were issued with the wrong coordinates so the navigational instruments of the bombers had been set incorrectly, and combined with fog and clouds which obscured their vision, the bombs were instead dropped on the residential neighborhood.

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