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This Week in History: February 5th to 11th

February 5th:

On this day in 1991, a Lockheed C-130H Hercules 748 crashed into Mount Othrys, killing 63 people – five crew members and 58 other passengers. The accident was considered the worst of its kind in the history of the Hellenic Air Force. In Greek mythology, Mount Othrys was the base of Cronus and the other Titans during the ten-year war with the Olympian Gods known as the Titanomachy. It was also said to be the birthplace of the elder Olympian deities Estia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon.

February 8th:

On this day in 1980, Nikos Xilouris, the famous Greek singer and composer, passed away at the young age of 43 from a brain tumor. Xilouris was born in the village of Anogeia in Crete. He acquired his first lyra at the age of twelve and displayed great potential in performing local Cretan music. As the years went on, his songs and music were said to capture the Cretan psyche and demeanor, earning him the nickname of ‘Archangel of Crete’. He first performed outside of Greece in 1966 and won the first prize in the San Remo Folk Music Festival. The following year, he established the first Cretan Music Hall in the city of Heraklion on the island of Crete.

February 9th:

On this day in 1934, the Balkan Pact (AKA the Balkan Entente alliance) was formed between Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania. Signed in Athens, the Pact was an attempt to reduce the tension in the Balkans which had been evident for half a century. It intended to guarantee the signatories’ territorial integrity and political independence against attack by another Balkan state. In order to present a united front against Bulgarian designs on their territories, the signatories agreed to suspend all disputed territorial claims against each other and their immediate neighbors. Bulgaria refused to join, due to its claims over the Macedonia region, which had become part of Greece and Serbia. The agreement provided for a Permanent Council, composed of the members’ foreign ministers, that would coordinate legislation and foster economic cooperation. Despite the profession of unity, the Entente was too weak to provide any united resistance to German and Italian invasion during World War II.

February 10th:

On this day in 1975, Nikos Kavvadias, the Greek poet, writer and sailor, died in Athens at the age of 65. He was born in 1910 in Harbin, Manchuria – in the northern part of today’s People’s Republic of China. His parents were Greeks from Kefalonia and when he was very young, they returned to their homeland – first to Kefalonia and then to Piraeus. From his early years, he started to write and eventually became a significant poet in Greece. He published three collections of poetry as well as a novel, and a series of short stories. Kavvadias loved the sea and traveled throughout his whole life. He wrote about the life on board, the sailors, and the things he loved most. His poems are widely regarded as belonging to the symbolist school and he has been characterized by some as a poete maudit (a poet living a life outside or against society). Today there is a statute of Kavvadias located at the end of the beach of Argostoli in Kefalonia in a small square with a bench. The locals honored the artist and placed his statute next to the sea so that he could forever gaze lovingly at the boats that come and go.

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