On this day in 1925, Mikis Theodorakis, the renowned Greek composer, was born on the island of Chios. During his lengthy career, Theodorakis composed some of the most recognizable and iconic music in the world, including the film scores for Zorba the Greek and Z. His composition titled The Ballad of Mauthausen, based on the poems of Iakovos Kambanellis, has been described as “the most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust.” During the junta, Theodorakis’ music was banned and Theodorakis himself was jailed and sent to prison camps. He was eventually allowed to go into exile in France after an international solidarity movement demanded his release. The generations of Greeks who grew up with his songs continue to sing them regardless of political affiliation and in spite of the fact that Theodorakis has long been associated with the Greek Left. (As an aside, though he had ties to the Communist Party, he served as a government minister under conservative Constantine Mitsotakis in the early 1990’s). Today, Theodorakis is revered for his outstanding contributions to music and to society at large.
On this day in 1918, the three-day Toronto anti-Greek riot began. Sparked by frustrated Canadian World War I veterans who were angered and resentful about Greece’s neutrality during much of the War and with the number of Greeks in Canada with jobs, the riot caused $1.25 million worth of property damage, sent 25 people to jail, and injured over 160 people. Over 50,000 people participated in the riot in Toronto’s streets which started when a mob attacked the Greek-owned White City cafe in response to rumors that a Canadian veteran had been roughly treated there. The mob gained more and more members who began looting Greek businesses throughout the city of Toronto.
On this day in 1989, Olympic Airways Flight 330 from Thessaloniki to Samos crashed in the Kerketus mountain range in Samos, killing all 34 people (3 crew members and 31 passengers) who were on board. According to the Athens News Agency, the bodies of all the victims were found – they happened to be all Greek – but only 10 were identifiable. The plane hit the mountain slopes on its belly in densely foggy weather and splintered into pieces about 100 yards from the top of the ridge of the mountain range. The devastating crash occurred at the height of the holiday season, when thousands of Greeks from abroad go back to their native country to visit friends and family.
On this day in 1975, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and his family were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece while they were on vacation. Plant lost control of his rented car which spun off the road and crashed into a tree. He and his wife Maureen were severely injured, while thankfully, his children escaped with minor injuries. Plant had multiple fractures in his ankle and elbow which didn’t fully heal for another two years – causing him to spend time in a wheelchair. His wife suffered a fractured skull, leg, and pelvis. The accident was so serious that the hospital in Rhodes was inadequately equipped to treat their injuries. Thus, a member of Led Zeppelin’s record company chartered a fully loaded jet with stretchers, blood plasma, and two doctors from Harley Street Clinic in England which ultimately airlifted the family back to London. As a result of the accident, Led Zeppelin canceled their North American tour and delayed the band’s release of their next album by over a year.