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Columnists

This Week in History: May 6th to 12th

MAY 6TH:

On this day in 1954, Theodora (Dora) Bakoyannis, the Greek politician, was born in Athens. Daughter of the late Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Bakoyannis was educated at the German School of Paris. After studying Political Science and Communication at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, she continued her studies in Political Science and Public Law at the University of Athens. She speaks fluent English, French, and German. A member of the Greek Parliament, she is the Coordinator responsible for Economy and Development for the New Democracy party, and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (EPP/CD group). She has been consecutively elected as a member of the Greek Parliament since 1989. From 1990 to 1992 she served as Under-Secretary of State and from 1992 to 1993 as Minister for Culture. She was the first female Mayor of Athens (2002-2006) and the first female Greek Foreign Minister (2006-2009). Moreover, she was the President of the United Nations Security Council (2006) and the Chairperson of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2009).

MAY 10TH:

On this day in 1905, Markos Vamvakaris, the Greek rebetiko musician and songwriter, was born on the island of Syros. The first of six children, Markos and his family belonged to the sizable Roman Catholic community of the island. At the age of 12, under the false impression that he was wanted by the police, Markos fled Syros for the port of Piraeus. He worked as a stevedore, a pit-coal miner, a shoe-polisher, a paperboy, a butcher, and other odd jobs. It is said that one day he heard a bouzouki player and vowed that if he did not learn to play the instrument in six months, he would chop off his own hand with a cleaver (he was working in the public slaughterhouses at the time). He learned bouzouki, becoming an innovative virtuoso player, and began to write songs of his own. At first he often played in clandestine hashish-smoking establishments known as tekés; later he and his bands played in more legitimate clubs and taverns. They were extremely popular, and Markos made many recordings. Today, he is universally referred to by rebetiko writers and fans simply by his first name: Markos. The great significance of Vamvakaris for the rebetiko is reflected by his nickname: the “patriarch of the rebetiko.”

MAY 11TH:

On this day in 1771, Laskarina Bouboulina, the Greek naval commander and heroine of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, was born in a prison in Constantinople and was immediately part of a revolutionary family. After her father died, Bouboulina and her mother moved to the Greek island of Hydra and then on to Spetses. She was married and widowed twice and was left considerable fortunes by her sea-faring husbands. Through wise investments she increased her worth and bought several ships, including the Agamemnon, the largest Greek warship in the 1821 revolution against the Turks. Bouboulina became a member of the underground organization, Filiki Etairia (the Society of Friends) organizing and preparing the Greeks for the revolution against the Turks, the only woman in this organization. On March 13, 1821, twelve days before the official beginning of the War of Independence, Bouboulina raised the first revolutionary flag on the island of Spetses. Bouboulina was killed on May 22, 1825 by a bullet wound to her head – presumably fired by the angry father of her daughter-in-law (who had eloped with her son). She became a national hero as one of the first women to play a major role in a revolution. Without her and her ships the Greeks might not have gained their independence.

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