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Columnists

This Week in History: October 29th to November 4th

OCTOBER 29TH:

On this day in 1969, Eleni Menegaki, the Greek TV presenter and actress, was born in Athens. Mostly known for her TV hosting duties on a number of shows including MEGA Banca, ‘Proinos Kafes’, ‘Kafes me tin Eleni’, Menegaki has grown to be extremely popular throughout Greece. In 2010, Forbes ranked her as the second-most powerful and influential celebrity in Greece and top-ranked female. Menegaki was married to television program manager Giannis Latsios from 2001 to 2010, with whom she had three children. In 2015, she welcomed a daughter with businessman Mateo Pantzopoulos.

OCTOBER 30TH:

On this day in 1930, Turkey and Greece signed a treaty of friendship – also known as the Treaty of Ankara. This treaty affirmed the boundaries between Turkey and Greece, settled the property claims of repatriated populations, and established naval parity in the eastern Mediterranean. The rapprochement was due particularly to the efforts of Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to normalize the historically problematic relations between the two countries. Both leaders recognized the need for peace resulted in more friendly relations – Venizelos even nominated Ataturk for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934. The Ankara Treaty also influenced Turkey’s accession to the League of Nations (1932) and the establishment of the Balkan Pact (1934), in which Greece and Turkey joined Yugoslavia and Romania in a treaty of mutual assistance. Turkish-Greek relations continued without any major conflict until the Cyprus Crisis in 1954. In 1964, Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonu renounced the 1930 Treaty and took actions against the Greek minority of Turkey.

NOVEMBER 2ND:

On this day in 1911, Odysseas Elytis (ne Odysseus Alepoudelis), the Greek poet, was born in Heraklion on the island of Crete. Elytis was the son of a prosperous family from Lesbos, but he abandoned his family name as a young man in order to dissociate his writing from his family’s soap business. Frank J. Prial of the New York Times explained that the poet’s pseudonymous name was actually “a composite made up of elements of ‘Ellas’, the Greek word for Greece; ‘elpida’, the word for hope; ‘eleftheria’, the word for freedom, and ‘Eleni’, the name of a figure that, in Greek mythology, personifies beauty and sensuality.” Elytis first became interested in poetry around the age of seventeen. At the same time he discovered surrealism, a school of thought just emerging in France. He began publishing verse in the 1930s – notably in Nea Grammata. This magazine was a prime vehicle for the Generation of the 30s, an influential social circle that included George Seferis, who in 1963 became Greece’s first Nobel Laureate, winning for for literature.

When Nazi Germany occupied Greece in 1941, Elytis fought against the Italians in Albania. He became something of a bard among young Greeks – who considered his poems anthems to the cause of freedom. During and after the Greek Civil War, he lapsed into literary silence for almost 15 years – returning to print in 1959 with a long poem in which the speaker explores the essence of his being as well as the identity of his country and people. This poem, set to music by Mikis Theodorakis, became immensely popular and helped Elytis win the Nobel prize in 1979.

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