Thursday, 17 November 2011

Athens Polytechnic uprising 1973: In memoriam

It is November, 17 1974, the first anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The Junta which held sway in Greece since 1967 had fallen already in July. It is evening, there is a chill in the air, I am ten years old. In front of the Polytechnic there is a dark throng of people. There are no banners, no chants. There is a raw silence. In the middle of the dark people there is a light source. I hold on to my mother’s hand as she presses through the crowd. I smell the people’s breaths and their clothes as the people part slightly to let us through. I see then what the light source is. The mangled remnants of the gate the tank crashed that eventful night are illuminated by a single floodlight and the bodies of the people are standing solemnly before them. Some kneel down and press red carnations between the gate’s distorted iron rods. My mother kneels too. With a rough voice an elderly man starts singing “You Have Fallen Victims, Our Brothers”, an old World War Two Resistance song – a requiem to war victims to the tune of Shostakovich’s 11th symphony (3rd movement). A few join in – the song is not yet widely known – and mother sings too. People stand upright with their palms folded before them as if in church. I stand there too, proud under the floodlight and I am suddenly grown-up.

37 years later in the evening of my mother’s death I am searching for memories of her. There is nothing. I remember nothing. After forty-four days it comes to me: the time when my mother and I were grown-ups, equal in remembrance, united – so rarely united before and after that – before a mangled gate.

In memoriam

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