Brexit and Greece
My birth-name is Ανδρέας Broulidakis. At age ten, June 1971, I was sent from my home in Johannesburg, flying alone from Jan Smuts airport on a Boeing 707 to Athens to visit my Patrithia. Fluent in Greek I was sent for 6 weeks on a tour of Greece arranged by my father and facilitated by my uncle Elias, at the time a General in the Greek Airforce. (So my tour included visits to key NATO bases and watching live drills of American made missiles taking down aircraft. I also watched Phantom Jets in action.)
My father, Manoussos Broulidakis was a volunteer in WW2. Wearing a British Infantry Captains uniform, the six foot tall, handsome blue eyed young man from Sfakia in Crete (pictured astride his first car in Cairo) gave all he had as a young man in his twenties in 1939 to fuck up Nazi’s who threatened freedoms he valued. For 6 years, 1939 to 1945, carrying an officers side arm all the way through Africa and Italy. A Browning 1910 9mm, which became my side arm in my own war years later.
During my 6 week trip as a 10 year old, I went to Crete, headed to Sfakia, to the village of my family name, Broulidakis. I located the family home, occupied by two old women dressed in black who kissed my feet, concerned I would throw them out and reclaim my home. But I was not there for that. (You can read about it though in my book The Emergency Bouzouki Player.) I was there for a crash course in Greek history, including events in 1941. I followed the path taken by the defeated, routed allied troops, some 20,000 Brits, Kiwis and Aussies. Pursued by angry murderous Nazis with the best killing tools available to any army up until that time, intent on their aggressive capture. The British evacuation strategy was to head south, aiming to scale the mountainous terrain between them and the harbor of Sfakia, where British ships small enough to enter the fishing boat harbor could evacuate them. Their retreat could not have succeed but for the resistance fighters, some with the same name as myself, who harried the Germans, in many cases, paying with their lives. Their successes against the Germans are widely recorded. The surviving Allied troops escaped and never forgot their debt to the Greeks. The Cretans who, like me, placed dishonor below death. Honor and doing the right thing is everything. Every year after the war, survivors traveled to Chania, to the location of the German air drop in 1941, where they commemorate their escape. Last I heard, there are none left to carry on this tradition.
The German officer who led that Paratroop occupation of Crete became the Commander on the island, where atrocities against Greeks occurred. He was captured after the War, and in 1946, on the exact hour of the exact day the paratroopers started jumping out of their Junkers planes, he faced a firing squad in Athens. His body was taken to Crete and buried there, in a grave which the resistance fighter, known as ‘The Cretan runner’, George Psychoundakis, spent some years of his later life tending. The reasoning for which will require that you read his book. It is an incredible story. And one I learned as a tremendous example of the unique relationship between Britain and Greece. In the parable between George Psychoundakis and Patrick Lee Fermor.
I am going to bet that no one who voted Brexit has a blind jot of an idea of the nature of deep historical bond that exists between Brits and Greeks. (Not even Lord Byron’s Greek story.) Having read probably every book on the subject and written loads of stories from that time, I was pleased to see the BBC run a story today.
And so I include it here as a BBC take on a story I first experienced in 1971, walking the route the Allied soldiers took to Sfakia, and ending up at my family home. Symbolically, I have been both a Greek and a British citizen, with a passionate interest in the best for the people and culture of both. I feel I learned a great deal about both in my 1971 visit and my conversation with the original collector of the bits left behind by the participants of that war, in his museum in Askifou, Skafia, which was basically his house. This was the first Cretan kid to go around picking up bits of things, from his home above Sfakia. Like pieces of shot down planes, British and German guns and ammunition. And so on; the paraphernalia of the battlefield.
I spent many hours with this remarkable man, listening to his recall of memories from that time. Clearly Cretans laid down their lives to delay the Germans long enough for the allies to evacuate the Island, after which they faced terrible repercussions from very nasty Germans. (Over 8,000). My guide, the first museum man, whose name sadly I forget, was a young man when the Nazis came, and started his collection even while they were still in occupation. I see in the BBC story, that he has since passed, but the memories of his collection and his words live on for me. I am so pleased to see his story told to a wider audience, by the BBC, by a new generation who preserve the artifact reminders of that war that shaped Europe – and the bonds between European nations. I see my guides son still runs the museum (detailed below). Which I can only suggest as an extremely strong recommend.
In the cluster of house near the harbor in the picture below is the house where my grandfather, Ανδρέας Brouldakis, son of Manoussos Broulidakis, son of Ανδρέας Broulidakis, son of Manoussos Broulidakis, whose father was Ανδρέας Broulidakis, himself the son of Manoussos Broulidakis. I don’t know much about the 9th generation, backwards, but all since were ships captains. And all fought ideological oppression all of their lives. Literally. So whilst I am not a ships captain, I am genetically predisposed towards fighting oppressive right wing beliefs. Its not my fault. Its my DNA.
The Cretan Resistance caused significant damage to German morale and is likely the reason why Hitler failed to invade the Soviet Union.
By Jessica Bateman 15 August 2018