Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Evagoras Pallikarides: hero and poet

Θα πάρω μιάν ανηφοριά
θα πάρω μονοπάτια

να βρω τα σκαλοπάτια

που παν στη Λευτεριά

(Ευαγόρας Παλληκαρίδης)

Evagoras Pallikarides was born in the Cypriot village of Tsada in the Paphos district on 27 February 1938 and was executed by the British colonial authorities on 14 March 1957, aged 19.

An intense, brilliant student who filled dozens of exercise books with poems, prose and letters, Pallikarides became involved aged 15 with the struggle to drive the British out of Cyprus and unite the island with Greece.

In June 1953, the colonial regime to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth arranged celebrations across Cyprus and ordered the Union flag to be raised over all schools. There were boycotts of the coronation events and demonstrations throughout the island and at his school, the Hellenic Gymnasium, in Paphos Pallikarides climbed the flagstaff, pulled down the British flag and tore it to shreds.

Two years later, and still a school student, Pallikarides joined the national liberation movement EOKA, and took part in pro-Enosis protests, at one of which he was arrested for assaulting two British soldiers trying to break up the rally.

A day before his trial, and having decided to join the EOKA fighters in the mountains, Pallikarides broke into his school and left the following message and poem for his fellow students to read the following morning:

‘Old classmates. At this time, someone is missing from among you, someone who has left in search of freedom’s air, someone who you might not see alive again. Don’t cry at his graveside. It won’t do for you to cry. A few spring flowers scatter on his grave. This is enough for him…

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I'll leave brothers, sisters
My mother, my father
In the valleys beyond
And the mountainsides

Searching for freedom
I'll have as company
The white snow
Mountains and torrents

Even if it's winter now
The summer will come
Bringing Freedom
To cities and villages

I’ll take an uphill road
I’ll take the paths
To find the stairs
That lead to freedom

I'll climb the stairs
I'll enter a palace
I know it will be an illusion
I know it won't be real

I'll wonder in the palace
Until I find the throne
Only a queen
Sitting on it

Beautiful daughter, I will say,
Open your wings
And take me in your embrace
That's all I ask…’

For the next year, Pallikarides took part in operations against the British in the Paphos district and had a bounty of £5,000 put on his head. On 19 December 1956, he was arrested carrying a gun – a capital offence.

At his trial, Pallikarides admitted possession of the Bren gun and declared: ‘I know you will hang me. Whatever I did, I did as a Cypriot Greek fighting for liberty. Nothing more.’

Despite protests and pleas from around the world, clemency was refused and the 19-year-old Pallikarides was sentenced to death. In his last letter to his family, Pallikarides wrote: ‘I will follow my fate with courage. This is my final letter. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t regret anything. So what if I lose it all? Death comes but once. I’ll happily find the way to my last resting place. We all have to die. It is a good thing to die for Greece. The time is 7:30, the most beautiful time on the most beautiful day of my life. Don’t ask why.’

Pallikarides was led to the gallows singing the Greek national anthem.

As mentioned, Pallikarides was a prolific schoolboy poet, and of the 500 poems he wrote many have been set to music.

I’ve made three of these available in Radio Akritas. They are from the CD Των Αθανάτων and are:

1. Των Αθανάτων (The Immortals). Music Dimitris Layios, sung by Giorgos Dalaras.
2. Ηρώων Γη (Land of Heroes). Music Dimitris Layios, sung by Giorgos Dalaras.
3. Ποτέ δεν θα πεθάνουμε (We will never die). Music Michalis Christodoulides, sung by Doros Demesthenous.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a greek-cypriot and have always admired Evagoras! He fought for Our noble country! If there is ever another war, fighting for our freedom, let us be as brave as him-even if that means dying! We should stand prround to be greek!
Θα πάρω μιάν ανηφοριά
θα πάρω μονοπάτια
να βρω τα σκαλοπάτια
που παν στη Λευτεριά
(Ευαγόρας Παλληκαρίδης)
Let us be free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Akritas said...

Well said, A.

The Antidalarus said...

There's something about Dalaras I just don't like. Perhaps it's because he comes across as a bit of a pompous patriot. I don't like unimaginative nationalism in any country, and Greeks are often guilty of it (probably a dangerous thing to say on this rather nationalist website). There's lots of Greek music I like (I'm English by the way), but Dalaras - no. Have I got him wrong? Is there an established tradition of anti-Dalarasismos among Greeks?

John Akritas said...

The quality of Dalaras' output is mixed. Stuff he's done in the last 20 years has tended not to be so good – a reflection of the bad turn Greek music has taken during this period – but earlier recordings, particularly with Kaldaras, Theodorakis, Stavros Xarharkos and Manos Loizos, are first rate. Don't really know or care about his politics, whether he's a nationalist, imaginative or otherwise, though the two albums he recorded regarding Cyprus in the early '90s amount to some of his best work.

If you don't know the good 1970s stuff, then you can check out some of it on youtube where there are excerpts from the film Ta tragoudia tis fotias, which features Dalaras.

The Antidalarus said...

Thanks John - I'll have a look.

Hermes said...

Can you define "unimaginative nationalism"? Also, why does Dalaras come across as a pompous patriot?

The Antidalarus said...

I see nationalism as what happens when pride in where you come from (which is often an appealing characteristic) crosses over the line into "we're better than you".
Greeks have lots of things to be proud of, but sometimes seem to spout received ideas which they haven't examined properly - something this website of course would like to put right. These sort of statements: "It is widely acknowledged that Greek cooking is the best in the world", or "Greek is the most complicated language in the world", or "Greek nightlife is generally thought to be the best in the world", and so on and so on. So by 'unimaginative' I suppose I mean 'unquestioned' or 'unexamined'.
You motice this sort of thing much more easily as a foreigner, though. How might a Greek feel to read an English newspaper like the Daily Mail going on about the wonderful Royal family, or describing England's countryside as the finest in the world, or hearing Delia Smith (the cook) assert that English meat is the best in the world? Doesn't it all sound a bit absurd to an outsider?
Nevertheless, when people are proud of genuine achievements, or other things which really are great - and not in a way which implies superiority - I think that's appealing. Strangely, I find that Greeks have this sort of 'appealing pride' about Greek music. In my view, Greece has a fantastic musical tradition - in fact a whole collection of traditions - and there doesn't seem to be much insecurity about it being influenced by other Balkan or Eastern musical traditions.
But, still, I just can't quite enjoy Dalaras. I might have him quite wrong. Maybe he isn't a pompous patriot at all. Perhaps he's a bit too self-congratulatory or something. Can't quite put my finger on it. It's just my view though - am I the only one? Does he polarise opinion, or is he just generally respected?

nick venedi said...

The British government should publicly apologise for this incident, they owe the people of Cyprus an apology.