How the daughter of Nicholas Gatzogiannis, the author of the famous book on Civil War, faced the ghosts of the past and overcame the family heritage of the horror of the executions.
This burden her name carries is both a blessing and a curse, but fortunately enough, “Eleni N. Gage” is a guarantee.
Particularly when she praises our country, for example, writing “Condé Nast Traveler” to the world’s leading travel journal, “I want to hear Greek, to taste juicy tomatoes and to drift in conversations I have been doing since I was very young and we lived in Athens. Every year, friends who are looking for a “truly unique experience” ask me what’s the most “fresh”, the most wonderful Greek island.”
In this case, in “Condé Nast Traveler”, Eleni speaks about Milos, but in any case her style and tone are not far from the hymns she writes every time about Greece.
Eleni Gatzogianni was born in America where she grew up, while she studied Mythology and Folk Culture. And while she had initially developed a spontaneous aversion to anything that had to do with her grandmother’s martyrdom, she eventually wrote her own “Helen” looking for a way to talk with her, albeit completely different from the way Nicholas Gage chose.
(Nicholas Gatzogiannis’ book has been an international best-seller, translated into 32 languages)
Eleni N. Gage writes:
“My grandmother, having left alone in her village, Lia, was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and executed because she organized the escape of her children. Communist guerrillas had occupied my grandparents’ house and made it their headquarters because it was the largest in the village. But the guerrillas wanted to punish my grandmother because her husband was working in the USA. That is why she and her family were convicted. With her four children fleeing to a refugee camp and the fifth, the then 15-year-old Lilia, to cook wheat for the rebels in a distant village, my grandmother spent the last few weeks of her life without her family but at her home. The soldiers sent local women and younger girls to do hard work, gave military training to girls, and eventually began to take children from their parents. They sent them outside of Greece, behind the Iron Curtain. The guerrillas were losing the war, but they had the hope that by taking children and installing them elsewhere, and if they infused their own principles and given them military training, they could have reached a greater victory. My grandmother, having learned about this mass kidnapping of children project, tried to organize her children’s escape to the USA. Her husband had migrated there before the start of WWII.”
In this way she explains why the name “Eleni Gatzogianni” was by definition an almost unbearable heritage and an unavoidable task: that name had to do something, urgently – and indeed this is how she felt after a point in her life. Something that must certainly contain Greece and the traumatic history of a whole nation, the tragedy of the Civil War, the pain through which her family identity has been built since 1948, when that first Eleni Gatzogianni was executed by the communists.
Young Eleni Gatzogianni first started as a writer in glamorous women’s magazines writing for fashion, beauty, and so on, before turning to writing and travel literature. At the same time, she started a family with a Nicaraguan coffee merchant and has two “Greekaraguan” – as she describes her young children. She travels all over the world and definitely once a year in Greece. With the exception of two quite long periods when he moved to our country, Nicholas Gatzogiannis’ daughter lives permanently in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Eleni N. Gage, as she is known, has in recent years voluntarily assumed the duties of an informal ambassador of Greece. She tells in every occasion and all over the world the beauty of our country, her distant homeland, her own and her ancestors’, with great enthusiasm: “If I had signed a premarital agreement, it would contain the condition that every year my husband, Emilio, should accompany me to Greece”, was the phrase by which Eleni Gage chose to start her tribute to Milos in “Condé Nast Traveler”.
(On vacations with her husband and her father)