They can’t beat the muses

We usually take our way of life for granted: our faith, our freedom, our personal rights and security. But sometimes, as a famous Greek song goes, while you are sleeping others are writing history. We may find ourselves, suddenly, unprepared in a completely new world.

The people of Athens woke up on the 21st of April 1967  ready for another day of work. Children were getting ready for school. Instead of everyone going about their business, however, they were shocked to find themselves being threatened by tanks just outside their windows.

“The Seven Years” of the military junta dictatorship had begun that morning. “Long standing political freedoms and civil liberties, that had been taken for granted and enjoyed by the Greek people for decades, were instantly suppressed. Freedom of thought and freedom of press were immediately suspended. Military courts were established, and political parties were dissolved.” (Wikipedia)  Political opponents were arrested, tortured and exiled. A psychology of fear prevailed among the people. Informers were all around.

The atmosphere of fear leaked to the children, who did not understand the reasons for this sudden need for caution. A woman recalls: “I remember fear, a big ‘hush, that they will not hear us….’, whispering conversation over air that you could cut with a knife, every time we the children approached nearby, lest our ears catch something and naively spread it around here and there… [I remember] the young people nearby who one day disappeared, they were arrested just for muttering. I heard that they were in jail but my child’s mind did not understand why, as they were not thieves or murderers…”

Another then child tells: “I remember my uncle who was terrified that I found a photo of George Panandreou in the library, ‘don’t tell anyone,’ he said in terror. And I could not figure out why.”

“I remember that military man who was furious with an ill-fated elderly villager who had the audacity to cough while the former spoke for the grounds of that ‘save the nation’ revolution. You see… the junta regime used the bait of cinema to gather the people, and before the screening started, a member of the ‘circus’ would brainwash the audience….”

The popular composer Mikis Theodorakis was an anti-junta activist. He went underground and founded the “Patriotic Front”. Consequently, the junta published the following command:


Throughout the boundaries of the country,

Any transmission or interpretation of songs whatsoever by the communist MIKIS THEODORAKIS, ex-leader
of the disbanded “Lambrakis’ Democratic Youth” communist organization; among other things, these songs constitute a liaison among communists…(etc)

Theodorakis was jailed, than banished to Zatouna and then exiled to Paris. All this time he composed music. The premiere of the song cycle “The Popular Songs” with words by the poet Manos Elefteriou took place in Rome in 1970. The songs were not played in Greece before 1974, the year of the dictatorship’s collapse. Here are two songs from the cycle; the first is “In this Neighborhood”:


(Press to YouTube bottom for English Subtitles)


And a beautiful love song-“The train leaves at eight”, about a lost love to a soldier who leaves to his duty at Katerini.




S’afti tin getonia-In this neighborhood- Σ’ αυτή τη γειτονιά

Lyrics: Manos Elefteriou

Music: Mikis Theodorakis

Vocal: Doros Dimosthenous

To treno fevgei stis okto-The train leaves at eight-Το τρένο φεύγει στις οχτώ

Lyrics: Manos Elefteriou

Music: Mikis Theodorakis

Vocal: Anna Linardou


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