Alexandros (Alekos) Panagoulis
Alexandros Panagoulis (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Παναγούλης) (2 July 1939 – 1 May 1976) was a Greek politician and poet. He took an active role in the fight against the Regime of the Colonels (1967–1974) in Greece. He became famous for his attempt to assassinate dictator Georgios Papadopoulos on 13 August 1968, but also for the torture that he was subjected to during his detention. After the restoration of democracy he was elected to the Greek parliament as a member of the Center Union (E. K.).
Alexandros Panagoulis was born in the Glyfada neighbourhood of Athens. He was the second son of Vassilios Panagoulis, an officer in the Greek Army, and his wife Athena, and the brother of Georgios Panagoulis, also a Greek Army officer and victim of the Colonels’ regime, and Efstathios, who became a politician. His father was from Divri (Lampeia) in Elis (Western Peloponnese) while his mother was from the Ionian island of Lefkada. Panagoulis spent part of his childhood during the Axis Occupation of Greece in the Second World War on this island.
He studied at the National Technical University of Athens (Metsovion Polytechnic) in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.
From his teenage years, Alexandros Panagoulis was inspired by democratic values. He joined the youth organisation of the Center Union party (E.K.), known as O.N.E.K., under the leadership of Georgios Papandreou. The organisation later became known as Hellenic Democratic Youth (E.DI.N.). After the fall of the Colonels' regime and the restoration of parliamentary rule, Panagoulis became the Secretary-General of E.DI.N., on 3 September 1974.
Alexandros Panagoulis participated actively in the fight against the Regime of the Colonels. He deserted from the Greek military because of his democratic convictions and founded the organization National Resistance. He went into self-exile in Cyprus in order to develop a plan of action. He returned to Greece where, with the help of his collaborators, he organized the 13 August 1968 assassination attempt against Papadopoulos, close to Varkiza. The attempt failed and Panagoulis was arrested.
In an interview held after his liberation, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci quoted Panagoulis as saying: I didn’t want to kill a man. I’m not capable of killing a man. I wanted to kill a tyrant.
Panagoulis was put on trial by the Military Court on 3 November 1968, condemned to death with other members of National Resistance on 17 November 1968, and subsequently transported to the island of Aegina for the sentence to be carried out. As a result of political pressure from the international community, the junta refrained from executing him and instead incarcerated him at the Bogiati Military Prisons on 25 November 1968.
Alexandros Panagoulis refused to cooperate with the junta, and was subjected to physical and psychological torture. He escaped from prison on 5 June 1969. He was soon re-arrested and sent temporarily to the camp of Goudi. He was eventually placed in solitary confinement at Bogiati, from which he unsuccessfully attempted to escape on several occasions.
He reportedly refused amnesty offers from the junta. In August 1973, after four and a half years in jail, he benefited from a general amnesty that the military regime granted to all political prisoners during a failed attempt by Papadopoulos to liberalize his regime. Panagoulis went into self-exile in Florence, Italy, in order to continue the resistance. There he was hosted by Oriana Fallaci, his companion who was to become his biographer.
After the restoration of democracy, Alexandros Panagoulis was elected as Member of Parliament for the Center Union - New Forces party in the November 1974 elections. He made a series of allegations against mainstream politicians who he said had openly or secretly collaborated with the junta. He eventually resigned from his party, after disputes with the leadership, but remained in the parliament as an independent deputy. He stood by his allegations, which he made openly against the then Minister of National Defence, Evangelos Averoff, and others. He reportedly received political pressure and threats against his life in order to persuade him to tone down his allegations.
Panagoulis was killed on 1 May 1976 at the age of 36 in a car accident on Vouliagmenis Avenue in Athens. More precisely, a frantically speeding car with a Corinthian named Stefas behind the wheel diverted Panagoulis' car and forced it to crash.
The crash killed Panagoulis almost instantaneously. This happened only two days before files of the junta's military police (the "E.A.T.-E.S.A. file") that he was in possession of were to be made public. The files, which never materialized, reportedly included evidence of his allegations of collaboration. There was much speculation in the Greek press that the car accident was staged to silence Panagoulis and to cover up the documents in question.
Alexandros Panagoulis was brutally tortured during his incarceration by the junta. Many believe that he maintained his faculties thanks to his will, determination to defend his beliefs, as well as his keen sense of humour. While imprisoned at Bogiati, Panagoulis is said to have written his poetry on the walls of his cell or on small papers, often using his own blood as ink (as told in the poem 'The Paint'). Many of his poems have not survived. However, he managed to smuggle some to friends while in prison, or to recall and rewrite them later. While in prison his first collection in Italian titled Altri seguiranno: poesie e documenti dal carcere di Boyati (Others will Follow: Poetry and Documents of the Prison of Boyati) was published in Palermo in 1972 with an introduction of the Italian politician Ferruccio Parri and the Italian film director and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini. For this collection Panagoulis was awarded the Viareggio International Prize of Poetry (Premio Viareggio Internazionale) the following year. After his liberation he published his second collection in Milan under the title Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia (I write you from a prison in Greece) with an introduction by Pasolini. He had previously published several collections in Greek, including The Paint (Bogia).
The teardrops which you will see
flowing from our eyes
you should never believe
signs of despair.
They are only promise
promise for Fight.
(Military Prisons of Bogiati, February 1972)
(Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia, 1974)
Nikos Deja Vu