Magazine article The American Conservative

Red Christmas

Magazine article The American Conservative

Red Christmas

Article excerpt

Although on the wrong side of 70, 1 still get excited about Christmas. It used to mean family holidays, trips, and getting out of boarding school. Now it still means good things, like parties and getting together with my children. And there's always church and time to give thanks for all the goodies in life. Never mind what some catamites say about God and religion, it's still the best deal ever.

I've had some pretty good Christmases, but I want to tell you about the bleakest one ever, 1944 in Athens, Greece. That summer, German occupying forces had withdrawn northwards and communist and nationalist guerrillas had amassed in the capital. This made for an explosive situation.

During World War II, a Greek government in exile had been formed in the Middle East by the Allies. It was headed by the recently resigned premier's grandfather and namesake, George Papandreou. My own father had taken him to Marathon Bay, north of Athens, where a British submarine was waiting to deliver him to Cairo. When Dad arrived, Papandreou was with a couple. "I cannot travel without them," the old lecher muttered. (The man was a professor, and his wife was the lecher's mistress.) "In that case, you're not traveling," said Dad, and Papandreou dropped it, or rather them, and went along sheepishly.

A year later, with the Papandreou government back in Atiiens and elections about to take place, the communist guerillas had agreed to join the government, no doubt hoping to subvert it from within. The British commander, General Scobie, ordered the dissolution of the guerilla forces. They refused, left the government, and violence broke out in Athens. Most of Greece was under communist control. The only part of Athens still held by a small nationalist force, a brigade of British paratroopers, and the police was Kolonaki, a ritzy residential quarter near the British Embassy, and where the Taki house stood.

Two days before Christmas, my father's textile factories had been burned to the ground by the commies, even diough tiiey had been shut down the moment Greece capitulated to the Germans back in 1941. The reason was simple. Dad was a capitalist, hence an enemy of the "people." He was upset but much too busy organizing the defense of our house to dwell on it. In 1943 he had acquired an anti-tank gun, a machine gun, and plenty of ammo from an Italian officer for the price of a suit. …

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