Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners in the Greek Civil War

By Polymeris Voglis | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Transforming Prison

It is Christmas day. Our committee went to the commander and gained permis-
sion to go to the village. The night before our choir went to the village and sang
Christmas carols. The next day the whole battalion (one might have thought that
it was a demonstration) we organized a dance in the square of the village. It was
real pandemonium. Civilians, women, girls, children, and soldiers were hugging
and dancing. They were shouting to each other, “Dance, brothers,” and were
starting to dance once more. Around five o’clock in the afternoon when we
returned to the camp, their schemes against us unraveled. They started beating
our fellow soldiers and dragging them to the dungeons. At that moment our
anger became unrestrained; some of us dashed and released our fellow soldiers.1

What happened at the Agios Nikolaos camp on Crete on Christmas 1946 was not unique. A holiday feast organized by detained soldiers became an occasion for acting out of otherwise hidden and repressed sentiments and needs, for allusion and remembrance, for the reassessment of the boundaries between political prisoners and the free community. Dances, songs, music, an extra portion of food; the remembrance of past Christmases with friends and family, but also the joy and the excitement of participating in a demonstration; meeting free citizens and reminding each other of the very fine line dividing the inside from the outside of the prison: this confluence of circumstances transformed the prison world and probed its limits.

The committee, the feast, and the conflict with the administration are typical concomitants. Though the prison or the camp may seem a realm of total heteronomy, actually, given the restrictions of the institution as such and its interrelation to the sociopolitical situation, it is a field of continuous conflict and negotiation between the prisoners and the administration. I will to explore this field in the third part of the book. More specifically, I will discuss the informal organization of everyday life by the prisoners, the various forms of conflict between the political prisoners and the administration, and finally, the Communist Party mechanism inside prisons.

Notes for this section begin on page 179.

-163-

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