Dr Grigoris Lambrakis
In April 1963, Grigoris Lambrakis laid a wreath at the feet of Lord Byron, whose statue is to be found near Hyde Park Corner in London. He had walked about 80 kilometres, all the way from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, carrying his banner marked “ELLAS” (Greece), as part of CND’s annual Easter March.
A few weeks later, on 27 May, Lambrakis was murdered in public, in Thessaloniki, in the north of Greece. These dramatic events were captured in Costa-Gavras’s acclaimed film “Z”, which takes its title from the first letter of the Greek word Zi, meaning “he lives”. “Z” appeared in graffiti all over Athens.
Dr Lambrakis’s public stand for peace and against oppression continues to resonate in Greece and beyond. He inaugurated the first Marathon March for Peace, carrying the same ELLAS banner he had raised in England. In Greece, he marched alone initially, it seems, defying an official ban on the event. Later, thousands joined him, defying the ban.
Bertrand Russell wrote in his Autobiography:
‘In 1963, my interest in the resistance fighters in Greece came to a head. They had opposed the Nazis there but were still languishing in prison because most of them had been “Communists”. A number of their representatives came to see me, among them the Greek MPs who visited England in April and May. A “Bertrand Russell Committee of 100” had been formed in Greece and they held a march, or tried to hold one, towards the end of April to which I sent a representative. Then came the murder of the MP Lambrakis at Salonika, with, it was fairly clear, the connivance of the Authorities. This deeply shocked me, in common with other liberal-minded people. Again, at request, I sent my representative to the funeral of Lambrakis in Athens … ’
That funeral was a huge, international event, attended and watched by millions. Lambrakis’s name became familiar to many people around the world who were concerned about the nuclear arms race, which had so nearly wrought disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis a few months earlier.
Panos Trigazis has written a new book about Lambrakis, which we hope to publish in English at a later date. Panos is a good friend to the Russell Foundation who, over the years, has become one of its most active contributors. He was with us in the days of European Nuclear Disarmament, during the 1980s, and he is with us still. In his hands, ‘the Glorious Art of Peace’ continues to flourish, as do the links between peace movements in Greece and Britain.
Dr Lambrakis provided the most powerful impetus for those relations by the example he gave before his untimely death.