Little known history of the communist guerrillas of Crete during Greece’s Civil War is revealed in Guerrillas of Crete, by Colin Janes. Read our review!
Crete history revealed
A little know and often forgotten history lurks in the hills of Crete. During Greece’s Civil War, communist guerrillas pursued their mission and hid – for decades, long after the war.
Guerrillas of Crete is Colin Janes’ 2nd book on the subject. Let’s meet the author and learn more about this fascinating book.
Meet Colin Janes
Brit author Colin Janes has always been captivated by Greece. As a boy, he learned Ancient Greek and later Modern Greek. He earned a degree in Classics, with emphasis on Ancient Greek, Latin, and Ancient History.
He visited Greece in the summers of 1968, 1970, and 1971. In 1973, he began leading walking tours for a British tour company. By 1980, he lived and worked in Crete full time. He recalled falling in love with the island.
“I immediately liked Crete, its mountains and people, and spent many happy years there, mostly on the western side of the island.”
He retired from leading walking tours in 2003.
A chance encounter
One night in 1995, Colin was flipping the channels on the TV. He stumbled upon an interview an elderly gentleman – legendary Cretan guerrilla George Tzobanakis.
“He spoke about their time in hiding. He and Spiro Blazakis hid for decades after the Civil War, until they finally received amnesty in 1975.”
The two former guerrillas wrote a book about their time in hiding, published in 1976. It was out of print, but Colin found it in the Canea library. He was so intrigued by the story — which is virtually unknown outside of Crete — he went to visit George Tzobanakis in his village, to learn more.
“The newspapers in the library were my main source of information and provided many details not mentioned in books. Even Tzobanakis’ and Blazakis’ autobiography didn’t attempt to tell the complete story of the Civil War in Crete.”
Colin was compelled to tell the story, not just because it’s not well-known, but because it affected so many families, and therefore should not be forgotten.
“The war effectively ended in 1948 and the communists who remained in the mountains were gradually reduced in number as they were captured or killed, or in a few cases, surrendered.”
He noted that there were also female guerrillas.
“In fact, in 1962, 2 of the women communists, along with 4 of the men, fled from Athens to Tashkent. Tzobanakis and Blazakis remained in hiding alone. That’s when they became known as the ‘Eagles of Crete’ It’s amazing that they could survive so long in hiding.”
Giorgos Tzobanakis died in November 1996, and Spiro Blazakis just 5 weeks later.
Telling the story
Colin’s 1st book, The Eagles of Crete, published in 2013, chronicles the history of the civil war in Crete in great detail. Eagles ended in 1975, when the 2 men received amnesty, and finally came out of hiding. But there’s more to the story, and Colin was compelled to tell it. His latest book, The Guerrillas of Crete, includes details not in Eagles.
“In The Guerrillas of Crete, I include a lot of details that were not in the first book and include an account of the escape to Tashkent of six of the communist in 1962 and the disappointment they experienced there.”
Several journalists aided in meeting the players.
“The British Journalist, David Tonge, who worked for the BBC and the Guardian for 8 years in Greece, publicized the story of the two communists in Crete in 1975. I was pleased to meet him a couple of years ago. Interestingly, the contact with the two communists was arranged by Yannis Theodorakis, the journalist and brother of Mikis, and Christos Papoutsakis, the publisher of Anti magazine. Tonge was accompanied to his meeting with the two men by the journalist Teta Papadopoulou.”
Review of The Guerrillas of Crete
The Guerrillas of Crete tells more about the other guerrillas – and there were 8 still at-large by 1962 — and also follows Giorgos Tzobanakis and Spiros Blazakis from hiding, to their final years. The book brings to light the fascinating and little-known history, that shouldn’t be left behind. Colin Janes chronicles their stories with respect, and without accusation of right or wrong. It’s incredible to learn how these people, so dedicated to their cause, continued to risk their lives for “the party” and gave up everything to do what they felt was right. We see a story of courage, of neighbor helping neighbor — regardless of ideology or political affiliation. History buffs will especially appreciate the information compiled here. Books of this nature are critical to marking history, so the stories — and the lessons — are not lost. Pick up a copy.
The Guerillas of Crete is available at Amazon
By: Colin Janes
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 12, 2017)