Krisanthi’s War: In Hitler Greece

Ida Rae Egli

In 1940, when Mussolini’s swaggering army marches into Northern Greece and is instantly repelled by fierce Greek ground units, Hitler is furious. He must revenge the Axis army’s first defeat. He reroutes his seasoned 12th Army, adding advance air bombardment and tank support, and by April of 1941 German and Italian troops are drinking champagne at the Acropolis.

Anthi Skambilis, a young mother of two, watches German Wehrmacht divisions high-step through Athens’ Pláka district near her home, wondering if her husband Yorgoes is one of the thousands rumored to be dead, their bodies bloating on a muddy battlefield in the North. Whether or not Yorgoes lives, Anthi knows by the sound of the pavement—by pounding boots—that her life will never again be what it was.

Winter brings food shortages and starvation: 40,000 Athenians perish, their corpses stacked on neighborhood sidewalks. Malnourished, Anthi bears a stillborn daughter. Months earlier, passing through a checkpoint on her way to a tryst with her Army-underground husband, Anthi is confronted by a German lieutenant both attracted to her spunky beauty and repelled by her “fallen race.” When she outwits him, the lieutenant’s eyes promise he’ll hunt her down. Weeks after losing the baby Anthi runs into her pursuer at Pláka market. Running for her life away from him, she knows she must flee Athens immediately.

Taking along her widowed mother and children, Krisanthi Skambilis slips away from the grip of the German lieutenant, traveling by ferry to the island of Rhodes, to the village of Lindos, where two childhood friends, Maria Metallis and Kalliope Petaluthas, accept her under their protection. But the war that ravages Europe eventually takes aim at the strategic islands in the Dodecanese that link East with West, in particular the largest island, Rhodes. After Mussolini is ousted in Rome, German units wrestle command of the island from the easier-going Italians and the result is a reign of terror: starvation winters, confiscation of crops, and wanton murder and kidnapping. Women are raped or simply disappear. Polio breaks out. Anthi, Maria, and Kalliope live in fear and want, barely staving off disaster. They live out the remainder of the war, accepting day by day losses. Finally, in 1944, at a panegyric held in the mountains at Agios Soulos, prematurely celebrating the imminent liberation of Rhodes by the British, Anthi comes face to face with the fate she has tried for three years to outrun. What ensues is a trauma Anthi will bury deep in her memory for forty years. Krisanthi’s War: in Hitler’s Greece, based in large part on interviews with women and men who survived to tell about the war in Athens and on Rhodes, takes you deep into the lives of three determined Greek women, their men and families, challenging fate to save lives and Greece itself, who learn by way of pain and war the meaning of commitment to country, to family, and to love.

Greek women, 1933

Micra Poulakia: Little Birds, A Collection of Contemporary Greek Stories

Ida Rae Egli

The Age Old Story

A middle-aged Rhodian businessman, driving friends through the old Turkish quarters just off Rhodes’ harbor region, remembers an elderly Turkish couple who lived across the street when he was a child, and the rite of passage he experienced by way of realizing these people were not like the people of his family.

Agios Tsambikis

A not-so-young childless couple make a pilgrimage up the precarious, steep mountain trail to Agios Tsambikis, a monastery set high atop a rocky southern peak of Rhodes that overlooks a string of blonde sand beaches. Waiting in the car at the trailhead are the husband’s parents, old-timers now who remember well the legend of the monastery frequented by infertile women, praying the saint, Agios Tsambikis, will produce for them grandchildren, though they know well the path to that dream is a rocky one.

Another Sunday Dinner

Relatives visiting from the states pass the afternoon enjoying an old aunt and her unmarried daughter and a sumptuous feast the two village women have prepared. The chatter at the meal is about the past, about the war and the junta, about relatives whose ghosts seem to circle the table.

Hector and Andromache

A parody of the Hector and Andromache myth, set in turn-of-the-millennium Greece, this story unfolds in sweet dollops as five women of rich character share drinks in a plush hotel lobby and exchange lively banter with the piano player trying to take at least one of the women home with him. 

The House

In October of 1980, Zoe Hanziheratae begins a diary and what she thinks will be the chronicling of her journey toward an arranged marriage that will find her settled in the small villa her family has finally providing as dowry. The villa looks out over the rolling blue sea, and in the sea Zoe sees all the beauty that is before her. But as the years progress, her bright blue view begins to fade to gray.

Interview: Alexandros & Maro

In an interview not unlike those of Studs Turkel, the narrator asks naïve questions of a local man and woman in their eighties who experienced World War II in the village adjacent to the Nazi command camp near Gennadi, at the quiet end of the island of Rhodes. The answers she get, the stories, are not at all what she had expected.


In 1985 a couple who emigrated from Greece after the war return to Greece and reacquaint themselves with relatives they have not seen in thirty years. They meet a charming second cousin named Marissana whose husband is a philandering tour bus driver and as Marissana becomes more and more enamored with her tourist relatives, the more we learn about the harsh realities modern Greek women must confront.

Myths and Summer Seas

A love story between a local Greek boat captain and an unnerving, unhappy tourist who appears determined to raise the hackles of the proud, emphatic captain, this story examines the nuanced and obvious differences between the courtship practices of East and West, and throws up the question: is the woman attracted to the captain, to the captain’s mother, or to the starlit majesty of Greece herself?

The Odyssey

In what is clearly a reference to the well-known Greek myth, travelers making their way to and inside modern Turkey find that nearly all of the assumptions they have held about the country and the Turkish people reflect, more than anything else, their own undeniable ignorance.


Caught in the September 1999 earthquake in Athens, visiting academics find themselves trying and failing to safely get out of the city back and back to their coastal accommodations. With few options open to them, they find themselves in a position of peril, wondering if they will end their journey as a statistic.

The Sun Shone

A woman who has lived in Greece for some time and now finds she must leave wanders about the airport in Athens pushing a luggage cart, wishing she could change her fate, wondering when it was, why it was, she fell in love with this harsh, charismatic land. 

The Watermelon

An American couple, tourists in Lindos, on the south coast of Rhodes, argue about buying a watermelon, the husband maintaining that local vendors see them only as wallets, the wife seemingly naïve in her optimism. As they return to the airport in their rented car, over the spine of the island, they are trying to settle their dispute when fate intervenes and settles it for them.