The legendary Melina Mercouri who shocked the world

Translated by Elisavet Kechagia

Based on the original article in Greek by Βάσω Γιαγλή

Melina Mercouri is among the greatest women in the world, a woman that we ought to follow as a role model and admire her for her work. It is fascinating how a person manages to stay “alive” even after their death and continues to have worldwide radiance. Born on the 18th of October in 1920, Maria Amalia Mercouri was an actress and later a politician by profession, a huge career for the time. I will not linger here however, for upon hearing her name other things come to mind, such as Greek culture, being Greek.

Being Minister of Culture since 1981, she arduously fought for the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles by the British museum until the end of her life in March 1994. Her fight against the military junta was what resulted into their revoking her Greek citizenship. Interviews, concerts and a hunger strike on her behalf were considered to be a threat by the dictators, leading to an unsuccessful attempt on her life.  

Later, with the restoration of democracy, Melina Mercouri made her vigorous comeback to Greece and took charge of the campaign for the restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures, a matter that officially entered the agenda of the 1982 International Council of Ministers of UNESCO in Mexico. It was one of the two great steps for Greece at the time, the other being the competition notice for the construction of the Acropolis Museum in 1989. Melina Mercouri was the first to forbid the term “Elgin Marbles”, for they never belonged to him. It is also thanks to her that the historical centre of Athens has been unified to highlight and promote Greek history and culture, as well as the public regional theaters, since the countryside also has a right to theater.

She considered culture, art and creation equal to commerce, technology and economy, holding in high regard all that she fought for for almost a lifetime. It is thanks to her that the “European Capital of Culture” initiative came to exist.

 “Greece should play a significant role in culture; that is its essence, its legacy, its wealth. If we lose that, we are nothing. First and foremost now with all these doors of opportunity swinging open for us, we should persist on a cultural revolution.”

Her influence is undeniable. She was a rebellious woman, with her passion and persistence characterizing her every move: a woman that, if you please, divided public opinion in many aspects. She died of cancer οn the 6th of March 1994, and that day has been established across Greece as a free entry museum day in her honour. What matters is not that death claimed her, but that she claimed life!

“If you ask me whether I will be alive when the Parthenon Marbles return to Greece, the answer is yes, I shall be. And even if I shan’t, I shall be reborn.”