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The "Eleni" mythology

Ronald Reagan on Eleni

According to Ronald Reagan:

And freedom is the issue. The stakes are that high. You know, recently Nancy and I saw together a moving new film, the story of Eleni. It's a true story. A woman at the end of World War II, caught in the Greek civil war, a mother who, because she smuggled her children out to safety, eventually to America, was tried, tortured, and shot by the Greek Communists.
It is also the story of her son, Nicholas Gage, who grew up to become an investigative reporter with the New York Times and who, when he returned to Greece, secretly vowed to take vengeance on the man who had sent his mother to her death.
But at the dramatic end of the story, Nick Gage finds he cannot extract the vengeance he has promised himself. To do so, Mr. Gage writes, would have relieved the pain that had filled him for so many years, but it would also have broken the one bridge still connecting him to his mother and the part of him most like her. As he tells it: "… her final cry, before the bullets of the firing squad tore into her, was not a curse on her killers but an invocation of what she died for, a declaration." How that cry was echoed across the centuries, her cry was a cry of love: " ' My children! ' " A cry for all the children of the world, a hope that all of them may someday live in peace and freedom.

So, we owe something to them, you and I. To those who've gone before – Major Nicholson, Eleni, the heroes at the Lomba River – and to the living as well – Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Adolfo Calero, Jonas Savimbi – their hopes reside in us as ours do in them.[1]

A critical assessment by Nikos Raptis

Nikos Raptis discusses the historical accuracy of Eleni, Nicholas Gage's 698 page book:

Nicholas Gage was able to write his widely touted book, Eleni, because the majority of his readers, that is, Americans were ignorant of the recent history of Greece. He must have known that the average American would have difficulty even locating Greece on a map.
Gage's Eleni can and should be judged or analyzed by answering two questions: first, who were the andartes, and second, what brought them to Lia in 1947? Gage has answered the first question in Eleni by using the Mutt and Jeff method. He tries to impress upon the reader that the andartes were nothing more than cold-blooded murderers (as he views all communists), while at the same time, in order to establish his credibility, he concedes that they fought heroically against the Nazis.

While Gage paints his mother, Eleni, as a heroine, Raptis reports an alternative account why the leftist guerrillas (andartes) executed her:

However, there is one more question to be answered. Why did the andartes execute Eleni? To this date, the only systematic answer to that question is the book The other Eleni, by Vasilis Kavathas, a Greek investigative reporter. He interviewed the same people that Gage had. But he did not pretend to be a leftist when he talked to people on the left, or to terrorize interviewees with an ill-concealed gun, as Gage had.

Kavathas asked Gastis, a former andartes judge, point blank: "Why did they execute her?" He replied, "She was an informer for the enemy. The information she was giving them was accurate. They pinpointed us and then bombed us…

And concludes:

… is belied by Gage's decision to pass off his fiction as investigative journalism. He boasts that in the past his reporting was always "too well documented" for anyone to challenge it. Even if this is true, it is hardly the case with Eleni.[2]


  • Nikos Raptis, " 'Eleni': The Work of a 'Professional Liar' ", Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986, No. 25, pp. 41–48.


  1. Ronald Reagan, "Forward for Freedom", speech, 1986.
  2. Nikos Raptis, " 'Eleni': The Work of a 'Professional Liar' ", Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986, No. 25, pp. 41–48.