CULTURE

Athina’s souvenirs of Athens: Parthenon visit, olive branch

The silence following the coming of age of Athina Roussel-Onassis has been frustrating for everyone, especially the media. Once more, the Onassis name has fired the international public’s imagination and sent television and radio crews from both sides of the Atlantic to besiege the two Roussel homes near Geneva in Switzerland and the Villa Crystal in St Moritz, which once belonged to Athina’s mother, Christina Onassis. When Christina died, suddenly and inexplicably in November 1988 in the bathroom of the Tschomlektsoglou home in Argentina, she had already divorced Athina’s father, Thierry Roussel, and was perhaps planning her fifth marriage to George Tschomlektsoglou. One would imagine that Athina would have been spending her 18th birthday at one of these European homes. Athina has always listened to her father, with whom she lives, along with his wife Gaby Landhage, who has been a good mother to Athina and her own three children. Suddenly, Athina has fallen in love, like any girl of her age. During her training near Brussels, with the famous trainer Pesoa in her favorite sport of horse riding, Athina met the Olympic equestrian champion Brazilian Alvaro Alfonso de Miranda Neto, known as «Doda,» a tall, dark and handsome Latin. Since the young couple have been seen out walking hand in hand, Athina has left her public school in Geneva and settled in Brussels to be close to Doda. The affair has been spread across the pages of international magazines, and Athina’s father appears to be encouraging his daughter’s relationship with the Brazilian who comes from a good and once very wealthy family whose history resembles that of his own. On January 29, 2003, when Athina came of age and was able take possession of her inheritance, which some have estimated at $2.7 billion and others at $800 million, everything changed. The couple disappeared, along with Thierry and the entire Roussel family. Doda is in Brazil, and no birthday cake was cut except at Nidri, opposite the island of Skorpios, by children at the primary school built by the Onassis Foundation in Christina’s name. Also nowhere to be seen were the representatives of the Swiss juvenile protection authority, as well as representatives of the KPMG firm which has been managing the Onassis fortune. This means that no signatures were put to paper for the handing over of the estate. Marc Bonnant, a lawyer and Roussel family friend, said that Athina’s fortune was transferred automatically, that no signatures were necessary, but that is not so. There is an international legal requirement, that applies to both Greece and Switzerland, demanding signatures for the transfer of property to those coming of age. Either something went wrong, or there is a reason why Thierry Roussel is playing his cards close to his chest. The juvenile protection authority has the right to judge Athina unfit to manage her inheritance and to ask for an extension of five years. The only way Athina would be able to acquire the property would be if she married. Marriage would make her automatically entitled to take possession of her inheritance, the share that was her mother’s as well as that of her grandmother Tina, née Livanos. In his handwritten will, Aristotle Onassis left half his estate to his daughter Christina and the other half in memory of his late son Alexander, whose name the Onassis Foundation bears. If Athina wishes to become president of the foundation, that can only take place when she becomes 21. Her entire education and upbringing, her isolation from Greece, the fact that she does not speak Greek or go to the Christian Orthodox Church (in which her mother had her christened, with George Livanos as godfather), could prove to be obstacles to her taking over the reins of the foundation, whose main purpose is to further Greece’s cultural heritage. The silence surrounding her birthday left the news agencies empty-handed, but that in itself is a news item and might be a warning of the next step. Might that be a marriage to Doda? Might it be an extension of the Swiss protection of Athina and her fortune? Or is Belgium going to be the center of future events, at the stud farm Athina wants to buy for her lover near Brussels? Will history repeat itself, like mother like daughter? Can we expect decisive developments? Although Athina has come of age, which was the big news, the surrounding silence is portentous.