CULTURE

Paris honors a former resident, the late Constantine Karamanlis

In Paris, the mayor of the district in which Constantine Karamanlis lived for 11 years not only has not forgotten him, but has decided to pay him tribute. This time it is France’s – or rather Paris’s – turn to honor the late former president of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis, after the beginning made by the European Parliament in naming a hall next to the main conference room the «Espace Constantinos Karamanlis.» Back in Paris, it was the aristocratic 16th arondissement, at 21 Boulevard de Montmorency that was the residence of Constantine Karamanlis during his 11 years of self-imposed exile from Greece between 1963 and 1974, when he returned to Athens in French President Giscard D’Estaing’s own airplane to a hero’s welcome. After he was driven through a sea of people holding lighted candles through the night of July 24, 1974, that ended the seven-year military dictatorship, he was sworn in as prime minister, setting in motion the bloodless transfer of power from the colonels’ junta. Yet he could not have imagined those events to come when living isolated in Paris, of his own volition, seeking the company of only his brother Achilleas Karamanlis, his close friend the late Takis Lambrias, a few good Greek friends living in France and a few politicians who visited him from Greece, such as Georgios Rallis, his close friend and later prime minister. The last-named had long tried to persuade him to return to Greece, before the events of the Polytechnic uprising turned the tide. «Come back. As soon as you set foot in Greece, the people will rise up and overthrow the colonels,» he would tell him. «That’s not the way it will be,» Karamanlis would reply. «As soon as I come back, there’ll be some enthusiasm at first, but then they’ll lock me up in my house and I’ll soon be forgotten.» History showed that he was right to wait, even as long as 11 years, first with his wife Amalia, and then later alone, his only consolation being the ancient Greek philosophers whom he reread, the news from Greece, although that often depressed him, and long walks in the Bois de Boulogne. A ceremony is to be held in his honor next Tuesday, October 14, when a plaque is to be installed at the apartment building where he lived for all those years. The initiative comes from the former minister and current mayor of the district, Pierre-Christian Taittinger, and Deputy Mayor Gerard Leban, who lives in the same building. The ceremony, held under the aegis of the Constantine G. Karamanlis Foundation, will be attended by many distinguished personalities from political and cultural circles in Greece and abroad and will take place outside the building. Achilleas Karamanlis will speak on behalf of the Foundation and the Karamanlis family. A small reception will follow at the town hall, on Avenue Henri Martin. The plaque reads: «Constantine Karamanlis, Greek politician and former president of the Hellenic Republic, lived here from 1963-1974.»