CULTURE

Former UK ambassador writing book on Venizelos

Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith was one of the most popular British ambassadors in Athens and one of the closest to us, since he was here doing research for his doctoral dissertation when the colonels imposed the dictatorship. As a correspondent for The Spectator he wrote from Athens about what he saw taking place here – the deprivation of liberty, the imprisonment and exile of politicians and patriots – all those things that we remember on the anniversary of that nightmarish events of April 21, 1967. Kathimerini closed down and reopened in 1974 with the restoration of democracy. Greeks remember Llewellyn Smith as a philhellene in the true sense of the word. He served as ambassador in a number of hot spots, ending with Athens, his final posting, during which he was knighted in recognition of his brilliant career. He and Lady Colette, his French-born wife, made many friends in Greece and often come back to visit. Even when he is absent, he is still in our minds because he keeps writing books about Greece. His first book, «The Great Island,» was about Crete, which he visited as a student. A book which sparked much discussion and which established him as an historian despite his youth was «Ionian Vision: Greece in Asia Minor, 1919-22,» which was the subject of his doctoral dissertation. During his term as ambassador in Athens, Llewellyn Smith wrote a short book about the British Embassy on Loukianou Street, which belonged to Eleni Skylitsi and where she lived after her marriage to the Cretan leader and Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos. On his retirement and return to London, Llewellyn Smith bought out «Olympics in Athens 1896.» Also published last year was «Athens: A Cultural and Literary History» (available in Greek translation from Hestia), a charming guide to Athens, seen through his eyes. Artist Nicholas Egon and his wife Matti held a dinner in honor of Llewellyn Smith last Wednesday at their home on Deinocratous, where the view of Athens, the air of spring and Egon’s paintings of ancient Greek landscapes competed to charm the guests. Colleagues, diplomats, Greek and foreign friends were there to greet Sir Michael and Lady Colette. The news of the evening was that Llewellyn Smith had come to Athens not only for Greek Easter but to do research in the Venizelos Archives at the Benaki Museum for his next book, which will be on Venizelos.