Tributes poured in Monday from home and abroad for the leader of Greece’s third-largest political party, Fofi Gennimata, who died at the age of 56 after being hospitalized for treatment for a long-term illness earlier this month.
In a written statement, the state-run Evangelismos Hospital in Athens announced Gennimata’s death.
She had served as leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, since 2015, which later became part of a center-left umbrella group known as KINAL, the Movement for Change.
In her illness and in death, Fofi, as everyone called her, directly or indirectly conveyed a message of dignity on many levels.
On the one hand, she has managed to unite, at least for now, Greece’s polarized political system, which is placing divisions aside in order to honor her and bid her farewell.
On the other hand, her bravery stood out as soon as it became known that her main illness, cancer, had re-emerged, declaring that she was withdrawing from the KINAL leadership race, prioritizing superior values, such as the “unity and perspective” of the party, shortly after she was admitted to Evangelismos on October 11.
She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008, but she emerged victorious after treatment in that first battle she waged.
“On Saturday I found out, on Monday I had surgery, the next Saturday I was speaking at a conference,” she told Alpha TV referring to that period.
At the same time, she also noted, regarding her choice to publicize her health issues, that she did it in order to convey a message of “optimism and hope” that cancer can be fought.
“The point is not to live in fear,” said the mother of three who also overcame the early loss of her parents.
Her father, Georgios Gennimatas, one of the founding and leading members of PASOK, died of cancer in April 1994, just seven months after the death of his wife and her mother, Kakia Vergou.
Despite the advantage of having a father with such influence, Gennimata fought tough battles in her political career, which she won.
The most recent victory has been the acknowledgement that she helped increase her party’s percentage and its emergence as a third political force, after years of successive crises and electoral shrinkage.