Costa Carras embodied so many virtues, combined such knowledge with great passion, took on so many problems that it was as if he was inspired by a benevolent God to be constantly striving – for the conservation of Greece’s cultural and environmental riches, for democracy and peaceful coexistence among nations, for a better future. Employing all his talents and his personal resources for the public good, Costa Carras was, above all, a teacher. He showed that when we care, when we get up and fight the good fight, we can be good citizens, useful to society.
Carras, who died on Monday, aged 84, was born in London to a shipowning family and he studied at Oxford and Harvard. He could have watched the Greeks’ endless turmoil from afar but chose to get into the thick of their struggles. With the ecumenical spirit of his Orthodox faith and a Protestant sense of personal responsibility, he took part in the fight against the 1967-74 dictatorship. He met his life companion, Lydia, when both were involved in the effort to bring the junta’s crimes against the Greek people to the Council of Europe, a campaign which resulted in Greece withdrawing from the Council in late 1969 before it could be expelled.
In 1972, seeing the need to protect Greece’s cultural and natural heritage, Costa and Lydia founded the Elliniki Etairia Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage (ELLET). In the 50 years since then, the Society remains in the vanguard, not only for its most significant achievements, but also for the example that it provides with its persistence, its sensitivity to issues, its inspired ideas and the tireless work that distinguishes it.
With his great self-confidence, with faith in justice and in the power of dialogue, Carras played a significant role in opening channels of communication between Greeks, Turks and Cypriots. He was a founding member of the Greek Turkish Forum (and coordinator of its Greek chapter from 1998 until last year), of the Friends of Cyprus and of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, among others.
Costa Carras was a most gracious host, a wise man always in pursuit of learning. He was a treasure chest of knowledge not only of the Greek world but of many civilizations, and a wonderful speaker. Cosmopolitan and proudly Greek, he had the persistence and boldness to fight for what he believed, and the love and patience to build bridges. He appreciated beauty. He did what needed doing. He was ecumenical, a full and decent man.