Different people remember this day in a different way – some were too young, but managed to feel the tension, others followed the news in front of their TV screen, and some others don’t want to talk about it, because it still hurts…
For most, November 17 is the Greek national holiday in honor of the killed children and students during 1973, the only holiday, for which memories are still alive and burning. The history of this day can still be heard from the ones who have experienced it, from the generation, which in the beginning of the 70’s has lived through their own riot-years. Driven by the childish madness and the need for freedom this generation manages to shake the base of the dictatorship and to give hope to the Greek nation.
“During 1967 the power in Greece was taken by the army, who forced a dictatorship – the junta. For eight year, Greeks were fighting to take down the juntas and to become a democratic country again. It was then when the students locked themselves in the Engineering school and demanded for the return of democracy, for freedom, the juntas to be taken down, and for the Americans to leave, because the juntas was supported by them… I was five years old then. I remember very well. I also remember when the tank broke into the department building. And the screams. And how people went to help the students. And the killed, which were many. And the chasing…I remember everything. For me, this holiday symbolizes the fight for freedom and social justice. It is a very important holiday for Greece” – says a mother holding her little girls hand.
Everything starts on April 21st 1967 with the so called coup of the generals. Although an election was set for May 28th 1973, officers from the army headed by General Giorgos Papadopoulos, Major-general Stilianos Pathakos and General Nikolaos Makarezos, forcibly take over the power. The general’s regime manages to erase basic human rights, to take apart political parties, and to send politicians and citizens to prison who have different political beliefs. From 1967 until 1972 the dictators systematically infringe upon basic human rights and manage to bring students to a state of complete inability to react against their arbitrariness. In the beginning of 1973, the gap between the government and the students becomes even bigger and resisting grows. In an attempt to pressures them, the general’s junta decided to apply the law for mobilizing students who don’t attend classes, in the army.
From November 14th, students gather in the Engineering school’s yard, students from the department of law also join them. Around 2:00 p.m., approximately 5000 people have gathered on the “Patision” and “Stournari” streets in the centre of Athens, where the Engineering school is located. Everyone chanted with slogans against the juntas, and the surrounding them policemen call on them to leave. They start chanting “Bread – education – freedom” and “Down the juntas.” On following day, the occupied building becomes a gathering point for Athenians, who wish for the change of power.