A Diary of the Occupation Period 1941-1943 (Ημερολόγιο Κατοχῆς 1941-1943) is a diary kept during one of the darkest hours in the history of Athens. Through the personal diary entries, the reader gains insight into the dramatic events that took place during the German Occupation of Greece through the eyes of a young woman and alumna of The American College of Greece.
“One might think that I should be trying to erase from memory any trace of the tragic times we are now going through, that I should be striving to forget this winter – the most abominable winter of my life – to the extent that one can forget the things which deeply mark one’s soul. Slavery, hunger, cold, misery – all at once.”
This is how the narrative of the book begins, carrying with it the echo of those distant, and tragically charged days.
Irene Zacharia describes her immediate experiences of the occupation, those of a human being suddenly transposed into what feels like another, even an unreal, universe. She also records those faraway echoes of history (news of the war), that reached her through word of mouth, or through some stealthily-heard news broadcasts, mainly from London. However, the author does not only present historical facts of this dark moment in history, but also documents her thoughts and emotional reactions to what was happening, bringing the reader deeper into her story.
The importance of her own life seems to recede in the face of the larger, the collective, the plight. Only obliquely do we catch snapshots of the personal, such as the entry of Saturday, May 9, 1942, when she described a statement made by the chief of the British Royal Air Force, regarding rumors of the German and Italian armies. The author notes, “Today we sold all of our drawing room furniture”.
Beyond the dark realities of everyday life, the author proclaims hope. She writes about the way young people resisted the terror of the Occupation, and how the starved youths retained hope through dance, song, and love, and how those ephemeral oases of freedom, be it at student clubs or homes, often developed into resistance groups.
On Friday, December 17, 1943, Irene Zacharia wrote the last sentences of her diary that read: “…and everyone awaits with clenched teeth, awaiting the day of freedom. Is it near? I think yes.”
About the Author
Irene Zacharia, Pierce ’35 graduate (and Deree Upper ’36), was born in Athens in 1917. The declaration of the Second World War found young Irene boarding a ship destined for America where she planned to study with full scholarship at a university. Life takes swift turns however, and the young woman never reached the US, as she chose to stay behind with her mother and younger siblings.
Throughout the dark times of the German occupation, the alumna kept a diary where the harsh reality of those years is memorialized. Over 70 years after the end of World War II and 7 years after the author’s passing, Zacharia’s daughter Elly Marmara, also a Pierce graduate (’68), published A Diary of the Occupation Period 1941 – 1943 in December 2016.
Originally published in The American College of Greece alumni e-magazine, issue #40.