From the onset of the civil strife, in 1946, and up until the 1955 Karamanlis administration, when executions were abolished, courtmartials had sent thousands of young people from the ranks of EAM, ELAS, and KKE before a firing squad.
In case of a full verdict or four-to-one, the convicts were executed. A three-to-two verdict allowed hopes of an overturn, a pardon, or eventually, a general amnesty (as was the case in 1955) .
Until the verdict was returned or in the case of a three-to-two judgement, human networks, mainly of women, operated in a very touching way, trying to influence the judges, boost the moral of the awaiting convicts and taking care of the prisoners’ children, all in conditions of extreme poverty.
Many a time, the executions could not be averted, but every so often, they were prevented in the most unlikely and moving ways.
This film started off as a commission about the role of women during the civil war and the early, dire post civil-war years.
The famed PEOPEF (Prisoner and Exile Families’ Association of Greece) was established, which aimed to offer support to the detainees (predominantly in the notorious Averof prison), to take care of their children and mainly to try and prevent their execution.
It became evident, along the way, that it was something greater than that.
An unofficial network of women, men, children, lawyers, honorable military officers, prisoners’ relatives, friends of relatives and many other people, gave a moving, titanic fight to save convicts from death row, to look after their children, who had been left all alone in the world and, effectively, to serve as a beacon of reason and humanity at a time of madness and blind hatred.
Incredible stories of the unthinkable ways, old and illiterate women contrived, in order to influence or bribe a member of the tribunal, raising penny by penny the necessary sums, or of the methods that were practiced, in order for the prisoners’ children not to feel discomfort. It was an unprecedented instance of collegiality in Greece.
Thus, the film attests to the so-called high moral ground of the Left; but of those leftists, who lived in that period. A high moral ground they took with them to their graves.
It would be pointless to discuss each story separately, because they were all special and touching. And revealing. The film in its entirety is exposing, as it deals with situations that are impossible to conceive.
However, I will single out just one testimony. I was visiting one of the former members of PEOPEF, the unflagging Marigo Georganta. She mentioned that she had lost all three of her brothers; one during the Greco-Italian war, one who was executed by the Germans and the third one, who was killed in the Civil War. Her sister had been arrested and was going to be executed. While she talking, another woman came in and sat next to her. She did not introduce herself, but all during filming, she was incredibly tense and agitated, as if she wanted to be the one doing the talking. She was the sister of Marigo, Vangelio Georganta-Frantzeskaki. When I realized what was going on and since Marigo was finished, I asked Vangelio to switch places with her, while she was still in that emotional state, which she did and that resulted in one of the best testimonies, I have ever filmed. I am not going to try and describe it, because it is simply impossible. One needs to listen to her talk, to get a glimpse of what her life was like. The life of a great woman. I felt I was in the presence of a Saint, of a Joan of Arc of our times.
A year later, when the film premiered, in November 2009, Vangelio was there. She saw the film, came to me, gave me a kiss and thanked me because, as she said, documenting her incredible story was the best gift she had ever received. Some time later, I looked for her to propose that we make a documentary exclusively on her. Sadly, she had passed away. Like a few other people who had shared their stories in this film; which is one of the most emotionally-charged films I have ever made.