A controversial affair.
A great thespian, a polyglot, a highly educated actress and entirely devoted to her craft, a great leading lady in the 1930s, the golden era of the National Theatre, a longtime rival of Katina Paxinou, a woman who during the occupation was involved with the collaborationist prime minister, Ioannis Rallis, and during that same period was hiding her Jewish lover in the basement of her house. She, who didn’t hesitate to have love affairs with other women as well as men; She, who took advantage of her special relationship with Rallis and the Nazis to save many sentenced members of the Greek Resistance from execution. The woman who was accused as a collaborator of the enemy and as a Nazi whore; the woman, who after Liberation, knowing that she had saved so many from prison, torture and death, didn’t go into hiding; didn’t protect herself. And when the clashes of December ‘44 broke out, she found herself living in the zone controlled by the left-wing Resistance group, EAM.
Her colleagues held a kangaroo court and found her guilty. But that unofficial verdict was somehow sent to the OPLA headquarters and one afternoon Papadaki was arrested.
Dimitris Horn had warned her to flee, like so many others had. Unsuspicious as she was, she went to the interrogation thinking that they would eventually realize their mistake and let her go. The same evening she was killed in a gruesome manner, along with 40 policemen at the water plant of ULEN in Tourkovounia.
The murder of Papadaki had been the disgrace of the Greek Left for decades. Zahariadis quickly condemned the killing, blaming it on the low level instincts of the OPLA members. Even as late as the election of 1964, after 20 years had passed, there were leaflets circulating, urging voters not to forget Papadaki’s murder.
Post war, Yorgos Theotokas wrote “Patients and Travelers”, using Papadaki as the main character, but without naming her. He had been secretly infatuated with her like many other youths in Athens at the time.
After the fall of the Junta, the well-known journalist, Yannis Katris in an attempt to absolve the Greek Left, wrote a series of articles, attributing the crime to a conspiracy by the Intelligent Service.
In 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the December clashes, the case of Papadaki was discussed in a conference on the events of ‘44, as a glaring example of blind and unjust violence, which planted the seed for the civil war. But even on an occasion like that, many voices were raised against her. To this day Papadaki is a topic that sparks controversy.
The “Paraskinio” documentary on Papadaki is the only one made about that extraordinary and now almost forgotten woman.
The picture is an overall examination of her life, her absolutely unique personality, her remarkable acting career and her tragic demise as the most famous victim of the December clashes.
Three fine men, who are now deceased, discuss Papadaki.
Marios Ploritis, a man of the centre, in his politics and a great admirer of hers, gives a unique description of her personality, both on and off the stage.
Polyvios Marsan, an extremely cultivated man of the upper middle class, one of those enlightened right-wingers, something very rare today, had written a superb book about Papadaki. He talked about her like she was his elder sister.
And finally, Titos Vandis, well-known until the end of his life for his loyalty to the Greek Communist Party (KKE), he praised her incomparable talent, which he had witnessed having played beside her at the National Theatre, and attributed her killing to the heated tensions of the era, admitting it had been a murky spot in the history of the Left.
All three denounced her horrible and unjust murder.
To my mind, Papadaki was an utterly poetic creature, impossible to be classified. Her profound instinct and her passions were the driving force behind her actions.
It has been fully proven that she saved many members of the Resistance and among them the son of actor Aimilios Veakis. This doesn’t mean that her relationship with Rallis shouldn’t be criticized. Quite the contrary. But I believe that everything she did came out of the heart, the soul and the mind of a very exceptional woman, who stood above time and had no grasp of the real world, of a woman who found herself caught in the cyclone of a harsh and merciless reality in the most turbulent decade in human history, the 1940s.