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  • Writer's pictureWill Lyons

Celebrate International Women's Day with 5 Modern Greek goddesses

From myths and legends to food, architecture and language, the impact of Greece on the world cannot be understated.

But away from the Gods and the lingering influence of Ancient Greece are modern pioneers who have made their own indelible impression on our culture.

In celebration of International Women's Day, we invite you to join us in saluting five Greek women whose bravery, determination and brilliance will echo in eternity.

Your contemporary Greek goddess are...

Despina Achladiotou

The Lady of Ro. Brave, bold & defiant to the last.

A bust of Despina, Lady of Ro, inn Kastellorizo
Monument of Lady of Ro in Kastellorizo

In 1890, a brave soul was born. Her name was Despina, and she settled on the barren Greek islet of Ro with her husband, Kostas, in 1927. But life was challenging for the two of them because Greece was under the tyrannical rule of the Italians. Their little island would become a hellish contested border between Turkey and the Dodecanese.

In 1940, Kostas fell ill, and Despina knew that time was running out. So she lit three fires, hoping for a rescue boat to save her beloved husband. But alas, no help arrived until it was too late, and Kostas breathed his last on the boat that had come to his aid.

As the war raged on, Despina was left alone to care for her blind and elderly mother, yet she vowed to do all she could to help the Greek troops. She provided them with food and shelter. Every morning, she would raise the Greek flag high and proud in defiance of the Italian occupiers.

Despina's troubles were not over even after Italy's surrender in 1943. The British ordered the evacuation of the islands because of the impending arrival of the Nazis, but she refused to abandon her home on Ro. German soldiers bombarded her relentlessly, but still, she stood her ground, tall and unyielding.

Her unwavering spirit did not go unnoticed. Sailors from the Greek Navy came to her aid, and they were in awe of the lady who had bravely hoisted the Greek flag each morning. So impressed were they by her patriotism that they installed her own flagpole and supplied her with a new Greek flag.

From then on, every day, no matter the weather, Despina would raise the flag at dawn, a symbol of her unyielding spirit and unwavering love for her homeland.

Despina Achladiotou, the Lady of Ro, passed away in 1982 at 92. She was buried on the island beside a pole bearing the Greek flag. Her unwavering bravery was recognized by the Greek Navy, the Defence Ministry, the Athens Academy, and the Municipality of Rhodes, who bestowed her with numerous honours.

Despina's story is one of courage, determination, and patriotism. She will forever be remembered as a symbol of hope and inspiration to all who cherish freedom and love their homeland.

Sofia Bekatorou

Her shattered back didn't stop her. Neither did the abuse.

Sofia was a Greek sailing champion born in Athens in 1977. She did not merely sail the seas but conquered them, becoming a double-handed dinghy gold medallist in the 2004 Summer Olympics alongside her trusty teammate Emilia.

But fate was not yet satisfied with Sofia. A severe back injury sought to shatter her dreams, yet she defied the odds and returned to claim a bronze medal at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

However, her achievements on the waves did not quench her thirst for greatness.

Almost a decade later, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, when Sofia returned to compete for the fourth time, she was chosen as Greece's first female flag bearer, a proud moment indeed.

However, it was not her feats on the waters that shook the world but her bravery in the face of unspeakable horrors. In December 2020, Sofia revealed that she had been subjected to sexual abuse by a senior member of the Greek Sailing Federation. Her abuser was none other than Aristides Adamopolous, a member of one of Greece's top political parties.

Her courage in speaking out was not in vain. Sofia's revelations sparked a wave of resignations within the Greek Sailing Federation and ignited the Greek #MeToo Movement. Other prominent Greek women were also inspired to come forward and share their stories of harassment and abuse.

The Greek President spoke highly of Sofia. She said, "I hope her brave revelation will blow like a rushing wind and sweep any hypocrisy and any cover-up attempt away. It is time to end the guilt of the victims and the impunity of the perpetrators."

Thus, Sofia Bekatorou has not only sailed into the annals of history as a champion of the seas but also as a champion of justice and truth. Her courage and determination in the face of adversity shall never be forgotten.

Katerina Sakkelaropoulou

The first Greek female president who was ahead of their time - Here's why...

Her journey to the pinnacle of power was not easy, but she conquered it with unwavering spirit and determination.

Before her rise to the presidency of Greece, Katerina served as a judge. She led the highest court, and her expertise in environmental law was way ahead of the time and earned her much praise and respect.

In January 2020, she was elected the country's first female president. This momentous occasion filled many with hope and optimism for the future. Her progressive outlook on civil rights, same-sex marriage, and granting citizenship to migrant children made her a beacon of hope for those who seek equality and justice.

Despite being an outsider in the political arena, Katerina garnered a reputation as a human rights advocate and a staunch supporter of environmental protection. Her vision for a better Greece also included equal representation for women in government. Still, her task wasn't straightforward, with just 18% of Greek ministers being women.

She succeeded despite the battle being uphill, filled with obstacles and challenges. Increasing women's representation by a further 40%.

However, her determination and unwavering spirit gave hope to all Greeks, from those who sought a better future, not just in the economy but how their fellow citizens were treated under the law so that equality could reign supreme.

Let's raise a glass to Katerina Sakellaropoulou!

Irene Papas

The Greek actress who was as beautiful inside as out.