Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘Junta’

Pain of the Polytechnic still very much felt in Norway

In Greece on 17 November 2014 at 10:18 am
At the gates of the Polytechnic: Liv Kari Engeland during her visit to Athens this summer, her third such trip (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

At the gates of the Polytechnic: Liv Kari Engeland during her visit to Athens this summer, her third such trip (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Around this day every year, the names of the 24 people who died in the 1973 Polytechnic uprising are read aloud in schools or published in the press. One of those names is that of Norwegian Toril Margrethe Engeland.

Apart from her family and sister in Norway, who still grieve for her four decades after her death, few still remember how she died.

For years, the short biographical paragraph of what was known about Toril, accompanied by a black and white photograph of a dark- and long-haired 22-year-old with a Mona Lisa smile, has remained unchanged. According to this information, she was a tourist who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, shot by a stray bullet while returning from the cinema.

Toril Margrethe Engeland (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Toril Margrethe Engeland (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

The scant information available was enough for some to argue that she – like the other Polytechnic victims – never existed, except as phantoms in some leftwing conspiracy.

“It’s understandable that people from the junta would say that back then, but that people say it today is very strange,” says Toril’s sister, speaking from her home in Molde, 500km northwest of Oslo.

Liv Kari Engeland was 18 when her parents received the dreadful news that Toril was shot dead on the evening of 16 November 1973 near the Polytechnic.

The Engeland children: Liv on the left and Toril, with her brother Per on her knee, on the right (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

The Engeland children: Liv on the left and Toril, with her brother Per on her knee, on the right (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Born on 4 March 1951, Toril was the eldest of three children of Per Reidar Engeland, a telephone company engineer, and his wife Helga Margrethe. A son, Per Helge, was the third child, born a decade after Toril. The pecking order ensured the sisters were closer, a connection that developed as they got older.

Liv recalls that she was in awe of her older sister: “She had a strong sense of justice, both in the family and also in the world. She very much people liked meeting people from other countries. She admired Martin Luther King and black people very much, and that’s something I’ve taken from her.”

But her sister emphasises that Toril wasn’t outspoken or involved in student activism. She was rather shy and reserved. She didn’t have many friends during her time at Oslo University, where she was studying art history. She recalls that she was into jazz and the music of Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Joan Baez and Mikis Theodorakis.

Liv last saw her around New Year’s 1973, in Oslo.

One of Toril's paintings (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

One of Toril’s paintings (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

To Greece

Toril had arrived in Greece in May 1973, after visiting Italy. She was due to sit her final university exams in Olso that term. But she was restless.

“The idea was just to go to the north of Italy and see a lot of art by visiting museums. Then I think she met some Americans and went with them to Corfu, where she may have spent Easter, and from there to Athens. But that wasn’t her original plan,” her sister recalls.

Travel wasn’t something new. She’d been to the US for ten weeks with her mother after graduating from high school and later spent a semester at the Sorbonne in Paris learning French.

Toril (right) and boyfriend Mohamed Ahmed Salem (second from right) (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Toril (right) and boyfriend Mohamed Ahmed Salem (second from right) (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Once in Athens, she stayed in a youth hostel located on Alexandras Avenue, where she soon started going out with a guy who worked behind the desk, Mohamed Ahmed Salem, who was from Saudi Arabia.

“I think he helped her when she ran out of money,” her sister recalls, particularly after her work as an au-pair with an Athens family – she minded and taught English to a five-year-old girl and her younger brother – ended.

Toril's student ID from her time at the Sorbonne (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Toril’s student ID from her time at the Sorbonne (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Toril kept her family informed of where she was; she generally wrote letters home to her parents and Liv while her mother called whenever she had a contact number. As it would happen, the last time she spoke to her mother – who is hale and hearty at 90 – was on the morning she was killed.

“Toril didn’t know if she was coming home, or if she would stay longer, or if she would travel further. She had a little dream of going to Israel, but we didn’t know what she was planning and neither did she,” says Liv.

The shooting

Two days later, when a church minister came to their door, the Engelands learned that their daughter was dead, shot, as they were told, near the Athens Polytechnic at around 11.30pm as she made her way home from a film with “a foreign friend”.

According to her death certificate, cited by Norway’s diplomatic representative in Athens at the time, she died from “wounds to the chest and throat after being hit [from afar] by a high calibre bullet”.

The official line, as reported widely in the press, was that Toril was a “tourist”, in the wrong place at the wrong time, when she was stuck in the chest by a stray or ricochet bullet. Some accounts say she was shot on Plateia Egyptou, which possibly is the origin of “Toril Teklet”, an Egyptian name that features in early police reports and, subsequently, some lists of victims.

But Leonidas Kallivretakis, an historian at the National Research Centre who has worked extensively on the Polytechnic events, doubts that she could have been killed there as it would have been too far to carry her to the steps of the Acropole hotel, where a dentist found her dead.

The historian, whom Liv met in Athens last summer, also doubts that she was returning from watching a film as most cinemas would have been shut on that evening, given the events at the Polytechnic.

“Kallivretakis said there were so many people there that night that she couldn’t have been there accidentally. Maybe they were curious and wanted to see what happened.”

Almost a year later in August 1974, a month after the fall of the junta, they received a letter from a dentist, former Centre Union MP Yiorgos Lazaridis, who explained what had happened to Toril. That fateful evening, when he heard about events in central Athens, the young medic had filled his car with oxygen and supplies and headed for the Polytechnic.

“At 11.30 pm, it was already over for your outstanding Norwegian daughter. She was lying on the steps of the Acropole Palace hotel surrounded by Greek students, her brothers and sisters. I carried your murdered child, together with a seriously wounded Saudi Arabian, to a first aid station, still hunted by the murderers.”

“Tough methods in Athens unrest: Norwegian girl killed on her way from the cinema.” How the Norwegian press reported Toril’s death in 1973

He went on to praise her as a hero for freedom: “As a Greek, I would like to offer you is my thanks. Mixed with the Greek blood that was sacrificed on that night is the blood of your Norwegian daughter. This was the water for the tree of freedom that we enjoy today.”

In any case, Toril, who her sister recalls had a strong sense of justice, would have been sympathetic to what has underway at the Polytechnic.

In a letter she sent to Liv that July, Toril wrote that she had to work on the following Sunday – usually her day off – because the country was “going to vote for Mr P”, a reference to the junta’s orchestrated “referendum” on July 29 to abolish the monarchy and install Papadopoulos as the country’s president.

“It was the way she wrote it. I read between the lines of that sentence. They had no choice. They had to vote for him. The whole setup of an election with just one candidate was something she couldn’t accept. She was for democracy,” Liv remarks.

One person would have known why she was near the Polytechnic was her boyfriend, Mohamed, who took a bullet in the shoulder. After the shooting, he had he contacted Toril’s mother afterwards to say he wanted to visit the family and to say farewell to Toril.

“One day I will come to Molde and I’ll put flowers on a place, I know it very well. I will cry, and I will tell her – sleep well, my Norwegian peasant, as I always called her,” he wrote in a letter.

But Norway’s diplomat in Athens ensured that didn’t happen by denying him a visa, a reason that Toril’s family only learned about recently.

“In an interview last December, he said that because he was a Muslim, he didn’t know how my family would react,” Liv says. “He wanted to protect the family, but he could have asked us because we didn’t see it like that. My family is Christian, but they are open to all people. I don’t think it would have been a problem for us to meet him in that situation. Back then we didn’t know why he couldn’t come to Norway. And I’ve no idea where he is now.”

As Liv recalls, one of the most difficult things was not being able to see her sister laid out when her remains were flown back to Norway. Her father was against it for some reason, possibly as he thought the coffin had been sealed for transport. It was only sometime later, when the family received a bill for returning her body, that they realised she had been embalmed.

“She was probably made to look very nice and it was very hard for me not being able to see her,” Liv says.

Some months later, the Greek foreign ministry refunded the family for the costs they had incurred in returning Toril’s remains, accepting, diplomatically, that the sum – 62,000 drachmas (12,500 Norwegian kroner) – could not compensate for the loss of her life. According to Norwegian foreign ministry documents that Liv saw last week, Athens wanted to express sympathy with the family and hoped that the unfortunate incident would not impact negatively on the relationship between the two countries.

Despite the devastating effect of Toril’s death on them, Liv says her family never really felt angry at those responsible.

“We were never bitter for those who did it. We were just very, very sad and sorrowful at our loss,” she says, adding that her absence was magnified when her first child was born eight years later. “I missed her very much as an aunt for my children and I wished they had got to know her.”

But she is still seen as part of the family, who celebrated what would have been her 50th and 60th birthdays by going out for a meal in a restaurant. Liv adds that she has always marked her birthday or death anniversary by buying roses in her memory.

Back to Greece

Over the summer, Liv made her third trip to Athens. As she says, she felt she had to come to mark the 40th anniversary of Toril’s death. Her first trip was in November 1998, for the 25th anniversary, and she no idea what to expect.

“Before I left, I pictured it would be just myself putting a rose on the steps of the Polytechnic or something. But I was very, very surprised that it was such an event. People kept coming to put flowers on the gates.”

On the 25th anniversary of the uprising in November 1998, Liv, on her first trip to Athens, pinned a photo of her sister on the gates of the Polytechnic. Her visit was covered by a Norwegian magazine (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

On the 25th anniversary of the uprising in November 1998, Liv, on her first trip to Athens, pinned a photo of her sister on the gates of the Polytechnic. Her visit was covered by a Norwegian magazine (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

The second trip in 2006, this time with her mother, was a considerable disappointment. They were invited, but at their own cost, to the annual garden party at the presidential mansion to commemorate the return to democracy, an event now abolished.

“We weren’t taken care of. Everything was in Greek. The president gave a speech. But the only word we could understand in his speech was democracy,” she remembers.

In recent years, the extensive coverage that Greece has received in the world’s press reminds Liv even more of the past.

“I guess Greece has a place in my heart, even though it should be negative,” she said. “I have feelings for Greece.”

Liv Kari Engeland at the Polytechnic memorial, summer 2013 (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)

Liv Kari Engeland at the Polytechnic memorial, summer 2013 (Photo: Liv Kari Engeland)


• This article was first published in EnetEnglish.gr on 16 November 2013. A slightly shorter version of this article was published in Greek in Eleftherotypia on 17 November 2013. The news site OkeaNews.fr has kindly translated the article into French, entitled La dou­leur de Polytechnique est encore très forte en Norvège

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The 24 victims of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising

In General on 17 November 2012 at 4:08 pm

One was a 22-year-old Norwegian tourist to Greece who would never return home after she was shot in the chest. Another was a 5½-year-old boy, shot in the head while crossing the road with his mother.

They are just two of the victims – their names generally forgotten – of the events surrounding the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of 17 November 1973, when the ruling junta sent in the tanks to crush a student revolt against their dictatorial rule.

Research published in 2003 by the National Hellenic Research Foundation (EIE) named 24 people as having been killed in and around the Polytechnic campus on November 16-18.

The historian who carried out the research, Dr Leonidas Kallivretakis, carefully crosschecked a number of existing lists and records, before arriving at his own list.

Given that Dr Kallivretatkis’ list is not, to my knowledge, available in English, I’ve translated it below have also produced a Google Map (further down) showing the location of each fatality.

As in previous years, there are those who will deny that anyone died during the Polytechnic uprising. Neonazi Golden Dawn have been quite vocal about this this year, but there are doubters and deniers within the ranks of other parties too, particularly New Democracy. Hopefully, this blog post will contribute in some way to combating these denials.

The names of the victims of state violence on and around 17 November 1973:

1. Spyros Kontomaris, son of Anastasis, aged 57, lawyer (former Centre Union MP for Corfu), resident of Agiou Meletiou St, Athens. At around 8.30–9pm on 16 November 1973, he was standing at the junction of Georgiou Stavrou and Stadiou streets, when police fired tear gas at protesters, resulting in him suffering a heart attack. Pronounced dead at arrival at a Red Cross first aid station.

2. Diomedes Komnenos, son of Ioannis, aged 17, school pupil, resident of Lefkados 7, Athens. Between 9.30–9.45pm on 16 November 1973, while he was with other protesters at the intersection of Averof and Marni streets, he was fatally wounded in the heart from shots fired by public order ministry guards. Transferred to a Red Cross first aid station and from there, dead, to what is now the General State hospital.

3. Sokratis Michail, aged 57, insurance agent, resident of Peristeri, Athens. Between 9–10.30pm on 16 November 1973, while he was somewhere between Bouboulinas and Solonos streets, police fired tear gas at protesters, during which he suffered a blood clot in the left coronary artery. He was transferred to the Red Cross first aid station on Triti Septemvriou St, where he died.

4. Toril Margrethe Engeland, daughter of Per Reidar, aged 22, student, from Molde, Norway. At about 11.30pm on 16 November 1973, she was fatally wounded in the chest by a shot fired by public order ministry guards. [Another source says she was at the junction of Averof and Triti Septemvriou streets.] Taken by protesters to the Acropol hotel and later, after she had died, to a Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) first aid station. Originally, she was incorrectly listed by police as the “Egyptian Toril Teklet” and this mistake can still be found in some lists of the dead.


5. Vasilis Famellos, son of Panayiotis, aged 26, private-sector employee, from Pyrgos, Ileias prefecture, resident of Kasou 1, Kypseli, Athens. At about 11.30pm on 16 November 1973, he was fatally wounded in the head by shots fired by public order ministry guards. [Another source says he was at the junction of Averof and Triti Septemvriou streets.] Taken by protesters to a Red Cross first aid station and from there, dead, to what is now the General State hospital.


6. Yiorgos Samouris, son of Andreas, aged 22, student at the Panteion Univiersity, originally from Patras, resident of Plateia Kountouriotou 7, Koukaki. Shortly before midnight on 16 November 1973, while in the general area of the Polytechnic (Kallidromiou and Zosimadon streets), he was fatally wounded in the neck by police fire. Moved to the makeshift medical clinic in the Polytechnic, he later died. From there, his body was taken to an IKA first aid station. His surname was incorrectly listed by police as “Chamourlis”.


7. Dimitris Kyriakopoulos, son of Antonis, aged 35, builder, from Kalavryta, a resident of Peristeri, Attica. On the evening of 16 November 1973, while he was in the Polytechnic, he was hit with tear gas and then was beaten by police with truncheons, the result of which he died from an acute aortic rupture, three days later, on 19 November 1973, at a Red Cross first aid station.


8. Spyros Marinos, son of Dionysis, nicknamed Georgaras, aged 31, private-sector employee, from Exochora on Zakynthos. On the evening of 16 November 1973, he was in the area of Polytechnic, where he was beaten by police with truncheons and suffered traumatic brain injuries. Moved to Pentelis Hospital, where he died on 19 November 1973 after an acute stroke. He was buried in his hometown, where a service was held in his memory on 9 September 1974.

9. Nikos Markoulis, son of Petros, aged 24, worker, from Partheni in Thessaloniki, resident of Christomanou 67, Sepolia, Athens. In the early hours of 17 November 1973, while walking on Vathis Square, he was wounded in the abdomen by a burst of fire shot by a military patrol. Taken to what is now the General State hospital, he died there on 19 November 1973.

10. Katerina Argyropoulou, wife of Angelis, aged 76, a resident of Kennedy and Kalymnos streets, Agioi Anargyroi, Athens. At 10am on 17 November 1973, while in the yard of her house, she was wounded in the back by a bullet. Taken to the Pammakaristos clinic in Kato Patisia, where she remained for one month. Returning home, she died six months later, in May 1974, as a result of trauma.

11. Stelios Karayiorgis, son of Agamemnonos, aged 19, builder, resident of Miaouli 38, Neo Irakleio, Athens. At 10.15am on 17 November 1973, while he was with other protesters on Patision St, between the Aelao and Ealinis cinemas, he was wounded by a burst of machine-gun fire shot from an armoured vehicle. Taken to KAT hospital, he died 12 days later, on 30 November 1973.

12. Markos Karamanis, son of Dimitris, aged 23, an electrician from Piraeus, resident of Chiou 35, Egaleo. At about 10.30am on 17 November 1973, while he was standing on the flat roof of the building at Egyptou 1, he was fatally wounded in the head by a shot fired by military guards from the rooftop of the OTE building opposite. (The perpetrator was Lieutenant Ioannis Lymperis, 573rd infantry battalion). Taken to the Pantanassa clinic on Plateia Victoria, where he was pronounced dead.

13. Alexandros Spartidis, son of Stratis, aged 16, school pupil, from Piraeus, resident of Agias Lavras 80, Ano Patision, Athens. Around 10.30–11am on 17 November 1973, while walking at the intersection of Patision and Kotsika streets, he was fatally injured by a shot to the stomach from the military guards on the rooftop of the OTE building opposite. (The perpetrator was Lieutenant Ioannis Lymperis, 573rd infantry battalion.) Suffering a perforating injury, he was taken to KAT hospital, where his father found him dead.

14. Dimitris Papaioannou, aged 60, manger of the social insurance fund for flour industry employees, resident of Aristomenous 105, Athens. Around 11.30am on 17 November 1973, while at Omonia Square, he was caught up in tear gas fired by police. Taken to a Red Cross first aid station, which pronounced his death from a heart attack.

15. Yiorgos Yeritsidis, son of Alexandros, aged 47, tax office official, resident of Elpidos 29, Neo Irakleio, Athens. At noon on 17 November 1973, while driving his car at Nea Liosia (now Ilion), he was fatally wounded in the head by fire that came through the roof of the car. Taken to what is now the General State hospital, he died later on the same day.

16. Vasiliki Bekiari, daughter of Fotis, aged 17, a school pupil who also worked, from Ampelaki in Aitoloakarnania prefecture, resident of Metagenous 8, Neos Kosmos, Athens. At noon on 17 November 1973, while she was on the roof of her house, she was fatally wounded in the neck by gunfire. Taken to what is now the General State hospital, she was transferred to Evangelismos hospital, where she died the same day.

17. Dimitris Theodoras, son of Theofanis, aged 5½, resident of Anakreontos 2, Zografou, Athens. At 1pm on 17 November 1973, while crossing the street with his mother at the intersection of Tritis Orinis Taxiarxias St and Papagou Ave in Zografou, he was fatally wounded in the head by a shot fired from a military patrol (probably by Capt Spyridon Stathakis of the Tank and Cavalry Training Centre or ΚΕΤΘ, which was skirmishing on Agios Therapondos hill). Killed instantly, he was taken to the Children’s hospital, which confirmed his death.

18. Basri (Alexandros Vasilis) Karakas, aged 43, Afghan Turkic nationality, juggler, resident of Myron 10, Agios Panteleimonas, Athens. At 1pm on 17 November 1973, while walking with his 13-year-old son at the intersection of Heyden and Acharnon streets, he was fatally wounded in the abdomen by a shot fired from an armoured military vehicle. Taken directly to a morgue, where he was pronounced dead.

19. Alexandros Papathanasiou, son of Spyridon, aged 59, retired tax office official, from Kerasovo, Agrinio, Aitoloakarnania prefecture, resident of Naxou 116, Athens. At 1.30pm on 18 November 1973, while walking with his two young daughters at the intersection of Drosopoulou and Kythnou streets, opposite the 16th police station, he got caught up in gunfire fired from the station by police officers, and lost consciousness (syncope). Taken to a first aid station, he was pronounced dead.

20. Andreas Koumbos, son of Stergios, aged 63, tradesman, originally from Karditsa, resident of Amaliados 12, Kolonos, Athens. Between 11–12am on 18 November 1973, while walking at the intersection of Triti Septemvriou and Kapodistriou streets, he was injured in the pelvis by a shot fired from an armoured military vehicle. Taken to a Red Cross first aid station, he was transferred to what is how the General State hospital, before ending up at the KAT hospital, where he died on 30 January 1974.

21. Michailis Myroyiannis, son of Dimitris, aged 20, electrician, from Mytilini, resident of Asimaki Fotila 8, Athens. At noon on 18 November 1973, while walking at the intersection of Patision and Stournari streets, he was fatally wounded in the head with a shot fired from a revolver by an army officer (the perpetrator was Colonel Nikolaos Dertilis, who remains in jail to this day after his conviction for murder). Taken in a comatose state to a Red Cross first aid station and, from there, to the General State hospital, where he died later on the same day.

22. Kyriakos Panteleakis, son of Dimitris, aged 44, lawyer, from Krokees, Lakonia, resident of Feron 5, Athens. Between noon and 12.30pm on 18 November 1973, while walking at the intersection of Patision and Gladstonos streets, he was fatally wounded by fire shot from passing tanks. Taken to what is now the General State hospital, where he died on 27 December 1973.

23. Stathis Koliniatis, aged 47, from Piraeus, resident of Nikopoleos 4, Kamatero, Athens. Suffered head injuries when beaten by police on 18 November 1973. Died as a result of his injuries on 21 November 1973.

24. Yiannis Mikronis, son of Angelos, aged 22, electrical engineering student at the University of Patras, from Ano Alisos in Achaia. Participated in occupation of his university. Beaten afterwards, in circumstances that remain unclear. Suffered a ruptured liver, from which he died on 17 December 1973 at the General People’s hospital. Some sources say that he suffered his injuries in Patras; others say Athens. The case remains open. In some lists, his name is given as Kostas Mikronis.

Map showing where each victim was shot, beaten or died of complications following tear gas inhalation

Note: This list was updated on 10 November 2013 to correct the spelling of Toril Margrethe Engeland, as confirmed by her sister, Liv Kari Engeland.