Monday, February 27, 2012

Grigoris Afxentiou , hero of E.O.K.A.

Grigoris Pieris Afxentiou  was a guerrilla fighter who fought against the British rule of Cyprus and is considered a national hero. In the hierarchy of EOKA he was second in command to general Georgios Grivas. His nom-de-guerre was Zedhros (Ζήδρος).

Afxentiou was born in the village of Lyssi in Mesaoria, Famagusta District on February 22, 1928 to Pieris and Antonia Afxentiou. He had a younger sister called Chrystala. He attendedLyssi primary school and received his secondary education at the Hellenic Gymnasium in the nearest city, Famagusta. Reports by those who knew him were that he was a keen sportsman and passionate about football. He supported Anorthosis one of the strongest clubs in Famagusta.

Army Service

He left for Greece where he was unsuccessful in gaining a place at the Hellenic Military Academy in Athens. In December 1949 he joined the Hellenic Army as a volunteer. From March to October 1950, he attended a reserve officer’s academy on the island of Syros. He then served with the Hellenic Army on the Greek-Bulgarian frontier, as a second lieutenant, before returning to Cyprus and joining the EOKA struggle.
He was discharged from the ranks of the Greek Army on November 15, 1953 and returned to Cyprus where he helped his father with his business by working as a taxi driver. At that time he also got engaged to be married.


Afxentiou joined the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) where he soon became Second in Command, adjutant to EOKA leaderGeorge Grivas.] He was originally assigned the regional command of the district of Famagusta which he knew well. It was Grigoris Afxentiou who first thought of obtaining explosives from the sea bed, in shallow waters off the coast of Famagusta, as used by local fishermen to dynamite fish. Explosives were made from the surplus shells dumped in the sea by the British Army at the end of Second World War.
Afxentiou was well liked by his peers and it did not take long for General Grivas to promote him to Commander of the Kyrenia district.
In the spring of 1955, he conducted attacks against the British-controlled Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation and the electricity company in Nicosia. Known by the code name Zidros (Ζήδρος), since the day of his attacks, he was top of the British list of most wanted men. They initially proclaimed a reward of £250 for his arrest, which was soon raised to £1,000, and then £5,000 pounds sterling for blowing up British property.
When the reward was proclaimed, he went into hiding in the Pentadactylos mountain range where he trained EOKA fighters on weapon use and guerrilla warfare. He was very active in the Pentadaktylos range as well as Mount Troodos.
During October, 1955, on the day after Field Marshal Harding's arrival on Cyprus Afxentiou raided Lefkoniko Police Station, in broad daylight, and seized the entire armoury that was stored there. Although the raid was planned well in advance it clearly appeared as a challenge to the Field Marshal's authority who thereafter pursued Afxentiou zealously.
In December, 1955, Afxentiou was relocated on orders of General Grivas to the Troodos mountain range and the General's hideout at Spilia, which led to Afxentiou's involvement in the Battle of Spilia.
On March 3, 1957, after an informant had betrayed his location, the British forces surrounded Afxentiou outside his secret hideout near theMachairas Monastery. At the time, inside the hideout was Afxentiou and four fellow guerrilla fighters. Realising he was outnumbered, Afxentiou ordered his comrades to surrender but stayed behind to fight to the death. The British asked Afxentiou to surrender his arms but he replied "Molon labe" (trans. "come and take them") quoting King Leonidas of Sparta at Thermopylae. Unable to drive him out and after sustaining casualties, the British forces resolved to pouring petrol in to his hideout, burning him alive. In fear of popular uprising, the British buried his scorched body at the Imprisoned Graves, in the yard of the Central Jail of Lefkosia, where he lies today.