Remembering victims of the 1973 student uprising in Greece

On the anniverary of 1973 Polytechnic uprising, the younger sister of one of the 24 people who died in the protests traveled to Athens to commemorate her sister and other victims of the Greek military junta.

Dialekti Angeli
Dialekti Angeli NewsMavens, Greece
Remembering victims of the 1973 student uprising in Greece - NewsMavens
Toril Margrethe Engeland, YouTube

Why this story matters:

It was May 1973 when Toril Margrethe Engeland, a Norwegian student, arrived in Greece after visiting Italy. She was due to sit her final exams in the University of Oslo, where she was studying art history. But she was restless, as her sister describes her, and she liked to travel. Once in Athens, she stayed in a youth hostel, in the city center.

On November 16, 1973, Toril was found dead near a hotel in central Athens, on the evening of the students' uprising at the Polytechnic University. She had been shot.

Her family was informed of her death two days later. According to her death certificate, cited by Norway’s diplomatic representative in Athens, she died from “wounds to the chest and throat after being hit by a high caliber bullet.” Her death was reported as if she had been a tourist in the wrong place at the wrong time. Media reports of the time claim that she was killed as she made her way home from the cinema.

But a Greek historian at the National Research Center, Leonidas Kallivretakis, doubts this theory. He points out that it was unlikely that she was returning from a film, as most cinemas would have been shut, given the events at the Polytechnic.

In August 1974, a month after the fall of the Greek Junta, Toril’s family received a letter from Yiorgos Lazaridis, the dentist who found her body that fateful evening.

“At 11.30 pm, it was already over for your outstanding 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.”

Lazaridis also praised Toril as a hero: “As a Greek citizen, I would like to offer you my thanks. The blood of your daughter was mixed with the Greek blood that was sacrificed on that night. This was the water for the tree of freedom that we enjoy today,” he wrote in his letter.

Forty-five years later, Toril’s younger sister, Liv, traveled to Athens, to commemorate her sister’s death along with the other victims of the Greek military junta.

“In a way, Athens is in my heart because of what happened. Not in a negative way. We have no anger. Only sorrow. It just happened. I still feel sorrow after so many years. On the other hand, I am delighted that Greece has got rid of the regime and that democracy has returned,” she said after visiting the memorial in the Polytechnic University of Athens and leaving some white roses for her sister.

Details from the story:

  • Research published in 2003 by the National Hellenic Research Foundation (EIA) named 24 people as having been killed in and around the Polytechnic campus in November 16-18, 1973.
  • The Greek Military Junta sent tanks to Polytechnic University to crush a student revolt against the dictatorship, it is known as the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of November 17, 1973.
  • November 17, is currently observed as a holiday in Greece for all educational establishments.
  • The student uprising is hailed by many as a valiant act of resistance against the military dictatorship, and therefore as a symbol of resistance to tyranny.
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