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Children of the Greek Civil War

Refugees and the Politics of Memory

At the height of the Greek Civil War in 1948, thirty-eight thousand children were evacuated from their homes in the mountains of northern Greece. The Greek Communist Party relocated half of them to orphanages in Eastern Europe, while their adversaries in the national government placed the rest in children’s homes elsewhere in Greece. A point of contention during the Cold War, this controversial episode continues to fuel tensions between Greeks and Macedonians and within Greek society itself. Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten present here for the first time a comprehensive study of the two evacuation programs and the lives of the children they forever transformed.

Marshalling archival records, oral histories, and ethnographic fieldwork, the authors analyze the evacuation process, the political conflict surrounding it, the children’s upbringing, and their fates as adults cut off from their parents and their homeland. They also give voice to seven refugee children who poignantly recount their childhood experiences and heroic efforts to construct new lives in diaspora communities throughout the world. A much-needed corrective to previous historical accounts, Children of the Greek Civil War is also a searching examination of the enduring effects of displacement on the lives of refugee children.

352 pages | 11 halftones, 4 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

History: European History, Military History


“In this excellent book, Loring Danforth and Riki van Boeschoten steer a careful course between claim and counter-claim. . . .  The life stories revealed in their interviews with the evacuees make for fascinating, if at times harrowing, reading. The book is an important contribution to the study of a still contested aspect of the civil war in Greece and to one of the least-known dimensions of the Greek diaspora.”

Richard Clogg | Times Literary Supplement

“Danforth and Van Goeschoten grippingly tell the stories of thousands of Greek children relocated during the Greek Civil War….Amid charges of communist baby snatching and fascist child manipulation, the book charts an astonishingly evenhanded and supremely well-researched course. Insisting that refugee children ought to occupy center stage in their own history, the authors support their argument with two chapters of testimony from the historical actors themselves remembering their own childhood experiences. This innovative book ends with some insightful thinking about the production of historical memory….Highly recommended.”  

K. Dubinsky | Choice

“Danforth and Van Boeschoten provide a well-written, fair-minded, and convincing comparative study of the actions of both sides and of the subsequent politics of memory.”

European History Quarterly

“This remarkable study breaks new ground in several areas: in its methodology, its style, and its topic. Historically and ethnographically, the book tells a duplex tale: by two authors, writing about two opposed camps, and exploring the vicissitudes of two states and two ethnicities. Balanced to an impressive degree, Children of the Greek Civil War succeeds magnificently in showing the parallels between the experiences of the two sides in a way that is moving as well as analytically compelling. Yet the greatest strength of the book, aside from the seamless writing and its emotional impact, lies in the theorization of the children’s agency in organizing their present lives and understanding their past.”

Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

“Successfully combing archival research with extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Children of the Greek Civil War is a work of first-rate scholarship, grounded in original research and sophisticated theoretical analysis, that is often gripping as it ranges from historical prose to deeply moving personal vignettes. Given the contentiousness of the book’s subject—an understudied but highly significant episode—it is as courageous as it is informed. The time seems ripe for beginning the process of reconciliation, and Danforth and Van Boeschoten’s work will help us move down that difficult road.”

Maria Todorova, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

Part I: Histories
One Framing the Subject 
Two The Evacuation of Children to Eastern Europe 
Three The Paidopoleis of Queen Frederica

Part II: Stories
Four Refugee Children in Eastern Europe
      Kostas Tsimoudis
      Evropi Marinova
      Stefanos Gikas
      Maria Bundovska Rosova 
Five Children of the Paidopoleis
      Efterpi Tsiou
      Traian Dimitriou
      Kostas Dimou

Part III: Ethnographies
Six Refugees, Displacement, and the Impossible Return
Seven Communities of Memory, Narratives of Experience
Eight The Politics of Memory: Creating a Meaningful Past



Modern Greek Studies Association: Edmund Keeley Book Prize

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