Despairing Greek Leftist Makes Final Stand

05 Apr 2012

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A Reuters journalist reads a copy of a note written by a man who committed suicide at the central Syntagma square in Athens


Fluttering on a nondescript balcony in a middle-class Athens neighbourhood, the remnants of a banner declaring "I won't pay" bear witness to the protest Dimitris Christoulas staged against Greece's economic crisis and the politicians he blamed for it.

For months the banner hung as a gesture of resistance to one-off taxes imposed by the government under a savage austerity programme demanded by Greece's foreign lenders, reports Reuters.

On Wednesday the 77-year-old retired pharmacist staged his final act of defiance. Christoulas went to the city's main Syntagma Square and shot himself in the head outside parliament.

In a suicide note Christoulas, a leftist, said his age prevented him from taking "dynamic" action.

"I cannot find any other form of struggle except a dignified end before I have to start scrounging for food from the rubbish," he wrote, adding that one day young Greeks would take up arms and hang the national traitors upside down in Syntagma Square.

Police have reported at least four people have tried to kill themselves because of financial troubles this week but the case of Christoulas particularly shocked the nation.

Ripples from the suicide were being felt across Greece on Thursday and in corridors of power, far from the narrow street in the Ambelokipoi district where Christoulas lived for years.

Stunned Greeks asked if a flawed recipe of austerity cuts to save the country was pushing its citizens to the brink - and family and friends said that is exactly what Christoulas had hoped to accomplish.

"My father's handwritten note leaves no room for misinterpretation. His whole life was spent as a leftist fighter, a selfless visionary," his only daughter, Emy Christoula, 43, said in a statement.

"This final act was a conscious political act, entirely consistent with what he believed and did in his life."

She recalled as a child attending a 1975 concert by Greek leftist composer Mikis Theodorakis, where she and her father sang together. For some dreamers, "committing suicide is not an escape but a cry of awakening", she said.

Friends and acquaintances describe Christoulas as a quiet and gentle man, but also a passionate leftist deeply shaken by the pain that the crisis had inflicted on his fellow citizens.

To many who knew him, "Makis" was a hero - a martyr who had jolted Greeks into asking whether spending and salary cuts prescribed by the foreign lenders in exchange for financial aid as Greece lurched towards bankruptcy had gone too far.

Tags: Politics, World, GREECE, Leftist, Final Stand

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