Melina Mercouri was born in Athens, Greece on 18 October 1920 and died in New York on 6 March 1994.  She was an oscar-nominated actress (and also won a Cannes Film Festival Award for her performance in the 1960 film Never on Sunday), a singer, and a politician.

As a politician, she was a member of the Geek socialist party in the 1980’s (PASOK) and the Hellenic Parliament.

She was a political activist during the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 and became a member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1977 and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece in 1981. Mercouri conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture, which has been established by the European Union since 1985.

She was a strong advocate for the return to Athens of the Parthenon Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon, and are now displayed in the British Museum

“I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek.

Those bastards were born fascists and they will die fascists”.

Activism against the Greek junta

The coup d’état in Greece by a group of colonels of the Greek military happened on 21 April 1967, Melina was in the United States at the time, playing in Illya Darling. Upon learning the news of the coup d’état she immediately joined the struggle against the Greek Military Junta and started an international campaign, traveling all over the world to inform the public and contribute to the isolation and fall of the colonels. As a result, the dictatorial regime revoked her Greek citizenship and confiscated her property.

When her citizenship was taken away, she said: “I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek. Those bastards were born fascists and they will die fascists”.

While in London she worked with Amalia Fleming and Helen Vlachos of Kathimerini against the junta of the colonels.

Melina Mercouri talks about the Parthenon marbles: