- Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory by Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten
In 1956, a glowing testament was written regarding a children’s rescue effort during World War II: “It had been ‘a great adventure’: yes, but it had been much more. … [I]n spite of the suffering they had endured … hardly one of the children thus brought over failed to make good. It is … a tribute to the organization of the Refugee Children’s Movement, and to the loving, understanding care shown to them by many, many people in this country to whose humanity neither race nor religion proved any barrier” (Lord Gorell, cited in Craig-Norton 2014, 15).
This quote recalls the Jewish rescue effort launched immediately before and during World War II, the Kindertransport. Lord Gorell, who was the chairman of the Refugee Children’s Movement and the Kinder’s British parliamentary-appointed legal guardian, trumpeted the endeavor as one of the first in which Jewish children escaped Nazi tyranny and were evacuated to safety in England through the generous efforts of the British people. To a great extent, Lord Gorell glossed over the painful aspects of the child migration scheme, all of which emanate from the fateful decision to separate families and admit only unaccompanied children to Great Britain (Craig-Norton, 2014, 15).
Recent scholarship has challenged this prevailing narrative regarding the Kinder-transport and reflects the growing interest in the actions and welfare of children during [End Page 393] World War II. From Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps (Warren 2001) and Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives Under the Nazis (Stargardt 2006) to Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web (Nicholas 2005) and “Contesting Memory: New Perspectives on the Kindertransport” (Craig-Norton 2014), there is a growing body of work that seeks to shed light on the effects of war, death, and dislocation on children. In this regard, Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten’s Children of the Greek Civil War—which traces two movements of children evacuation and relocation initiated in the aftermath of World War II—is a timely contribution to this relatively new and indisputably promising field in World War II studies.
Danforth and Van Boeschoten’s work considers two children transports in the context of the Greek Civil War, which followed World War II almost immediately (1946–1949): one conducted by the Greek Communist Party for children of the communist partisans who were members of the Democratic Army, and a second by Queen Frederica for children from families of various political persuasions in northern Greece. Throughout Part 1 of their work, entitled “Histories,” Danforth and Van Boeschoten grapple with controversial and challenging issues. They discuss the construction of national identity for individuals in the region: how and by what means individuals considered themselves to be “Greek” or “Macedonian.” They also explore the accusation that the Communist Party abducted children in a modern day version of the Ottoman devshirme. Danforth and Van Boeschoten carefully uncover the evidence—or, rather, lack thereof—for this charge through an analysis of Nicholas Gage’s popular and influential memoir Eleni (1983), in which Gage describes his family’s predicament in the communist-controlled village of Lia. They later revisit the issue, addressing at the end of the book how Gage’s narrative has affected Lia by hindering social reconciliation and establishing it as a “Memorial Village” (276–288).
In Part 2, entitled “Stories,” the authors attempt to piece together the lives of the relocated children through their personal accounts. Seven accounts are presented in total: four from children sent to Eastern Europe and three from those sent to one of the Queen’s παιδοπόλεις (paidopóleis, literally “children’s towns,” referred to by the authors as the Queen’s camps). Finally, Part 3 of the book, entitled “Ethnographies,” focuses on the partisan children’s return, or attempted return, to Greece in the...