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Helen Vlachos (1911–1995)

Author of House arrest

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Helen Vlachos was the only child and heiress of the wealthy Georgios Vlachos, who founded Kathimerini (Daily), one of Greece's leading newspapers, in 1919. She worked as a journalist for the paper in the years prior to World War II. During the war, her father refused to collaborate with the Nazi Occupation, and the paper was shut down. Helen worked as a nurse until after the war, when she resumed working for Kathimerini as a columnist and became widely popular. In 1951, after her father's death, she took ownership of the paper and expanded it by publishing an afternoon edition called Mesimvrini (Noon). She also launched Eikones (Pictures), the first illustrated magazine in Greece and Galaxias, a paperback book pubishing house. Following the military coup of April 1967 known as the Junta of the Colonels, she shut down her newspaper in protest. Her criticism of the junta government led to her house arrest, which she later described in a memoir called House Arrest (1970). She successfully escaped by climbing out of a window one cold Athens night and going over the roofs of nearby houses before reaching the street and going into hiding in a bordello. Her friend Leslie Finer, an author and journalist who worked at the Greek Embassy in Washington, arranged a secret flight to London, where Helen was granted political asylum. She formed an alliance with other Greek political activists in exile, including Melina Merkouri and Amalia, Lady Fleming, to continue the anti-junta movement. She became editor of the Hellenic Review, a journal for the Greek expatriates in Britain. She was able to return to Greece in 1974 following the fall of the junta, and restarted her newspapers. She served for a time as state deputy for New Democracy in Greece's first democratically-elected Parliament. She sold Kathimerini in 1987, and published her autobiography, Peninda kai Kati: Dimosiographika Chronika (Fifty-Something: Journalistic Chronicles) in the 1990s. She was given a state funeral at her death in 1995.
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