I teach journalism at RMIT University in Melbourne, passing onto undergrad and postgraduate students my 26 years experience as a journalist/presenter at Australia’s ABC.
A lot of this site is about my grandmother, Olga Stambolis, who was recruited and trained by the British Special Ops (SOE) to sabotage, kill, rescue in Greece during World War 2. Using the cover as an employee with ambassadors, she was responsible for rescuing Australian, New Zealand and British flyers caught behind enemy lines in Greece as the Germans made their push from the north.
I wrote her story into a novel, Someone Else’s War in 2011. Someone Else’s War was published in 2013 in Greek in Europe as “Olga’s War” and was reprinted after 3 weeks.
Her story was just one of many of heroism in the war, but her connection to Australia, and the fact that she should never have been in Greece at all, takes this story beyond one of bravery against tyranny.
Up until 1936, Olga Stambolis had been a Sydney mother and wife. A family tragedy ends the marriage and she disappears from the family shop in Ultimo in the middle of the night. She is next heard from in Athens working for the Greek underground. Her skills as an actress and her ability to speak six languages attracts the British foreign office, and for the rest of the war she turns into one of the most valuable members of the Greek resistance.
Until the day she was caught.
Meanwhile in Australia, her family, who came to believe her dead, were facing their own wartime challenges. They had moved to Darwin and are caught as Japan prepares to bomb the town. Her husband moves on with another wife and two more children.
But Olga was not dead.
Through the entwined stories of mother and daughters, we are taken into the events of two countries and two sets of lives from 1916 to 1943.
I am converting the story into a play, Lady of Arrows (formerly Unbroken). The process of this conversion, and the decisions I had to make, are the basis of an exegesis PhD I am writing through La Trobe University. The completion of the PhD should coincide with the first production of the play in mid-2019.
Available on iTunes: In English and in Greek. Search for Phil Kafcaloudes and it will bring up both.
Available in book form:
Greek version ISBN: 978-618-01-0055-6 (through Psichogios Publications, Athens)
English version ISBN: 978-1-742840-64-2
I was in Greece in November-December 2017 doing research for the play, which is a three hander play. I drove in the central and northern parts of Greece, through where the andartes (resistance fighters) did their thing against the Germans. We went on roads that were almost impassible in 1941 to see the villages, places like Theodoriana and Rendina. Then on to Greek Macedonia and back down the path taken by the Germans as they moved towards Athens in April 1941. This invasion was the beginning of a tragedy that killed 100,000 Greeks, including many in villages across the country.
See the section “Play Diary” to see how the writing of the play and the PhD is progressing.
Please feel free to get in contact, either about my work as a broadcaster, an RMIT academic, or as the author of this this bit of Greek history. I love talking about this story and how I came to learn about the grandmother who died before I could know her.