Olga (my grandmother)

My grandmother Olga Stambolis was one of the unsung. She did what so many others had done in the Greece after the German occupation in WW2: she fought an almost impossible foe, risking her life everyday to rescue British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. She also spied, killed and sabotaged.

The British had trained her in the arts of war. For them, she must’ve been an attractive ¬†candidate for an operative. She could speak half a dozen languages, including English and German; she had been an actress; her family was in Australia (so their safety could not be used against her by the Germans); and she was intelligent and resourceful.

Not quite resourceful to stop her being arrested and jailed in 1941. Somehow the underground got her out after 6 months in a prison cell in Averoff jail. She survived the war and made it home to Australia to a family who barely knew her any more. After her jailing her husband, believing her dead, and married again and fathered two more children. Life for the Stambolis family had moved on. For Olga Stambolis this was just another story of sad loss in a war that was full of loss.

OlgaUniformHiRes

My grandmother Olga in Greek naval uniform sometime during the war in Greece. She wears it well. Many women andartes were photographed like this, often with rifles and sashes of ammunition. In this case it seems likely it was taken on a boat while she was escorting rescued servicemen to Egypt.

 

OlgaLiberationOlga on the day that Greece was liberated from the Germans. Unfortunately, the seeds of a horror civil war had been sown, and more Greeks would die in that civil war (at the hands of other Greeks), than had died under the Nazis.

 

StudioShotA studio portrait taken in Greece at the height of the civil war strife. Olga worked for the American ambassador, John Peurifoy, once considered a presidential likely, until he was killed when U.S. ambassador to Thailand.

 

OlgaMumSylvia

Olga having a quintessential cup of tea after her return to Australia in 1952. (L to R: My sister Sylvia, Olga, my dad Steve, my mother Nellie, unknown child)