28 Jun The man
Eleftherios Venizelos was born in the Turkish-occupied Crete in the village of Mournies, which is situated outside the town of Hania, on August 11, 1864. His father Kyriakos Venizelos, a merchant by profession, ran a china shop in Topanas, the Chrostian neighborhood of Hania. His mother, Styliani Ploumidaki, came from Therisso. During the Cretan Revolution of 1866, Kyriakos Venizelos, along with his family, was compelled to flee Crete and to settle in the Island of Syros, from which he returned in 1872. Kyriakos Venizelos laid great emphasis on the education of his son, who attended primary and secondary school successively in Hania, Athens and Syros. He enrolled in the Law School of Athens University in 1881, but the death of his father in 1883 made him take over both the care of his family and his father’s business.
Subsequent to his graduation in 1886, Eleftherios Venizelos worked as a lawyer in Hania, but in 1889 he entered into politics. In 1891, he married Maria Eleftheriou-Katelouzou, with whom he had two sons: Kyriakos and Sofoklis. The death of his wife in 1894 marked his life indelibly. His career as a lawyer, which combined with politics, enabled him to earn the means to support his family, as he was saddled with the burden of their overall care from 1906, when his elder sister died.
Meanwhile, political action absorbed more and more of his time and energy as, after the success of the revolution at Therisso, Crete was struggling its storm-stricken way towards its union with Greece. The bonds of friendship he established with his collaborators and comrades during the revolutionary years of his action in Crete remained firm until the end of his life.
He married his second wife, Elena Skylitsi, the descendant of a wealthy family of the Greek Diaspora, in England in 1921, when he was in exile for the first time after his defeat in the elections held in 1920. Elena supported him during the difficult times of his exile and gave him the security of an affluent life he had been deprived of on account of family and political adventures. During his first self-exile, he went on a long tour in the United States, where he was welcomed with demonstrations of infatuation by the Greek community in the New World. Throughout this period, he never ceased to make use of his personal influence in favour of the issues related to Greek national interests. In the aftermath of the disaster in Asia Minor, although he was no longer politically active, he was invited by the Greek Government to offer his services in the Lausanne Peace Conference and save his country from the painful consequences of the recent defeat.
He returned to Greece for a short time in 1924 and, then, for good in 1927, determined to enter politics again.
His family house in the Hania suburb of Halepa, which had been built by his father Kyriakos in 1877 and in which Eleftherios Venizelos had lived, except for short intervals, until 1910, was radically renovated under his personal surveillance in 1927. Since then, it became his home during his long stays in his cherished Hania, the town in which he felt serene and safe throughout the stormy period preceding his final departure from Greece in March 1935.
Venizelos returned to active politics during the period 1928-1932, when, despite his advanced age –in 1928 was already 65 years old- he displayed an impressive vigour and his familiar feverish passion for creativity.
Throughout his entire life, the features of his personality that established him as the most prominent Greek politician of modern times were his personal charm, his power of persuasion and his rare capacity for intensive work. He abandoned active political life and Greece forever after the unsuccessful coup of March 1935. Via the Dodecanese Islands and Rome, he arrived in Paris, where he lived in a flat at 22, Beaujon Street. There, living in self-exile but working incessantly, he died after a stroke on March 18, 1936.