March 14, 2024

Evagoras Pallikarides: The Last Hours of the Cypriot Revolutionary Hero

The story of Evagoras Pallikarides is related to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of England in June 1953. In Cyprus, at that time, as in many other colonies under British rule, they had taken care to decorate all the cities for the great event.

15-year-old Evagoras Pallikarides was a student at the Paphos High School and disagreed when he saw that British flags were brought into his school. It was the time when the demand for the Union of Cyprus with Greece ("Enosis") stirred up the majority of Greek Cypriots.

The students refused to enter the High School, demanded that the flags be lowered, while Pallikarides headed towards the 28th of October Square. He climbed the mast and lowered the British flag to the applause of the crowd.

The young student's move sparked reactions across Paphos, where students began tearing down anything British that had been set up, on the occasion of Elizabeth's coronation.

After investigations, the British colonialists arrested students, including Pallikarides. The sentences imposed on them were not long.

At the age of 17, Evagoras Pallikarides left school and joined the EOKA, while in January 1957 he was arrested, without a warrant and after a mock trial, in which no one paid attention to the horrible and inhumane torture he reported, and after a confession was extracted from him he was sentenced to death.

The now 18-year-old Evagoras Pallikarides was accused of carrying weapons. Despite the pleas of his lawyers, Pallikarides admitted that he was a member of EOKA, that he wanted the freedom of his homeland and that he was doing what was his duty.

His lawyers sent a telegram to Queen Elizabeth if she could grant a pardon on behalf of the young man. The queen, however, did not even reply to the telegram.

Evagoras Pallikarides was hanged on March 14, 1957, at the age of just 18.

His Last Hours

When Pallikarides was arrested at the age of 18, he went through an incredibly cruel process of interrogations for which he was dragged from one army camp to another, and tortured along the way. By the time he arrived in Omorphita, he had endured hell without flinching.

In Omorphita there was a large police station, the central torture and interrogation center that operated with specially trained interrogators and torturers. Evagoras arrived there with bruised eyes and an injured spine. After being brutally tortured with powerful electric lamps to the face, and the inhumane sequence of five torture techniques brought by the interrogators from Kenya, Evagoras also endured the painful loneliness during confinement in the "recovery" room, for about seven days and nights.

A month, some say two months, passed and the tortures continued. In his jacket pocket he carried with him an icon of Christ and a New Testament.

Papa-Antonis was the priest who visited Pallikarides to give him his last Holy Communion, after he confessed and the priest held the Crucifix to his heart. His last words were delivered through Papa-Antonis in a letter:

"My greetings to all and I pray that freedom will come quickly to Cyprus. I know you will hang me. Everything I did, I did as a Greek Cypriot seeking his Freedom. Nothing else. I will follow my destiny with courage. Maybe this will be my last letter. But again, I'm not bothered by this. I don't regret anything. Let me lose everything. One dies once. I will march happily to my last abode. What today what tomorrow? Everyone dies one day. It is a good thing to die for Greece. Time 7:30. The most beautiful day of my life. The most beautiful time. Don't ask why."
In the Central Prison near the cell of of Pallikarides was the cell of the soldier Tevkros Loizos, who recorded the last hours of the hero, as he heard and experienced on that glorious day of sacrifice. He said:

"My visual contact was limited only to the window of the gallows room and not at all inside. But I could hear everything clearly, since it was only a few meters away.

About three o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, while I was hanging from the irons of the window gazing anxiously, I heard a loud thump.

Boom! I froze! In a few minutes the same thump was repeated two more times. Boom!

Boom! The noise from the hatch door was clear.

I yelled out: 'They are testing the gallows.'

Whispers and absolute silence followed. Immediately after the third thump, the eerie, angelic voice of Pallikarides was heard chanting:

'I see Your bridal chamber, O my Savior, all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.'

It was followed by:

'To you, the Champion Leader, we your servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as you are with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do deliver us, that we may cry to you: Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.'

Then [the Greek army march]: 'Black is the night in the mountains...'.

Religious hymns were followed by patriotic songs. He didn't stop for a moment. For eight whole hours he chanted and sang. It stopped around half past eleven at night. There were heavy footsteps, English conversations, latches on doors, while lights flickered on and off.

I yelled out again: 'They are taking him to the gallows!'

There was an immense roar. Extreme silence in the prison walls. An angelic voice was heard again singing our national anthem:

'I recognize you by the fearsome sharpness, of your sword, I recognize you by your face that hastefully defines the land. From the sacred bones, of the Hellenes arisen, and again as you once were valiant,...'

The word was cut in half by the sound of the hatch and it remained suspended, just like the suspended body of Evagoras Pallikarides.

'It's over!' said my voice louder than ever.

It wasn't a voice, it was a scream, it was a howl.

What followed was indeed a riot. Voices, breakings, fires, screams.

I want to stop here. I said much more than I intended to say."

This testimony sheds more light on the greatness of Pallikarides and how he experienced Divine Grace after receiving communion a few hours before his hanging.

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