“The Greek Civil War (1946-1949) is considered one of the worst periods in Europe’s modern history. There is no accurate account of the lives lost, and it was never recorded in Greek history books. Years after the war ended, secret journals kept by women in exile were found buried beneath an olive tree.”
Directed by Stavroula Toska, and narrated by Olympia Dukakis, Beneath the Olive Tree introduces a heretofore hidden horror, ‘The Greek Civil War’ and decades of the horrific aftermath that ensued. The film’s focus is on the persecuted, tortured, exiled, starved, and execution of approximately 100,000 Greek women. The civil war lasted much more than the aforementioned three to four years. Attacks on women continued well into the 1970s.
The inciting incident to this story is the unearthing of a set of seven documents buried beneath olive trees revealing the horrific attacks men perpetrated on women.
In addition to revealing these decades of attacks on women, this is a deeply personal film. Toska’s mother was a victim. Having learned about the decades of attacks on Greece’s women, Toska visited her mother in Greece. We see, hear, and feel the love between mother and daughter—and we empathize with both women as they confront the impacts on each other of the revelations of the documents.
During these decades of unrest, Greece was torn apart by global politics—Western forces verses communist forces. Amongst countless others, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt participated in the socio-political splits that still haunt and hamper Greece to this day.
Although there are now books and presenters who write and speak on the devastation perpetrated on these women. There is still the call for a full reckoning of this hidden horror. Toska’s film and the resources it provides help each of us who are just now learning about, and sharing about the books under the olive tree.
Beneath the Olive Tree left me utterly stunned. I’m still reeling from the hidden horrors revealed in the film, and in awe of the survivors, and everyone in this film who suffered, as well as those who revealed. I grieve for all of the victims. “Beneath the Olive Tree” is a story I will revisit from time-to-time.
(Photo of Stavroula Toska courtesy of ‘Beneath the Olive Tree’)