Eleni Gatzoyiannis

Tribute to Motherhood

She refused to let them take her children, she paid for their freedom with her life. Eleni Gatzoyiannis was a woman from a small village in Greece. She had no political beliefs, she had only her cultural and family beliefs. So when her village and her very home were taken over, "liberated" as the soldiers called it, she did not disobey. When they took the food from the villagers to give to the soldiers, she made do with what she could find. When they made her give up one of her daughters to fight in the army for a cause she did not understand and made Eleni herself work day after day at hard labor, all in the name of freedom, she did not defy them. But when they said she must give up her children so that they could be raised as Communists in another country, she would not allow them to push her any further.

Against all her cultural and familial teachings she defied authority and arranged for her children to escape from Greece and go to find their father in America. She was charged with treason, tortured and condemned to death by firing squad. As Eleni stood before them, ready to die, she raised her arms and shouted, "My Children!"

Eleni made the ultimate sacrifice, one that mothers everywhere feel ready to face, but few are forced to. She is the embodiment of all that is motherhood and we honor her courage and her strength. From this time on, in honor of Eleni, the Tribute To Motherhood presented by Women's International Center will be called the Eleni Award.

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