Death cheats two wartime lovers

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The Independent Online
LIFE HAS imitated art for an Italian man and a Greek woman who rekindled their wartime romance after more than half a century, mirroring the story in the literary bestseller Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

But the real-life story has a sad ending: the Greek woman, Angeliki Stratigou, died at the weekend, two weeks before she was to marry the former Italian soldier, Luigi Surace, who asked for her hand in 1942.

In the novel by Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli is sent to Greece with the Italian forces and meets and fall in love with a Greek girl. The ravages of war and an earthquake contrive to keep the couple apart.

The story of Luigi Surace and Angeliki Stratigou began in August 1941, when Mr Surace was sent to the Greek port city of Patras. He met and fell in love with Miss Stratigou, aged 23, and promised to marry her.

When the war ended, he wrote to Miss Stratigou who was living with her aunt. Her aunt intercepted and destroyed the letters. After three years with no reply Mr Surace gave up.

He married in Italy but when his wife died in 1996 he began to search for Miss Stratigou. She was living in Patras and had never married. On Saint Valentine's Day last year they met and Mr Surace, aged 77, proposed marriage. Miss Stratigou, 79, accepted.

The wedding was to have taken place on 22 December. Mr Surace was unwell and the date was put back. He has partially recovered and everything was set to go ahead in two weeks. Then, unexpectedly, Miss Stratigou fell ill. She died on Saturday. However, Mr Surace has not yet been told.

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, and then again as tragedy," wrote Louis de Bernieres.