IOANNIS GEORGAKIS did his last service to his country in September when, as an independent interim Minister of the Interior, it was his responsibility to supervise the general election in Greece.
He was a man of trusted integrity, but also a cosmopolitan of effortless style and distinction. His love of civilised things also embraced civilised values. Educated in Law at Athens and Leipzig, he was fluent in German and defended more than 2,000 patriots brought before German courts martial in occupied Greece. He never accepted a fee and was himself eventually arrested for contempt of court.
Human rights were the first concern to Georgakis. As Professor of Penal Law at the Pantios University of Political Science in Athens he organised international conferences concerning capital punishment and the defence of the individual against arbitrary action by the state. His range of interest extended from the construction of school buildings to the setting up of a Centre for Islamic Studies where attention was particularly paid to the importance of human values. He held prestigious public offices, was Ambassador at large and was, for a time, president of Olympic Airways. He was permanent secretary to the Onassis Foundation and in 1988 he became its president.
The unanimous support of a concept by all political interests is a rare thing in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter. By June 1992 Georgakis had persuaded the Greek parliament to establish by law the Foundation for Hellenic Culture. Within 12 months he had set up bases in Athens, Paris, London and Odessa. In his own words:
The universality of the Greek spirit and Greek learning can, through the cultivation of classical studies, forge a cultural solidarity, encourage communication between members of the world community and act as a support for the attainment of common goals.
From anyone without his background of performance that might sound high-falutin' stuff. Georgakis, compact, imperturbable, benevolent, was no humbug but a practical realist who knew that civilisation had either to be actively promoted or find itself suffocated by indifference. His first act as President was to bring the foundation to the attention of Philhellenes the world over by taking a shipload of academics, actors, artists, authors, journalists and political people on a voyage to the Cyclades.
When I last saw him he was sitting on the terrace of the little bar at Delos. Right hand on a silver-knobbed walking-stick, blue yachting cap on his head, he was looking out to the west, waiting for the sun to set over Syros. As it did so an orchestra that he had brought ashore played Mozart's symphony no 40 in G Minor, among the ruins.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content