Vlachos, Helen (1911–1995)

views updated

Vlachos, Helen (1911–1995)

Greek publisher and legislator . Name variations: Eleni Vlachou. Born on December 18, 1911, in Athens, Greece; died on October 14, 1995, in Athens; daughter of George Vlachou (a newspaper publisher); educated abroad; married Costas Loundras.

Began career as reporter (1935); published newspapers, including influential daily Kathimerini (1951–87); closed her three newspapers after military takeover (1967); escaped to London while under house arrest (1967); published autobiography The House Arrest (1970); returned to Greece and elected to Parliament (1974).

Helen Vlachos was born Eleni Vlachou in Athens in 1911, the daughter of newspaper owner George Vlachou. After receiving her education abroad, Vlachos returned to Athens to work for her father, first as a bookkeeper and, from 1935, as a reporter. During her journalistic career, she covered everything from Greek earthquakes to Mussolini in Libya and events in the Far East. From her father, who ran the respected daily paper Kathimerini, Vlachos learned the power and effects of political opposition through

the pages of a newspaper; he was jailed by more than one Greek government, and one of his newspapers was taken over by the Nazis in 1941 after he refused them cooperation.

In the late 1940s, Vlachos began writing a witty political column in Kathimerini, in which she regularly criticized the government. Her popularity and fame as a journalist increased, and in 1951 she assumed control of Kathimerini, as well as Messimvrini, another daily newspaper, and the weekly picture magazine Eikones. In a dramatic move that garnered international attention, Vlachos closed all three publications in 1967 when a group of army colonels seized power, instituting censorship and mandating pro-government daily reports. The military dictators had expected her support because of Vlachos' outspoken anti-Communism, but she refused to serve as a conduit for the regime's propaganda. Vlachos not only closed her high-circulation dailies but told an Italian newspaper, "They can't tell me how to run newspapers any more than I can tell them how to run their tanks." She was placed under house arrest and charged with "insulting authorities."

During her arrest, despite the very real threat of imprisonment, Vlachos made light of the situation in her typically witty and irreverent manner, asking prison officials to note that her favorite dish was meatballs. Later in 1967, she made a daring escape to London, with her hair dyed black and carrying a fake passport. During the escape, Vlachos hid in a cramped bordello while her husband Costas Loundras walked around their Athens apartment in high-heeled shoes, fooling the guards stationed below into thinking that she was still at home.

In London, Vlachos led the public campaign against the junta and published a book about her career and escape, The House Arrest (1970). She returned home after the junta fell in 1974, reopened her newspapers, and was elected to Parliament as a member of the conservative New Democracy Party. Vlachos remained the publisher of Kathimerini until 1987, when she sold her media holdings. A legend in Greek journalism, she died in Athens in 1995, age 85.


Steinhauer, Jennifer. "Helen Vlachos," in The New York Times News Service. October 16, 1995.

Time. October 30, 1995.

Paula Morris , D.Phil., Brooklyn, New York