Our name is resistance

The Telegraph reported last week: Until Wednesday morning, Dimitris Christoulas, a respectable middle-class pensioner, was familiar only to the residents of the quiet Ampelokipous district of Athens where he had lived and worked hard for nearly 40 years.

All that changed at 8.45am, rush hour, when the 77-year-old former pharmacist and pillar of his shopkeeping community put a hand gun to his head and shot himself under a giant Cyprus tree on the central Syntagma Square.

He fell to the ground in front of the national parliament that many Greeks have come to blame for the corruption and mismanagement that has plunged their country into crisis, and lay there dead as shocked commuters looked on.

Yesterday, 24 hours after his suicide, the name Dimitris Christoulas is known to most in this troubled country.

“A martyr for Greece” declared the Eleftheros Typos newspaper. “Scream of desperation” said the headline in Avyi next to a picture of Edvard Munch’s celebrated painting. Many press commentaries compared his death to the protest suicides that unleashed the Arab spring in Tunisia and across the Middle East last year.

To many – including neighbours in his close community, he has become a hero.

“He did not rebel from his couch. He was a beautiful man, he will live on in history,” said Pannayotta, a housewife in her late 50s, living on the same street as the pensioner.

The incendiary suicide note Mr Chritoulas left behind urging young Greeks to rise up has also struck a chord with millions of people who see their highly indebted nation’s social fabric being torn apart by economic recession and externally imposed austerity measures.

“I cannot find any other form of struggle except a dignified end,” he wrote. “I believe that young people with no future will one day take up and hang this country’s traitors in arms in Syntagma Square just as the Italians hanged Mussolini in 1945.”

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