Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Written on the Knee: A Diary from the Greek-Italian Front of WWII by Dr. Theodore Electris, translated with commentary by Helen Electrie Lindsay.

Originally posted Oct. 28, 2008
Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

The Little-Known War; a part of WWII, a personal look

Many books have come to light written by survivors of WWII within the past few years. What better way to hear it than through the eyes, ears, and voice of those who lived it? This is the case with Written on the Knee. The book is a compilation of Dr. Electris’ well-kept diaries, the letters to and from family members, especially the letters from his wife of three months when he was suddenly mobilized.

This is as much a love story as a war story, and often he touches on the war & discomforts only lightly, but every so often through exhaustion and fear both for his loved ones and for himself, we hear of the desperate trials and tribulations, not only of the soldiers but of the people who are caught between the devil and the natural topography of the mountains where most of this portion of the war was fought. This war was fought mostly in Albany, between the Italians, at that time in league with the Germans, and the mobilized Greeks. The Greek army suffered from lack of proper equipment, lack of food, lack of transportation. They moved mostly by night through the treacherous forests & mountains on foot, sometimes with some mules and/or horses. Shortage of medical supplies and the inability to pack them well from camp to camp was an ongoing problem; finding food almost impossible. This was dirty warfare, almost forgotten in history books, and yet was a major turning point in Hitler’s plans of taking on Russia, by delaying the timeline until winter, one of the worst winters in history.

The book concentrates a lot on family, the worry on both sides and the infiltration of the Germans into the village where the Electris family lived. His fear for his wife is very noticeable in his diaries. The long trek home, mostly alone in the dark through the mountains must be read, and the discovery of Germans occupying his home terrifying, since he did not know where his wife could be. These are the kinds of stories you can only hear from those who lived the time.

Helen has done a great translation, but also has written an excellent Prologue, Epilogue, and Appendix all of which shed more light on this battle; I learned a great deal. There are several photos in the book courtesy of the Hellenic War Museum as well as photos taken by Theordore Electris himself, and several maps showing various fronts and approaches. A very good read, I would recommend this book to anyone whose genre is historical, wars, non-fiction, realism, and even love stories. This is a must read for any who have never heard of the Greek-Italian portion of WWII.

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