Dear Partners in thought,
Like the great Edward Luce, our top FT man in the US, you may be or had been holidaying in Crete (or in Greece) this summer and I thought I would tell about “Occupation and Resistance in Crete 1941-1945” by Georgios (George) Papachristos. George has been passionate about the history, tradition, culture, landscape and people of Crete given his family roots. George is an accomplished individual with three Masters degrees in history and political sciences, international relations and management (also the first Greek Sloan Fellow at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, home of the tech entrepreneurs) and he also holds a PhD in international political economy. As he is also a leading young Greek entrepreneur with a global remit, George is what we used to call in my days a “Renaissance man”.
George has researched in his book the events that took place as of when German paratroopers landed in 1941 (something the “red berets” keep studying) and the resistance movement and guerrilla warfare that ensued. His book is a must read, especially when vacationing in Crete but also for some of us who read about the exploits of the dashing Patrick (Paddy) Leigh-Fermor, his famous abduction of General Kreipe (indeed the military commander of Crete), and his later years in his “salon” in Southern Peloponnesian Kardamyli. Some of you may have read the book that made Sir Anthony Beevor famous in 1991 when he published his account of Crete during WW2, which George obviously refers to. In this book we discover the various groups, sometimes not on good natural terms who all joined forces to ultimately participate in the defeat of the Nazi war machine. We discover that the Cretans share some clear features with other islanders like my Corsicans if only through the acute sense of honour or the liking for revenge that they call vendetta in Ajaccio. We go through all the major events that took place chronologically and involved sabotage and reprisals in many of the locations where we now enjoy a very relaxing time. First and foremost George’s book shows us a lesson in resilience against all odds and sheer brutality and the proof that good men and women can win in the end. Nearly all Cretans resisted, working relentlessly with Britain. This is a very enjoyable and educational book that I hope you will be reading in the shade in this cradle of civilisation.
So you know, George is also someone I have known as a seed investor in a start-up, Toorbee, that his brother Nikos and him set up a short few years ago. Toorbee is focused on outbound Chinese tourism in Europe, wanting to become the leading B2B global distribution system in its segment, and while the core team is based in Athens, works in ten different European countries today. Talking about resilience, George used his limited seed capital to build a team of 16 people (including now three in Shanghai) while building a solid network of partners in China and Europe. He now has two venture capital investors and is ready to secure a leading position in his travel and fintech segment. http://www.toorbee.com It is aways great to see and feel success particularly in our old Europe which has been the theatre of so much unsettling developments, starting with Brexit and the rise of populism (look at poor Matteo Salvini and how he is good at “governing”). I was in Athens this past week with George and Nikos thinking on how we could develop Toorbee further. I had this feeling that we were all the same, men of good will, thriving to achieve something together. I felt we were Europeans. I felt we could achieve little on our own while we could win together, making me think of Europe and this old EU dream that goes beyond the essential bloc it needs being and reflects who we are and that we should keep building…like the Cretans of the early forties, relentlessly and against all odds.