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While much of Europe was beginning to pick up the pieces after the devastation of the Second World War, Greece suffered even more hardship with a bloody Civil War that further exacerbated the fragile condition of the entire nation.
Recovery efforts were disrupted by bloody fighting throughout the nation, but particularly in the countryside, which was already left bare during four brutal years of Nazi occupation. Millions of acres of farmland were burned, animals were stolen or killed and Greece’s entire agriculture sector was left in shambles by the retreating Nazis.
By 1946, American newspaper headlines were full of the suffering of the Greek people with constant reminders of the sacrifices the Greeks had made supporting the Allies and encouragements to support the starving Greek people.
Greek Americans, under the aegis of the Greek War Relief Association in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, launched the “Animals for Greece” campaign that allowed average Americans the opportunity to purchase donkeys, cows and horses and have them shipped directly to needy farmers in Greece.
This organization, also known as the GWRA, which brought together the Church, the AHEPA and other Greek American community leaders under one umbrella– all in the name of supporting the people of Greece– had already sent hundreds of millions of dollars in food aid during the actual war years.
The GWRA organized fundraisers and telethons throughout the nation and even got the entire Hollywood establishment to support its efforts through various events.
Responding to Greece’s latest, post-war challenge, the Greek War Relief Association didn’t skip a beat and set out to help Greek farmers help themselves, with the Animals for Greece campaign.
The basic concept was to make it easy for American citizens, companies and communities to sponsor an animal for a farmer in Greece. The cost was $125 per animal and while the donor filled out a form and made his/her donation, the infrastructure of the plan involved a complicated and well-organized collaboration by the GWRA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations.
Animals were shipped from the United States to Greece via boat and one by one, made their way to the Greek countryside.
Many local governments and companies also took part, sponsoring their own animals for delivery to Greece. The then governor of Indiana Ralph Gates, made repeated appeals to his citizens to support the campaign and even designated a state-wide “Animals for Greece” day on May 22, 1946.
America’s largest dairy, Borden, also initiated a campaign and even organized a publicity event when it loaded three animals on a jet airplane headed for Greece.
The publicity stunt worked as this image and story was featured in more than 40 U.S. newspapers throughout the nation, further spreading the message of the Animals for Greece campaign into the hearts and minds of everyday Americans.
“Thermopylae is not dead”
“Greece does not want charity,” an editorial in the Daily Record in Long Branch, New Jersey said on March 26, 1946. “She only asks us to help her work out her own relief by giving her the tools.”
The idea wasn’t to give hand-outs to the proud people of Greece, but to give them the tools they needed to get back on their own two feet.
The same editorial from New Jersey— one of dozens of newspaper articles that appeared in mainstream U.S. newspapers at the time, reminded readers of Greece’s heroic efforts only a few years earlier.
“It should be remembered by us all that Greece held back Mussolini’s legions sufficiently long to enable Western Allies to wreck the Axis grand strategy for quick conquest of the Middle East. It was only after the German army threw its vast might against the weakened nation that it succumbed on the battlefield but never in spirit. Thermopylae is not dead.”
A nationwide publicity plan commenced on March 25, 1946 with a media blitz and dozens of events scheduled throughout the nation. Big cities and small towns like hosted “Animals for Greece” fundraisers and collectively sent “sponsored” animals with letters of support.
A widely-circulated photo throughout the New York City media featured Taylor Allen, a local nightclub maven and celebrity also known as “Miss Venus” who wrote along with her pledge: “My gift of a horse is small compared to the classic contributions and heroic sacrifices Greece has made to democracies– perhaps my horse can help rebuild that noble country.”
The program was a remarkable success, effectively revitalizing the Greek countryside with new, productive animals and giving farmers the tools they needed to begin reclaiming their land, which had been burned and decimated by four years of Nazi occupation.
In the end, nearly 10,000 American citizens responded to the call to support the people of Greece and upwards of 15,000 animals were sent in several shipments to the war-torn country during the Spring and Summer of 1946.
The following photographs come from the collection of Gregory C. Pappas, currently on loan to the Greek America Foundation. Reprints or re-use of these images is not permitted without the permission of the owner.
From Stavros to Stavropoulos
Caption on back of photo: “Now our troubles are over,” said Anastasios Stavropoulos of Xilocastro, Greece, as he happily examined his new mare delivered through the Greek War Relief Association’s “Telegraph an Animal” campaign. “Now we can work the fields again.” Anastasios’ new mare was sent to him by his brother, Alex Stavros, 2524 Yale Avenue, Seattle, Washington. To Anastasios, the new animal means the difference between a starvation diet and adequate food. And it means something else– the return of his spirit of independence and self-respect. Henceforth, his future and the future of his family is assured. The mare was one of more than 11,800 cattle, valued in excess of $1,500,000, shipped to needy Greek farmers via GWRA’s facilities.” See original caption here.
Citizens of Chicago send “Flash” to Greece
George Skouras, National Vice President of the Greek War Relief Association accepts “Flash,” a prize mule given by Chicago citizens to starving farmers of Greece. Skouras, touring 39 key American cities, is asking Americans to “telegraph” 15,000 cows, horses and mules to Greece by this Fall.
The Borden Company Supports Greece with a nationwide publicity campaign
From Ship to Land
It was a well-organized operation
From Paras to Paraskevopoulos
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