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Friday, August 24, 2018

Mikis Mantakas: a Prati Story

In April, we found ourselves for the first time living in the della Vittoria quartiere of the city, with Prati--also more or less unknown to us--only steps to the south.  Neighborhoods have their own stories, and we came across one of Prati's stories on our 2nd day in the city.  We were strolling around Piazza dei Quiriti when we saw this poster, which from its condition had been put up some time ago:

We knew then that Mikis Mantakas was no longer alive.  But who was he?  Two days later, in the same area, we found another poster.

Now we knew that Mantakas was, for some, a martyr ("Europe in the struggle for liberty does not forget its martyrs"), and that he had died on February 28, 1975--a victim, it seemed likely, of the political turmoil and violence known as the "Years of Lead, the "Anni di Piombo."

Here's the rest of the story, or some of it.

Mikis Mantakas was born in Athens, Greece on July 23, 1952.  In the 1970s--probably 1974--he came to Rome to study economics.  An activist and militant in Greece, in December 1974 in Rome he became attached to the Greek contingent of FUAN, the Fronte Universitario d'Azione Nationale ("the university front for national action"), a right-wing group known for militancy.

On February 28, 1975, he was shot twice with a .38 caliber pistol by a leftist extremist (some claimed a communist) in front of the offices of MSI, located at via Ottaviano 4, in Prati.  MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano) was a neo-fascist political party, founded in 1946.

A hostile crowd had gathered around the building, and Mantakas had moved to another side of the building and another exit, this one at Piazza del Risorgimento, 4, close to the walls of the Vatican.  He was shot and killed there by Alvaro Lojacano.  Lojacano was proved to have committed the crime and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.  But before being incarcerated, he fled abroad and never served his sentence.

It's not just a few people who care about Mantakas' death and seek to keep his memory alive.  If one can believe today's right-wing websites, each year on February 28 "nationalists" from many European countries gather in Rome to celebrate Mantakas and affirm their nationalist ideals. They post banners and march west along via Cola di Rienzo to Piazza del Risorgimento, where they rally in front of the site of Mantakas' death, what is now a Foot Locker store.

We're almost never in Rome in February, so we can't confirm that these marches take place every year.  But images on one website make clear that a march did take place in 2015 (the 40th anniversary of Mantakis' death), and that there were dozens, if not hundreds of participants.

"Your memory does not allow surrender." 

And that's the story of Mikis Mantakas, a Greek young man who died in Prati.


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