Helen Vlachos left a lasting legacy not only as the publisher of Greek news outlet Kathimerini, but as an anti-junta activist and advocate for press freedom.
Helen was born in Athens in 1911 to her father, Georgios Vlachos, who founded the Kathimerini newspaper. Brought into journalism by her father, Helen started working for Kathimerini from a young age.
After a brief shut-down period during World War II, Helen resumed working in her father’s newspaper as a columnist. Her column gained high attention due to her repeated criticism of the government.
Helen took control of the newspaper after her father, Georgios, died in 1951.
While Helen was a vocal supporter of Greek right-wing parties, she was a passionate anti-junta activist. So much so that she closed down her newspapers as a sign of protest, not willing to submit to the censorship demanded by the junta. This action was among the first overt signs of resistance against the junta.
During a later interview titled Eleni Vlachou: A journalist remembers, with ERT, she said that by not responding to the junta pressure her “silence was her loudest voice”. She also dismissed the junta demands by declaring: “They cannot tell me how to run my newspapers any more than I can tell them how to run their tanks”.
Helen was given a house arrest order after she called some of the junta leaders “clowns”. This house arrest is what prompted the publisher to flee Greece, going to London with the help of her friend Leslie Finer, an author who worked at the Greek Embassy in Washington.
In England she formed an alliance with anti-junta activists Melina Merkouri and Amalia Fleming, also writing a book in 1970 detailing her escape from Greece, entitled House Arrest. During her time in London she also became editor of the Hellenic Review, a journal for the Greek expatriates in Britain.
In 1974 with the fall of the junta, she returned to Greece and restarted the publication of her newspapers. She died on 14 October 1995 in Athens, aged 84
She is recognised as one of the World Press Freedom Heroes, an award sponsored by the International Press Institute. She received the award posthumously in 2000.