Grigorios Lambrakis was a Greek politician, physician, track-and-field athlete, and member of the faculty of Medicine at the University of Athens. He was elected to the Greek parliament in October 1961 as an Independent collaborating with the United Democratic Left (EDA) which was Greece’s newly emerging umbrella left-wing party.
He was Greece’s most beloved and respected pacifist who used his parliamentary immunity to march for peace, from Marathon to central Athens after the march had been banned by the authorities. Lambrakis’ ideal to free Greece from foreign influence captured the youth’s imagination. It also galvanized the Left which after a quarter of a century of Right-wing oppression wielded under the pretext of fighting Communism, was ready to embrace his goals of national reconciliation and universal peace. He was assassinated in Thessaloniki on a fateful evening of May 22, 1963, right after he had delivered a powerful speech, amid a frenzied crowd of Right-wing thugs and a totally passive police force. The Athens Classic Marathon, run every year in November, is dedicated to Grigorios Lambrakis. The letter Z (lit., zei, means he is alive) became the rallying cry of the Greek youth who found in Lambrakis their new hero. Four years later, the Greek government was overthrown by the military Junta of 21 April 1967.
In 1969, film director Costa Gavras released ‘Z’ (after Vassilis Vasilikos’ book), which tells the story of the assassination and the journalistic and judicial investigation that followed. ‘Z’ beautifully paced and deeply moving with the lyrical music of Composer Mikis Theodorakis became one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties. It starred Yves Montand as Grigorios Lambrakis whose murder in the middle of a violent demonstration is covered up by State officials and Jean-Louis Trintignant as Christos Sartzetakis, a tenacious magistrate who is determined not to let them get away with it.