Among the Olive Groves is an historical set on the Greek island of Zakynthos. The characters and story are completely made up, but if you look hard enough in the World War Two sections you will discover a lot of facts that have been carefully woven into the story to give it as much authenticity as possible. Elena Petrakis, the lead character never actually existed. She is simply a fictitious person thought up for the sake of a story, but if you read any history books relating to Greece during World War Two, there are numerous accounts of women who joined the resistance and fought for their country, just as she did. There are so many stories of the incredible bravery and sacrifice these women made. Somehow it made them more harrowing to read than accounts of male Resistance fighters. I, therefore, felt it was important Elena became the Resistance fighter in Among the Olive Groves instead of Angelos. Elena, as a young woman and mother, had so much more to fight for, and in the end, so much more to lose.
Many other parts of Among the Olive Groves are also based on fact, including the rescue of the island’s Jewish population. Out of respect, I changed the names of the characters, but the depiction of what took place is as accurate as I could make it from the information of the time. The brave story of the Mayor and Bishop (Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos as they were known in real life) was something that I felt needed to be told. Many people have no idea that it happened. To potentially sacrifice themselves to the Germans to save the lives of 275 islanders is beyond heroic, and that bravery should never be forgotten.
Researching the book was incredibly difficult. None of the Museums in Greece have any information about Zakynthos during the Second World War. Sadly, most of Zakynthos’ historical information that was housed in the island’s local library etc. was destroyed, when a massive earthquake struck Zakynthos in 1953. The earthquake reduced the town, and many other areas on the island, to rubble. In the end, my Zakynthos World War Two research came from one book of information, a gathering of personal accounts from those who had lived through the war, along with a few small articles on the internet.
Despite the struggles I had researching, I did find the right information, and what I discovered was incredibly interesting. I tried to weave as much of it as I reasonably could, into the story. A few Zakynthians kindly read the book before it was published and confirmed that not only was the information correct but that it portrayed the island very much as it used to be.
Many people ask why I chose to write Among the Olive Groves and the answer is simple. To me, it’s more than just a book. It’s a way of showing readers what a beautiful place Zakynthos is, and why it should be visited. It’s also a way of explaining the island’s islands history, and heroic deeds to readers so that it stays alive in the minds of readers, and those who visit the island.
War-torn Zakynthos was part of something much bigger. Its residents had no choice but to fall to the Italians and Germans, but the Greek population still fought for themselves and for what they believed in. There were so many brave people like the character Elena Petrakis that lived through World War Two and fought so bravely for what they truly believed in. A great number of them were women, something that many people just don’t realise. Even now I think we could all learn a lot from those incredibly brave women, and my character Elena Petrakis
Among the Olive Groves is book one of The Zakynthian Family series.
Chrissie Parker is an English author of 8 published works, including novels, shorts stories and poetry.
To learn more, explore her website and learn more about her love of writing, the inspiration for her books and the country's she's visited on her travels! https://www.chrissieparker.com
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Welcome to my blog, My occasional ramblings will take you on a journey through many subjects, from my books, to history, as well as what it's like to be a writer and my love of travelling! Enjoy the updates!