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Today is the Greek Independence Day parade in Boston and area Greek Americans are on the city streets showing their Greek pride.
66 years ago April 20th 1946 another outpouring of Greek pride took place in Boston that will go down as one of the greatest moments in Greek American history. Greek marathon runner Stylianos Kyriakides came from Greece and won the Boston Marathon. This famous sporting event was started in 1897 by Bostonians who were inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the first modern Olympics - the 1896 Summer Olympics that were held in Athens Greece.
In 1946 Greece lay in ruins from the devastation of World War II with the Greek Civil War causing further starvation and damage to the wounded nation. A young man named Stylianos Kyriakides who had represented Greece as a runner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics decided to compete in the 50th Boston Marathon - a race that he had failed to complete once before. He had barely escaped execution by the Nazis during the brutal occupation of Greece and his body was ravaged from years of going hungry but he was determined to do his part to help Greece.
The willpower exhibited by Stylianos Kyriakides in the face of tremendous odds was amazing and his full story is told in a wonderful and inspiring book called "Running With Pheidippides: Stylianos Kyriakides, the Miracle Marathoner" by Nick Tsiotos and Andy Dabilis.
A sculpture of Kyriakides called "The Spirit of the Marathon" was unveiled in Boston in 2004. It is at the 1 mile mark of the marathon in Hopkinton. It was commissioned by the Hopkinton Athletic Association and was dedicated in 2006 to mark the 60th anniversary of Kyriakides' victory in the 1946 race.
"The winner of the 50th Boston Marathon, Kyriakides used his victory as a call to action to aid his war and famine-ravaged homeland. Kyriakides, who narrowly escaped execution during World War II during the Nazi occupation of Greece, hadn't run in six years when he came to Boston in 1946, with the help of Greek-American benefactors. He was emaciated from the lack of food in war-ravaged Greece, and at one point was told by doctors in Boston he wouldn't be allowed to run because they were afraid he would die in the streets. That backdrop only added to the almost mythic race performance, in which Kyriakides came on at the end to defeat the defending champion and set the best time in the world for 1946. Nearly a million people greeted him on his return to Athens in May 1946, when he came back with boat loads of food, medicine, clothing and other essentials donated by Americans who read of his victory." – Sculpture’s Official Press Release.
According to Life magazine he shouted 'For Greece' as he crossed the finish line.