Updated: Mar 14
Nikos Giannopoulos historian.
The first Greek paratrooper to fight the Germans as a secret agent. She enlisted in the commandos and after the departure of the Germans, she asked to fight the Japanese!...
Stefanidou was born in Ukraine in 1902, moving to Athens in 1907 after her father volunteered to be a doctor for the Greek Army during the Balkan Wars.
How many people know that in World War II, a fearless Greek woman trained as a commando and paratrooper and acted as an agent in our occupied homeland? It was about Sonia-Sofia Stefanidou, the eldest daughter of the Pontian doctor and warm patriot Filopimena Stefanidis. She was born in Odesa, Ukraine in 1907 and at the age of five moved to Athens, as her father enlisted as a volunteer doctor in the Greek Army during the Balkan Wars. Philomena took care to transmit the fiery love for the homeland to his daughter.
The voluntary ranking Following the example of her father, a few months before the declaration of the Greek-Italian war, Sonia enrolled voluntarily in the School of Passive Air Defense Nurses. Immediately after the declaration of war, she asked for permission to enlist in military service as, as she wrote: "I considered my duty as I offer that I could do more, for the sake of the Holy Struggle". At the end of November 1940, she presented herself for the training of a nurse sister at the "Red Cross" hospital in Athens. On January 15, 1941, with obvious impatience, she sent a letter to the Minister of the Army asking him to be transferred to the front line! Finally, on April 7, the day after the German attack in Greece, she presented himself for service at the 1st Military Hospital of Ioannina. Thirteen days later, the city's 2nd Military Hospital was mercilessly bombed by the Italian Air Force. Sonia was one of the first to run to help the many injured. In fact, she did not hesitate to gather the dismembered members of the unfortunate victims!
After the capitulation of the Greek Army, she returned to Athens. But life in the occupied city did not suit her. "The sight of the swastika on the Acropolis kills my soul," she wrote. After a 2 ½ Odyssey of months, during which she showed admirable courage and endurance, she managed to reach the Middle East. There, she insisted on enlisting in the Royal Greek Army in the Middle East, which was made up of the remnants of Greek units that had taken refuge in Egypt. On June 1, 1942, she was called up for service at the 1st Military Hospital of Alexandria. However, being a nurse was not enough. On April 8, 1943, she asked the embarrassed Prime Minister Emmanuel Tsouderos to enlist in a commando unit. Surprisingly for the Greek morals, her request was accepted and the fearless Pontia was found to be trained by the British in collecting, reporting, and securing information, in encryption, in the use of radio, and in parachuting! In fact, its performance was characterized as "high level".
The first Greek paratrooper On July 2, 1943, Stefanidou parachuted into a group of agents near Florina to gather information. Disguised sometimes as a beggar and sometimes as a villager, she would go to residential areas and gather the information that would be difficult for a male spy to locate. On September 2, 1943, her action as a spy seemed to end ingloriously, as the entire group was captured by the Germans. Quite unexpectedly, however, a German guard helped them escape! Sonia fled to Kalambaka, in the area of Neraida, where there was a guerrilla headquarters with British liaisons. In December 1943, Stefanidou returned to Egypt and enlisted in the newly formed Voluntary Military Corps of Greek Women, with a rank equivalent to that of the second lieutenant. According to unconfirmed information, the Greek agent went on a mission to Crete (January-October 1944). There, she came in contact with one of the leaders of the resistance on the island, Manolis Bandouvas. However, we still do not know why they met. The secrecy and the fact that the files of the British secret services remain stubbornly closed, do not allow a full examination of its missions....
Her requests to fight the Japanese! After the Germans left Greece, Stefanidou returned with the exiled Greek government. In May 1945, the war in Europe ended with the complete defeat of Hitler's Germany. Of the once all-powerful Axis, only Japan continued to fight. Obviously, the danger had become second nature for Stefanidou. There is no other explanation for her application to join the US Army as a paratrooper, in order to participate in the Pacific Operations Theater! Her application was rejected. The war for the Greek commando was over. During the years of peace, Stefanidou worked as an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Directorate of Etiquette. She remained modest and invisible and never sought to redeem her rich warfare. She was honored with a number of medals, including the Golden Excellence of Andreas, the highest honorary distinction awarded in time of war! She died in the spring of 1990. Her last wish was to be buried in a simple ceremony, wearing her military uniform and her medals.