The Lady of Ro: A symbol of patriotism & Greek defiance

38 years to the day since her death

Despina Achladioti, the woman who lived alone on a remote island called Ro, a stone’s throw away from the Turkish coast, has become a symbol of patriotism and Greek defiance by raising and lowering the Greek flag every day for decades.

Her small daily act of patriotism has seen her compared to France’s Joan of Arc or Britain’s Boudicca. She became know in Greek collective memory as the “Lady of Ro.”

Achladioti, born in 1890 on Kastellorizo — then a part of the Ottoman empire and only kilometers from the Turkish coast — lived a hard life on the small, rocky outpost.

In 1927 she sailed with her husband to the even smaller island of Ro, next to Kastellorizo, where they eked out a living on the deserted rock, living off subsistence farming. No one actually knows why they chose to live there alone.

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However, after her husband died in 1940, Despina continued to live her life on Ro — just 800 meters from the Turkish coast — joined only by her blind mother, who sailed from Kastellorizo.

Even though Ro — named after the Greek letter for its distinctive shape — did not formally join the Greek state until 1947, as the Dodecanese were controlled by Italy, Despina would raise and lower a Greek flag every day.

She did this every day as her home island of Kastellorizo was invaded by the Italians, bombed by the Luftwaffe and its 14,000 or so inhabitants were evacuated by the British.

Read more: Greek Reporter