Maria Iordanidou

Maria Iordanidou as a young woman.

Maria Iordanidou was born in Constantinople in 1897. Her father, Nikolas Kriezi, was from the Greek island of Hydra and worked as an engineer in the merchant navy; her mother, Evfrosini Magou, was a native of Constantinople. From 1901 until 1909 the family lived in Piraeus, the port city of Athens, but after the separation of her parents Maria returned to Constantinople where she attended the American College for Girls at Scutari under the watchful eye of her maternal grandmother, Loxandra.

In 1914 she was invited by an uncle to the Georgian city of Batumi, a popular resort on the Black Sea, for the summer holidays. Caught up in the outbreak of the First World War that summer when Germany declared war on Russia, she found herself unable to return to Constantinople. She then went to live with relatives in Marioupolis (Mariupol) in the Caucasus and attended Russian High School in Sebastopol while giving English lessons to help the family survive. Her years in Russia were further complicated by the Russian Revolution of 1917. Only in 1919 was she able to return to Constantinople where she worked for an American trading company. The following year the company transferred her to Alexandria in Egypt and there she met and, in 1923, married the teacher Iordanis Iordanidis who was a professor at the elite British Victoria College. It was also while in Egypt that she became interested in communism.

After their marriage the couple, together with Maria’s mother, went to live in Athens where Maria gave birth to her two children and started to work for the Russian Embassy. Maria separated from her husband in 1931 but continued working for the Embassy until she was fired at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Her home was destroyed during the 1941–44 German occupation of Greece, a time of great hardship when many people died of starvation, and she was persecuted and detained in various camps. After the war her linguistic skills enabled her to make a living by working as a private employee.

Encouraged by friends whom she had entertained with stories of her youth in Constantinople she sat down to write her first book at the age of 65—Loxandra. First published in 1963, the book enjoyed enormous success and has been in print continuously ever since. She went on to write four more similarly successful books — Holidays in Caucasus, As the Circle Spins, Our Yard, and Like the Mad Birds — inspired by her extraordinary varied life.

Maria Iordanidou died in Athens in 1989.

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