Breakfast with the Greek Minister
Nikitas Sioris edged forward in his chair, his eyes fixed firmly ahead. his left hand groping eagerly along the breakfast table for a pack of cigarettes until an ever-attentive bodyguard quietly slipped the pack into his grip.
And even if the words flowed smoothly, a Thursday morning breakfast at the public dining room of the Statler Hilton Hotel must have seemed a strange and difficult place for him to be.
Once a wealthy import-export businessman, Sioris now holds a powerful post in the Greek military regime-the Ministry of Religion and Education-which many consider the commissariat of propaganda in a country where official views and explanations are accepted with a minimum of resistance.
But Thursday morning. he was divorced from his usual retinue, accompanied only by the bodyguard, an official from the Boston consulate, his wife, and the CRIMSON, whom he had cordially invited to dine with him.
Sioris spoke frequently of the "revolution" of April 1967 which brought the present regime to power, and denied many of the charges which anti-junta activists have hurled at his own ministry.
Contrary to widespread impressions in the United States, he said, the regime has not stamped a rigid political line on Greek education. The mass dismissals of professors occurred, he said. when the government lowered their mandatory retirement age from 70 to 65 in order to close the "generation gap."
He seemed to have forgotten that documents of his own ministry have stated explicitly political reasons for firings.
Then, asked why Greek schoolchildren are taught in Katherevousa, a mixture of ancient and modern Greek which had recently been spoken only in select circles, and now the official language-he said that it differs from modern Greek only as much as proper diction differs from slang.
But others have noted that Kathere-vousa is as akin to the Age of Pericles as it is to modern-day Greece. Anti-junta activists charge that its use is intended to spread the official view that the colonels are restoring ancient glory to Greece, and that it severely retards the education of those children who are taught in it.
Sioris expressed pleasure that the class of "professional politicians"-whom he termed "establishmentarians"-was no longer in power in Greece.
His own rise to power, he went on, had been a non-partisan one. He said he knew George Papadopoulos, the leading colonel in the junta, through mutual friends, and that after some discussion, Papadopoules-who held the Ministry of Education among his many positions-appointed him as his deputy minister in 1968. Sioris succeeded to the Ministry when Papadopoulos relinquished it last year.
Polite and Patient
Despite any differences of opinion, Sioris was always polite and patient in his responses, even postponing an appointment with Brookline high school officials to spend time answering questions.
But if this seems strange-especially in view of the docility of his own country's press-his deferential behavior, like the oddity of his being in the Statler Hilton's public dining room for breakfast Thursday morning, may be due to the fact that while Sioris is an immensely powerful man in his own country in the United States he is only another foreigner seeking American support.