Michalakis Karaolis and Andreas Dimitriou were the first fighters of the Cyprus Struggle to be sentenced to death and executed by the British colonial tyrants.
Michalakis Karaolis was born on February 13, 1933 in Paleochori (Παλαιχώρι) and was the fourth child of Savvas and Panagiota Karaoli. He graduated from the English School in Nicosia and was appointed a civil servant. At the same time, he was involved in athletics as an APOEL athlete. He was one of the first to join the National Organization of Cypriot Struggle (EOKA) and took part in the liberation struggle with the team of Polykarpos Georgkatzis to expel British colonialists from Cyprus and unite the island with Greece.
On August 28, 1955, he and Andreas Panagiotou, killed police officer Herodotus Poullis while he was watching a rally of the communist AKEL party. Panagiotou escaped, while Karaolis was arrested in an ambush by the British forces and imprisoned in the Central Prisons of Nicosia. He was sentenced to death on October 28, although the bullet that killed the Greek Cypriot police officer came from Panagiotou’s gun. The British did not forgive him for not revealing his comrade during the interrogation.
Andreas Dimitriou was born on September 18, 1934 in Agios Mama (Άγιος Μάμας), Limassol and came from a very poor and large family. He studied for three years at the Night High School of Famagusta and then got a job at an explosives and hunting store. From an early age he became involved in trade unionism and served as secretary of the Fishermen’s Union. A young fighter of EOKA, he took the lead in the seizure of weapons from the occupying authorities of Famagusta. The weapons were distributed to various guerrilla groups, which until then had been supplied with only hunting guns. On November 22, 1955, he was accused of shooting and injuring British Intelligence Service agent, Sidney Taylor, in Famagusta. He was arrested and sentenced to death.
On May 10, 1956, Michalakis Karaolis and Andreas Dimitriou were hanged in the Central Prisons of Nicosia. Their bravery in front of their executioners and their murder provoked a global reaction and outcry. The previous day in Athens, four people had been killed in clashes between police and protesters demanding the unification of Cyprus with Greece. In honour of the two heroes, many streets in Greece and Cyprus bear their name.
Following the Russo-Turkish war (1877 – 1878), Cyprus was leased to the British Empire from the Ottoman Empire until formally being annexed by Britain at the end of the First World War. EOKA was founded on April 1, 1955 and Cyprus continued the fight for almost four years hoping that the British would grant their petition. The people remained strong and determined in spite of the many tortures and captures they faced with the British, as previously reported by Greek City Times.
The campaign of the EOKA formally ended on March 31, 1959.