Eleni Staikou’s vest, which has a most fascinating history, has pride of place in the Exodus Museum in Missolonghi.
This elaborate early 19th century men’s gold-embroidered waistcoat was worn by young Eleni Staikou at the time of the Missolonghi Exodus.
It is one of the most important exhibitions of the Exodus Museum.
Eleni was the daughter of chef Zacharakis Staikos.
As a young girl, she was petite with a beautiful face, dark eyes, and blond hair.
Eleni was taken prisoner after failing to escape from Missolonghi, however, in order to avoid being sold into a sex slave or being raped by the Ottoman Turks, she removed her eye with a fork to make herself less desirable.
In 1829, when the city was finally liberated from Turkish occupation, she returned and lived there, blind in one eye (as shown in her shocking photo).
After Greek independence, she moved to Vrachori (Agrinio) in 1832.
She died the day after her brother Sotirios Staikos died on July 18, 1887.
Eleni left as a condition to her family that any girl born take her name and vest.
Thus, the vest passed from generation to generation, eventually reaching his great-granddaughter, Eleni Staikou-Zarokosta.
In 2018, his son Konstantinos Zarokostas entrusted this great heritage to the museum.
The third siege of Missolonghi took place during the Greek War of Independence, between the Ottoman Empire and the Greek rebels, from April 15, 1825 to April 10, 1826.
The Ottomans had already tried and failed to capture the city in 1822 and 1823, but returned in 1825 with a stronger infantry force and a stronger navy supporting the infantry.
The Greeks held out for nearly a year before they ran out of food and attempted a mass breakout, which however ended in disaster, with most of the Greeks killed.
This defeat was a key factor leading to the intervention of the Great Powers who, learning of the atrocities, felt sympathetic to the Greek cause.
Although a military disaster, the siege and its aftermath proved a victory for the Greek cause, and the Ottomans paid dearly for their harsh treatment of Missolonghi.
After this incident, many people in Western Europe felt an increased sympathy for the Greek cause, as evidenced for example by Delacroix’s famous painting Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827).
The siege of Missolonghi also inspired Gioacchino Rossini’s opera The Siege of Corinth.
This public sympathy for the Greeks had a significant influence on the eventual decision of Britain, France and Russia to intervene militarily in the Battle of Navarino and secure Greek independence.
The result of this, among other things, saw Missolonghi released again in four years.
Missolonghi is considered a “sacred city” (ἱερὰ πόλις) in modern Greece for its role and sacrifice in the Greek War of Independence.
About 500 meters (1,600 ft) of its fortifications remain to this day.
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