Eleni Exarchos Obituary, Death – Eleni “Helen” Exarchos 99 was born in the living room of her parents’ two-room home in Kallithéa, also known as Charaklimani, a mountain hamlet in Epirus, Greece, on March 4, 1924. The third child of Theodoros Maretsis. In the Pindus highlands, Eleni and the Maretsis family battled to feed and shelter themselves. Despite having little resources, their faith in God and family provided them with meaning and purpose, allowing them to thrive physically and spiritually. Outside forces would forever alter Eleni’s life.
Eleni was 16 years old when Mussolini’s fascist troops invaded Epirus, but the Greek armed forces bravely resisted, but the German army invaded soon after. Eleni and her family survived World War II by subsisting on their livestock and little garden while also assisting Greek resistance forces. Once the war ended in 1946, Eleni and her fellow villagers encountered new crimes that shattered any hope of peace. These tragedies were committed by Greeks enslaved by communist ideology. This misinformed teenagers waged a violent civil war based on their erroneous egalitarian ideas.
Eleni abandoned her hometown and ancestral home after seeing communist insurgents torture and kill three elderly people in her village square. She would face the most severe consequences if she was apprehended. Eleni fled communist-occupied area and traveled the hilly terrain to Ioannina, Epirus’ capital city, on her own strength and the compassion of God. Eleni met Apostolos Exarchos, a young man who had come to purchase a horse from her mother during the civil war. Apostolos was taken aback when he discovered Eleni was unmarried. 27-year-old unmarried women were uncommon.
Eleni disagreed. She spurned dowry-based marriage propositions. “I would not and could not put that weight on my mother and brothers,” Eleni constantly said. Apostolos quickly asked for Eleni’s hand in marriage, and she consented since he sought nothing in return except her love. They married in October of 1952. After 53 years of marriage, Apostolos died in 2005. Christine (Hrisoula) and Angela were Eleni and Apostolos’ two daughters (Angeliki).
Apostolos’s cousin Georgios Exarchos, who had just returned from America, gave them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when their children were three and one years old. According to Eleni, Georgios asked her whether he might support Apostolos’ trip to America. Throughout the years, Eleni proudly assured her family, “anywhere my husband will go, I will follow,” and with that determination to follow and be there for her husband no matter what their life would bring, Eleni and her family eventually found themselves in America, the country of opportunity and freedom.