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The Maori who fought in the "Battle of Crete" and fell in love with a Cretan girl.

The Maori who fought in the "Battle of Crete" and fell in love with a Cretan girl. Injury, torture by the Germans and marriage in New Zealand...

May 20, 1941. The sky of Crete was covered by hundreds of German planes. The Germans wanted to occupy the island because it was of great strategic importance. Hitler ordered the first and final air raid with paratroopers in World War II. Thousands of paratroopers began to fall from the planes. The first landed near Maleme airport in Chania. The German soldiers aimed to occupy hill 107 which was in the center of the airport. If they occupied the hill the airport would now be under their control. The next commandos would not parachute but would land with heavy weapons. To prevent this from happening, the area was defended by about 600 New Zealanders, out of a total of 7,770 who had arrived on the island along with their British and Australian allies. The 600 New Zealanders dispersed to protect an area of ​​about seven kilometers from the German threat. Despite their resistance, they were unable to repel the enemy.

Among them was Ned Nathan. Nathan belonged to the Maori tribe. He was one of 619 Maori who arrived on the island to fight. During the battle to defend Maleme, Nathan was seriously injured, mainly in the hip and in one eye. The New Zealand soldier lost consciousness and fell to the ground. His comrades-in-arms thought he was dead and abandoned him on the battlefield. Shortly afterward, Nathan woke up among dozens of corpses and seriously injured. According to legend, Cretan fighters found him, treated him, and helped him escape with others to Egypt. According to Columbia University professor George Kyriakopoulos in his book, " The Nazi Occupation of Crete: 1941-1945," Nathan boarded a boat in Souda. However, he failed to reach his destination. The boat was bombed by the Germans. Those who caught fell into the water to be saved. Nathan along with some others managed to swim to shore. As soon as he arrived, he fainted. He had not eaten or drunk water for days. His wounds were still fresh and he was exhausted.

The danger of the Germans taking him prisoner or killing him was great. But, at the right moment, Cretans found him and saved him. Nathan woke up at the Toraki family home in Sklavopoula. The father was a doctor and took care of his wounds. They gave him food. Nathan stayed at their house for months. They taught him the Greek language and phrases from the Cretan dialect so that he could move around freely and pretend to be Greek. The doctor's niece, Katina, also lived in the house. Nathan fell in love with her from the first moment. However, the New Zealander did not immediately reveal his feelings. Wait for the right moment. From time to time he climbed the mountains of Crete and fought on the side of the guerrillas. According to Professor George Kyriakopoulos, he was arrested twice by the Gestapo but managed to escape because he convinced them that he was Cretan. But the third time he failed to deceive them. Someone had betrayed him. The Germans interrogated him to reveal the name of the family that had offered him shelter. Despite the torture and beatings he received, Nathan did not speak. He would never betray the people who had saved him and his beloved...

The Germans sent him to a prisoner-of-war concentration camp on the Polish-German border. He stayed there for about three years. However, from the tortures he received, his body was exhausted and he now had serious injuries. So, as soon as the war was over, he was sent to England to be treated. He had lost his sight in one eye, his jaw was broken and he had bullet wounds all over his body. When he was well, he went to Crete and revealed his love to the young Cretan girl. At the end of 1945, their marriage took place. But Nathan had to return home. As soon as he arrived in New Zealand, he spoke to the government to allow impoverished Greeks to live in their country. In the years following World War II, some 6,000 Greeks immigrated to New Zealand. Among them was Katina who managed to get close to her lover. Katina joined the Maori tribe and lived the rest of her life in New Zealand. They had three sons. They were taught the Greek language and grew up with Greek customs. From time to time they visited Greece, so that the children could learn about their second country of origin, but also to see their relatives. Ned Nathan died in 1987. Since then Katina Toraki has not returned to Greece. He died in 1996.

The original photo comes from Patricia Grace's book "Ned & Katina: A True Love Story"...


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