On this day, September 20, 1942, a domestic worker and part time Sunday School teacher named Ioulia Biba helped perpetrate the largest act of sabotage against the Axis up to that time in the war.
Together with a team of resistance fighters who helped plan the mission, Ioulia helped assemble a bomb and carry it from her home in Koukaki to central Athens headquarters of the Greek Nazi party– the organization of collaborators who aided the occupation forces.
No small feat in and of itself, the dynamite bomb weighed more than 22 pounds and she carried it in a burlap shopping bag that was filled with greens and other vegetables.
The bomb was detonated and caused mass destruction– a defiant act of resistance that led to the death of 29 Nazi collaborators who were in the offices at the time, as well as 43 Nazi German officers.
Biba was characterized as a quiet, unassuming domestic worker and part-time Sunday School teacher at the Church of St. Nicholas in Koukaki, where she lived with her blind husband Kostas. Her nickname amongst her friends was “daskalitsa,” or “little teacher.” She was enlisted to be part of the resistance team by Kostas Perrikos and together with another friend, Katerina Besi and others, they carried out the sabotage mission.
After the explosion, Biba and the members of her resistance team went into hiding but were eventually captured after fellow Greeks reported their whereabouts to authorities.
On December 31 of that same year, she was sentenced to death by the Nazi military occupiers.
Despite brutal and inhumane torture and interrogation by the Nazis, Biba protected the identity of her collaborators and insisted the entire time that she acted on her own accord.
She was eventually transported to Austria where she was executed in the most brutal fashion– beaheading by guillotine, on February 26, 1943, according to death certificate that was uncovered recently by Greek jouralists in Nazi archives.
Biba was buried in a mass grave with other resistance fighters whom the Nazis had murdered that day in a central Vienna cemetery. The area is known as “Group 40” where many famous Austrians and foreigners alike are buried.
Sadly, there is no grave marker honoring the life and legacy of Biba at the Austrian cemetery.
There is, however, a plaque with Biba’s likeness located in central Athens at Patission Avenue and Gladstonos Street– the location of the Nazi party headquarters that Biba helped destroy.
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