The Nikos Kazantzakis Estate
Niki Stavrou, CEO
Niki Stavrou is the copyright owner of the works of Nikos Kazantzakis and adoptive granddaughter of Eleni N. Kazantzakis, the author’s wife.
She was born in Geneva, Switzerland. The first home she ever knew was Eleni Kazantzakis’s apartment, a place filled with the luminous presence of Nikos Kazantzakis. His manuscripts, pens and pencils, clothes, photographs and books were Niki’s first surroundings. Her godmother Eleni, named her ‘Niki’ after her beloved husband, and began to read to her all of Nikos Kazantzakis’s books, starting with his children's books Alexander the Great and At the Palaces of Knossos and concluding with his Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, thoroughly explaining what lay on and in-between each line and illuminating every aspect of his life and philosophy. The bedtime stories Niki first heard were Eleni’s chronicles from her life with Nikos, their journeys, people who had affected their lives, their fears and hopes for the future.
Niki's father was Patroclos Stavrou (1933-2014). He served as Under Secretary to the President of Cyprus, which gave him the opportunity to meet Eleni Kazantzakis in the late 1960's, when she traveled to Cyprus as an honored guest of President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios. A friendship was born and a strong familial relationship, which ended up in his legal adoption by Eleni in 1982. From 1964 to 1974, Eleni had been unable to travel to her homeland, Greece, as the fearless expression of her views on human rights, freedom of speech and democracy, had proved unpopular with the military dictatorial regime. It was only after the Greek Junta had collapsed that she was able to travel freely to Greece and to personally supervise the publication of her husband’s work. From Geneva, Eleni would send gifts and postcards to Niki, and spent her summers and holidays with the Stavrou family, Patroclos, his wife Mary and Niki, in their homes in Greece and Cyprus. There she collaborated with Patroclos on the editing, layout and foreign rights of Nikos Kazantzakis’s books and founded with him the Eleni N. Kazantzakis publishing house, for the publication and dissemination of Nikos Kazantzakis's books in the Greek language. At the same time, Eleni and Patroclos made deals with publishers across the world for the translation and publications of the author's books in many countries and languages.
In July 1974, when the Turkish armed forces invaded Cyprus, Eleni, Mary and two-year old Niki were vacationing at their summer home in Kyrenia, which Eleni had just gifted her adoptive granddaughter. Niki's father Patroclos was at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, the capital of the Cypriot Republic, when a few days before, the Greek Junta forces had rammed through its gates in an assassination attempt against President Makarios. The President had barely escaped through a small gate in the back of the Presidential Palace's garden, accompanied by a few trusted people. In a dramatic dialogue between Makarios and Patroclos Stavrou, the latter remained behind to stall the assailing Junta forces so that Makarios would escape unharmed. Back in Kyrenia, the family's home was sadly located at the very spot of the Turkish invasion in Pente Mili; from their balcony, Eleni and Mary with her daughter in her arms, saw the Turkish fleet approaching and the mountains of Pentadaktylos behind them burning, having been set ablaze by Turkish forces to guide their naval assault. Patroclos had been arrested by the Junta and placed under house arrest, while his country was being plundered and all constitutional order abolished. His captors taunted him with misinformation that his family had been killed during the invasion. Similarly, Eleni Kazantzakis and Mary, having received news of the assassination attempt against President Makarios also thought that Patroclos was dead. During the Turkish invasion Eleni’s courage saved Mary and Niki, as she pretended they were Swiss tourists visiting Cyprus for their summer vacation, since the Turkish invasion was launched in the height of Cyprus’s tourist season. Even at gunpoint, Eleni Kazantzakis spoke fearlessly to the Turkish soldiers in impeccable French holding her Swiss passport in her stretched arms, and shielding the Stavrou family with her body, she calmly walked to the British helicopters, sent to evacuate tourists and other foreign nationals. The family was rescued and reunited a few days later in Greece. The Stavrou-Kazantzakis family never parted, until the 18th of February, 2004, when Eleni left her last breath at the Henry Dunant Hospital, at age 101, holding her son’s hand.
Niki Stavrou was fortunate to grow up in a house which, for many years, had been a destination point for artists, dignitaries and literary personalities who traveled from across the world to meet Eleni and express to her their love for Nikos Kazantzakis.
Knowing the author's work deeply, Niki has since delivered lectures on Nikos Kazantzakis in national and international conferences, at the Academy of Athens, the Cyprus University Symposium, the University of Wurzburg, the AHEPA Convention at Zappeion Megaron, and she has been awarded by the English Department of the University of Indianapolis for her research on the life and work of the great Cretan author.
One of her research fields concerns the verification and discovery of the real people behind the immortalized characters in Nikos Kazantzakis’s books, and especially, his autobiographical novel Report to Greco. During her research, Niki Stavrou established the connection between Nikos and his first love, by identifying the Irish Lass of chapter 14 of Report to Greco, Kathleen Forde, an Irish woman with an adventurous spirit and a love for Literature. In this remarkable literary detective story, Niki’s invaluable associate has been Kathleen’s great-niece, Cathleen Scaife. In February 2003, Niki was invited by the Irish Hellenic Society to Trinity College, Dublin, together with her father, Patroclos Stavrou, where she presented her findings and on March 1, 2004, The Irish Times published an extensive article by Rev. Patrick Comerford on this intriguing story.
In 2011, Niki took over the Kazantzakis Publications, the Athens based publishing house of the works of Nikos Kazantzakis in the Greek language. Under her management, a large number of novels by Nikos Kazantzakis were published in all formats. Through positive communication and mutually beneficial collaboration with the International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis and the Kazantzakis Museum Foundation, Niki organized national and international conferences, honorary and promotional events in Greece and abroad, and donated thousands of books to libraries, foundations, educational institutions and prisons.
In 2022, she consigned the copyrights of Nikos Kazantzakis's books in the Greek language to the publisher of Dioptra editions, Konstantinos Papadopoulos, so that she would focus entirely on her life's mission, to publish, promote and introduce all of Nikos Kazantzakis' books to a global readership.
Niki Stavrou’s enduring commitment to the service of the memory of Nikos Kazantzakis is affirmed through her mission to ensure the translation of his books in all the languages of the world. To this end, she established the Department of Foreign Rights of Τhe Nikos Kazantzakis Estate, articulating its mission: to allow every person anywhere in our world to be able to find all of Nikos Kazantzakis's works in his/her/their own language or dialect.
Within the scope of this mission, Niki has traveled to many countries, visited their libraries and bookstores in search of translated works of Nikos Kazantzakis, she has digitized and catalogued all the material concerning the translated works of Kazantzakis globally, which consisted of tens of thousands of documents in various languages, letters, contracts, manuscripts and books, she collaborated with publishers and translators across the world, renewed and updated existing contracts, made new agreements for translations and publications of printed and digital books, and arranged for new adaptations of his works for the theatre and film. Niki also systematized the licensing and quality control processes in the translation and publication of the author's works of The Nikos Kazantzakis Estate’s Foreign Rights dept., whose digital archive remains to this day the most reliable and up-to-date comprehensive digital database of Nikos Kazantzakis's translated works in the world.