Zoe Fitousi

Zoe Fitousi was the most famous Pityan artist of the 20th century, even though very few people know her place of origin. Yet, the great Greek singer, actress and writer, was born in Athens on September 4, 1933, by a Pityan father, named Polychronis Fitousis, a veteran of the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-1922.

Polychronis Fytousis moved to Athens in the 20’s working as an employee for the Ministry of Interior. There, he married Aggeliki, a refugee woman from Asia Minor and together they settled down at the refugee neighbourhood of Saint Antonios in Peristeri, Athens. They had four children, three girls – one of them little Zoe – and one boy. Polychronis preserved a nostalgia for his place of origin and from time to time he kept on visiting Pityos, till the 50’s when he passed away. It seems that Zoe Fytousi never did this trip on her own. She lived instead with the hard and poor childhood memories, from the side of her mother’s refugee family. As she had mentioned in one of her last interviews just before she died:

«…My life is a permanent struggle. I was born in this refugee shanty. All seven people in my family used to live in this shanty in Peristeri. As a very poor refugee’s child, I managed to reach somewhere, walking step by step, with a very hard struggle. Every winter, when this shantie’s cold and dump made us shiver, the priests were giving us the army’s coats and blankets. There were many times when our shanties were flooded and our parents had to rush and get the water out with buckets otherwise we would drown! We had very hard times. But that’s ok, this is life after all. We learn how to survive.’….»

Her life was fascinating! Her relationship with arts was experiential. As she was saying:

«….For me, who started writing in my childhood, art was like breathing! When you’re 11 years old, of course you cannot imagine what comes next, although, in the bottom of my heart, I believe we know it since the day we are born….»

She studied at the Greek Conservatory and at the Drama School of Michalis Kounelakis. Her first role at the theatre was at her 20s in 1953, at the play of «The Marquesas of the poor neighbourhood» (Samartzi theatre). She acted in all styles from dramatic to comedian roles, working with major actors and directors.

Her first movie was, 1952’s “Zaira” of Filippas Fillipou. She appeared in many movies of the so-called golden era of the mainstream and commercial Greek cinema of the 60’s. At the same time, she appeared in TV and Radio programmes.

As a singer, she performed songs of the most prominent composers, such as Manos Hatzidakis (songs like «O Tachidromos pethane» – The mailman passed away and «Ferte mou ena mantolino» – Get me a Mandolin, are the most famous songs), Stavros Xarchakos, Giorgo Katsaros, Apostolos Kaldaras and Manos Loizos.

Her most famous song, Hatzidakis’ «Ferte mou ena mantolino», was performed by her for the first time in the Pirandello’s play «Tonight we improvise» in 1961 at «Theatre of Athens», by Dimitris Myrat and Voula Zoumboulaki. As she was saying:

«…one day I heard that Myrat was doing Pirandello’s “Tonight we improvise” and there was tension between the director and the composer. One wanted a drama actress while the other wanted a lyrical voice. I thought I might fit this role. I knew Myrat, as he was my teacher, and I phoned him immediately. He asked me to go and meet Hatzidaki at Finos Films’ studio, on Chios str. where he was doing all his auditions. But that was impossible since I was working at “Vembo’s theatre”.

So Myrat, arranged an appointment for me, at Hatzidakis house, at 2 o clock in the afternoon. I must have been there four times before I got to see him! Four times! Hatzidakis didn’t want to see me as that was his siesta hour! When he finally came out, on my 4th attempt, I almost passed out! He seemed to be very tall, very overweight and very handsome. How could I sing before him? I asked him which song he would like me to perform. To avoid comparIng me with Nana Moushouri, I suggested a Greek popular song and a foreign folk song. 

“I’d rather prefer the foreign one” he replied. 

Therefore I chose an Italian one, which was a very big hit in Greece by that time.

“Goodness me!” he shouted, and sat at his piano trying to get my tone. He afterwards phoned immediately to the newspapers and said to them: “I have found a warm voice”!

The next day I was called on his rehearsal»

Zoe Fytousi had also a career as a writer, writing even from her young age. She published her works: «The magic book», «Besides», «Ain’t no grave», «A bullet», «Help, I want to live», «Book of students: Hellenic treatment», «Greek and Italian modern poets», «Menandros: Gnomae Monostichou» etc. Her poem «None, but none» was awarded and selected to a collection of the Italian anthology of Greek-Italian poetry «Anthologia di poeti Italiani e Greci», Accademia Internazionale di Propaganda Culturale, 1996.

She was also an active member of the Union of Greek Actors (Σ.Ε.Η.) and a leading figure together with Anna Fonsou and others, in creating the «House of the Actor», a well-known institution giving shelter to dozens of homeless or retired poor actors.

She passed away on July 23, 2017, in Athens at the age of 83. In the last years of her life, she was facing serious health issues.

Her artistic imprint, will remain in the Greek arts panorama (music, theatre, cimena, books). At the same time, she will live forever in our memories as an example of a vanguard activist of feminism. Her place of origin,  always remembers her as one of its most brilliant and unique personalities!

Selected Discography: https://www.discogs.com/artist/1539646-%CE%96%CF%89%CE%AE-%CE%A6%CF%85%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%8D%CF%83%CE%B7?anv=%CE%96%CF%89%CE%AE%20%CE%A6%CF%85%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%8D%CF%83%CE%B7&filter_anv=1

Selected filmography: https://greek-movies.com/person.php?id=C9d9FMUk3EGHLGqDmwj02w