Jun 30, 2021 / 13:05

Vietnam, Greece bid farewell to Kosta Sarantidis Nguyen Van Lap

The exemplary internationalist who has dual Greek and Vietnamese citizenship fought for the freedom of Vietnam.

Both Vietnam and Greece have bid farewell with great sorrow to Kosta Sarantidis Nguyen Van Lap, humble Greek who fought alongside the Vietnamese during the first Indochina war to free Vietnam from French colonialism.

 Kosta Sarantidis Nguyen Van Lap. File photo

Top leaders of Vietnam expressed deepest condolences to Nguyen Van Lap, 94, who has Greek and Vietnamese citizenship and a hero of the Vietnam People’s Army.

To his funeral on June 29, Vietnam incumbent and former Party and State leaders sent sympathy flowers, including President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, former President Nguyen Minh Triet, Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, Defense Minister Phan Van Giang, Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, Head of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s External Affair Le Hoai Trung, Minister of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung, among others.

Attending the funeral held in Thebes, Greece, were all staff of the Vietnamese Mission in Greece led by Ambassador Le Hong Truong, representatives of the Greece – Vietnam Friendship Association, and Vietnamese people living in Greece.

Addressing the funeral, Ambassador Le Hong Truong said Nguyen Van Lap is a shining example of courage and willingness to sacrifice for justice, peace, independence, and freedom. “Uncle [he] always lives forever in the hearts of the Vietnamese people and the friendship between Vietnam and Greece,” Truong exclaimed.

Sarantidis was a living link between the heroic traditions and movements of the two countries. His life is an example and a legacy for young militants.

 Kosta Sarantidis Nguyen Van Lap and legendary general Vo Nguyen Giap. File photo

Born in 1927 in Thessaloniki to refugee parents from Asia Minor, Sarantidis was a descendant of a poor family and began working from an early age. Towards the end of World War II, he was arrested and sent to a forced labor camp. In 1945 he was recruited by the French into the Foreign Legion, supposedly to fight against the Japanese in the Far East.

Arriving in Indochina in February of 1946, and witnessing the atrocities committed by French troops, he realized the role that French colonialism was playing. Shortly after, he defected and joined the Viet Minh on June 4. In 1949 he was admitted to the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Sarantidis worked as a German translator and later as a miner. He fought on the side of the Vietnamese people until the defeat of the French and the independence of Vietnam. He was then discharged from the military with the rank of captain and lived in Vietnam until 1965 when he returned to Greece.

Upon his repatriation to Greece, he helped promote the Greece-Vietnam relations. He wrote books and was instrumental in raising funds for thousands of victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam.

In 2010, he was awarded honorary Vietnamese citizenship. In 2013, he was named Hero of the People’s Armed Forces. He has been the only foreigner bestowed this title.

Additionally, he was awarded several honorary titles by both the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese State, including the Friendship Order in 2011, the Victory Medal-Third Class, and the Resistance War Medal-Second Class.

 His coffin is covered with two flags of Greece and Vietnam.