Eleni Dikaiou was born and raised in New Ionia, a small town near Volos, founded by Greek refugees who fled from their historic homeland in Smyrna to escape the war of 1922. Since her early childhood, she was brought up with stories from Asia Minor and Smyrna, the motherland of Homer and her own ancestors. At school, she had an inclination towards writing and the humanities. Her early stories were published in local newspapers and literary journals, including the «Diaplasis ton Paidon», a leading children’s magazine during the 60’s and 70’s. Upon her high school graduation she won a scholarship to continue her studies in the United States. Family circumstances, however, did not allow for her dream to come true. Instead, she took up a job with the Greek Telephone Company in Athens where she had a long successful career as public affairs executive.
Her first novel for children and young adults, The Girls in the Sailor Suits, inspired by the violent uprooting of her ancestors and their forced migration, was published in 1991. The book received the literary award of the Smyrna and Asia Minor Cultural Organization, was translated into French and published by L’Ecole de Loisirs with the title Que demain soit un jour de bohneur. In 1994 it was included in the curriculum of the Institut National de Langues et de Cultures Orientales, Sorbonne, Paris. In Greece, the book has been adapted for the theatre and has been staged throughout the country. It has also been included in mandatory reading lists by public and private primary and secondary schools.
Since 1991, Eleni Dikaiou has published twenty eight books for children and has contributed numerous stories in anthologies and other collective works. The following titles have received distinctions in Greece and/or abroad:
The Gods Do Not Die in Pella: Award from the Children’s Center for the Arts (Kentro Technis Paidiou), under the auspices of the Municipality of Athens; 1992.
Could you Please Teach Me How to Smile? Greek IBBY award; 1992.
I’ll See You Again, My Little Friend: Nominated for the Janusz Korczak literary prize; 1998. Included in the Department of Special Education List, University of Oslo; 1999. Included in the IBBY List of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities; 1999.
Looking for Lost Heroes: Honorary List, European Prize for Youth Literature (Premio Europeo Pier Paolo Vergerio, Padova, Italy; 1999.
Odysseus: The Long Voyage: Was honoured with the National Book Award - Children’s Literature; 2004.
The Valley of the Butterflies: Was honoured with the Greek IBBY award in 2008 and was included in IBBY’s Honour List the same year. The book was adapted for the theatre and has been staged in the city of Thessaloniki.
Inspired by Greek antiquity and the truths told by ancient poets, Eleni Dikaiou has written extensively on Greek myths and heroes including Odysseus, Theseus, Hercules, and Jason. Her historical novel The Gods Do Not Die in Pella traces the life and accomplishments of Alexander the Great and her Looking for Lost Heroes deals with recent Greek history and the Civil War. In her histories, mythologies, and fairy tales, the human aspect of heroism is a recurrent theme, while other writings explore universal themes such as exile and migration, love and friendship, family values, racism and school bullying, special needs and disabilities, environmental challenges and the future of our planet. Many of her titles are presently included in mandatory reading lists for students attending modern Greek literature classes at Lund University, Sweden.
Eleni Dikaiou has contributed stories to thematic collective works published by Greek educational institutions as well as local and international organizations with responsibility for promoting, protecting, and defending the rights of children (i.e. the Association for the Psychosocial Health of Children and Adolescents, UNICEF, etc). She has prepared and presented numerous workshops and educational programs for children throughout the country in support of book reading initiatives. Since 2008, she works closely with the charitable cultural foundation «Aikaterini Laskaridi» and the Piraeus-based «Kaiti Laskaridi Library» in developing educational programs for children and young adults. These programs travel to even remote Greek towns providing opportunities for all children to engage in reading activities. In addition, she has appeared on radio and TV cultural programs and has travelled throughout Greece and abroad to participate in literary international events for children and young adults. Indicatively, she has participated in the 2007 International Book Fest in Moscow with the topics «Greek mythology and archeology in books for children and young readers,» and «Everyday reality: a source of inspiration for fiction»; the 2012 International Festival of the Sea Nautilus in Cyprus with the theme «Mediterranean Cultures through Greek Mythology»; the 2014 International Science Festival in Athens on «Les Rencontres de la Terre, Eau, Air, Feu: observer la Planète», the 2015 International Conference «Greece-Turkey: Literary Routes».
An active member of the Athens-based Greek IBBY, Eleni Dikaiou resides with her family in the nearby city of Piraeus. Her two granddaughters, Lydia and Iphigenia, are her first and most demanding readers and the ones who usually take the lead in deciding whether or not her stories are worth reading and loving.