Fofi Gennimata was many things: a socialist, a mother, a daughter, but she refused to be defined just by the status of her health.
For this reason, though she openly admitted to cancer, she preferred not to share intimate details regarding her battle with the illness.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, a year before she was appointed Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare in 2009, before serving as Alternate Minister of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs in the same cabinet the year after followed by her role as Deputy Minister of Interior in the government of Lucas Papademos in 2011.She took over the leadership of a battered PASOK in June 2015 when the party had fallen into disgrace and decline, blamed for signing the 1st bailout agreement by then prime minister George Papandreou. In fact, as PASOK toppled, a new term emerged – Pasofication, to describe the decline of centre-left social-democratic political parties in Europe and other Western countries during the 2010s.

But it was Ms Gennimata who came in to heal, in the same year that a PwC study found that boards were more likely to promote women and minorities in top leadership roles when an organisation is in crisis. And so it was with Ms Gennimata.

She managed to create the right condition for unity, lifting the party’s percentage from 4.58 per cent to 8.1 per cent in July 2019, making it the third-most powerful party in Parliament.

Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes battle with cancer continued, with all its ups and downs.

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It was a silent battle taking place backstage while appearances indicated a stoic get-on-with-life approach. One which was sometimes misinterpreted. For instance, despite her support of same-sex unions, she did not appear to cast her ballot during the same-sex partnership voting in Greek Parliament, leading many to make assumptions regarding her values.

She had it, but was not defined by it.

“Mου ξέφυγε ο μπαγάσας, αλλά θα τον νικήσω,” she told colleagues who visited her at Evangelismos Hospital, where she was admitted just wo weeks before she died. “The thug got away, but I’ll beat him,” she said.

When she passed away on Monday, which coincided with World Breast Cancer Day, her family advised people to donate money to Fofi’s own favourite children’s focused charities (Kivotos tou Kosmou-Ark of the World and Chamogelo tou Paidiou-Smile of the Child) rather than cancer.

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The state, however, will honour her memory by giving her name to a cancer prevention programme, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a Facebook post.

Conservatives, socialists and other groups honoured her because despite her core political beliefs, she was a unifying force in fragmented Greek politics. This was as evident as ever at her funeral, held with state honours.

But though the world saw a veteran politician, a staunch advocate of socialism, a woman who battled with cancer, to her husband and three children she was a loving wife and mother, just Fofi.