Katherine Kaye, author of Sailing with the Wind of Freedom: Lascarina Bouboulis and the War for Greek Independence, was inspired by a chance visit to a quiet Greek island to write about the heroine of that country’s hard-fought battle for freedom from Ottoman Turkish rule. As Greek Independence Day approaches on March 25, the novel’s release is perfectly timed to celebrate the woman who helped launch the ultimately victorious struggle for Greek autonomy, also coinciding with Women’s History Month.
But how did Katherine Kaye become interested in Bouboulina?
With their close relatives spread from Athens to New York City to the American Midwest, Katherine Kaye’s parents, both children of immigrants from Greece, realised that the only way their daughter could maintain family ties was to learn the Greek language.
Kaye attended afternoon Greek School at her church on Staten Island and learned the language well enough to converse with, write to and read letters from her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But it was not until her trip to Greece as a young adult that she came up with the idea of writing about one of the country’s most famous modern figures.
Kaye’s interest in the life of Lascarina Bouboulis, the legendary heroine of the Greek War for Independence, began when she visited the Greek island of Spetses in 1984. From this now calm island in the Saronic Gulf, Bouboulis, who became known to history as Bouboulina, helped launch the Revolution of 1821 that would free part of Greece from Ottoman Turkish rule.
“It was clear to me then that Lascarina Bouboulis could be an inspiration to girls everywhere,” said Kaye, “and that the Greek War for Independence was itself a trove of swash-buckling adventure stories.”
Lack of information
In 1984, very little had been published in English about Bouboulis. Kaye enlisted her grandmother to help her translate a novel about Bouboulina that was written in Greek, so that she could learn more about the dauntless woman who had captured her attention. Kaye completed the first draft of a children’s historic novel about Bouboulis shortly after her visit, but put the book aside for several decades as she became immersed in her medical career and family life. In 2021, she was finally able to review and rewrite the manuscript.
The result of the author’s persistence and research is this young adult novel, Sailing with the Wind of Freedom: Lascarina Bouboulis and the War for Greek Independence. Kaye has taken care to write about complex themes- including the importance of national unity and self-determination, the cascade of horrors unleashed by ethnic hatred, and the limited options open to women for most of recorded history-in a way that makes them understandable to young readers. While the book was written for children and teenagers ages 12 to 18, it will also appeal to people of any age who are interested in the history of modern Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the usually unrecognised role of women in determining their country’s destiny.
In March 1821, a ragtag group of Ottoman subjects in a remote corner of the Sultan’s vast empire makes a desperate bid to reclaim a long-suppressed national identity. United by courageous leaders, they wage war against the power that has occupied their country for over 350 years. One of these leaders, a woman known as Bouboulina, helps them build a naval fleet. Sailing into battle in her own flagship, she proves that her sleek warships can defeat the cumbersome Ottoman men-of-war. But the Sultan is amassing all his forces- on land as well as sea- to crush the Greeks. Can Bouboulina save the Revolution?
This historical novel about Lascarina Bouboulis and her role in the Greek War for Independence is inspired by the life of a woman who earned the title of ‘Admiral’ in the Greek navy. It transports the reader to the seemingly quiet island of Spetses, where dreams of freedom still lived in the hearts of the Sultan’s Greek subjects. The book opens in 1786, at a fateful moment in the life of the fifteen-year-old Lascarina Lazarou. Lascarina is the subject of much gossip; no one in her small village knows who her father is, and Lascarina’s mother takes care to guard this secret even from her own daughter. Worse yet, Lascarina possesses skills considered highly inappropriate for a girl: she is a brilliant sailor and can read and write. When Lascarina competes in a hard-fought sailing race, she learns lessons that will stand her in good stead all her life. In addition, she discovers that, for one young man with an independent mind, a troublesome reputation is no obstacle to friendship. Lascarina passes into history with the name Bouboulina. She brings the battle for freedom to the door of the Sultan’s palace, winning help from a highly unlikely ally to whom she makes a momentous promise. Using her own fortune, she builds a fleet of warships. The resourceful Bouboulina navigates the intrigues of the Russian and Ottoman courts and, with a cast of other colorful Revolutionary characters, rallies her countrymen to wage their War for Independence in 1821.
Keeping the memory alive
A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to The Bouboulina Museum on the Greek island of Spetses and the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The Bouboulina Museum on the island of Spetses was founded in 1991 and is housed in the 17th century mansion of Greek naval commander and heroine Laskarina Bouboulina. It is a private, non-profit institution, and its main objectives, apart from the restoration and maintenance of the building and grounds, are its function as a cultural centre, and ensuring that this legendary woman’s story is known to the world.
The American Farm School offers superior general and technical education based on the environmental, food, agricultural and life sciences for youth and adults. The School’s holistic and experiential education prepares and inspires the whole person to lead, innovate and contribute to the sustainable future of Greece and its neighbors.
About the author
Katherine Kaye received her AB from Princeton University, her MD from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and an MPH from the Columbia School of Public Health. After working with Save the Children’s programs in Asia for a few years, she returned to New York City and embarked on a long career with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.