Sofia Vempo

Sofia Vempo or Sophia Vempo is a woman whose name is associated with the Greek music during World War Two and was characterized as the Singer of Victory, due to the songs she performed during the Greek – Italian War in 1940.

Sofia Vempo

Biography of Sophia Vempo

Sofia Vempo was born in 1910 in East Thrace (north-east Greece) in Gallipolli. Her real name was Sofia Bembo. Her father was a worker in the tobacco gathering industry.

The family moved to Istanbul in 1912 to live among the large community of the Greeks, but in 1914 they had to leave the city since the Greeks and Turks signed the agreement for population exchange, so they came to Volos, where they settled for good.

In Volos Sofia or Efi, as she wanted her friends to call her, had to abandon high school to work to help her family survive.

Vempo started working as a cashier in a large store, but she also got involved with music because she liked it a lot. She bought a guitar and started practicing.

In September 1933, she decided to go to Thessaloniki and live with one of her brothers. She took the train, but since it was a long way to go, she decided to play her guitar and sing along with way. Soon all the passengers of the train were astonished by her voice. Practically, this was her first public appearance as a singer.

Sofia Vempo’s career in Greek music

Vempo was quite lucky because one of the passengers of that train was Constantinos Tsibas, who was an impresario in Thessaloniki.

He asked her to work in a popular stage – club in Thessaloniki, called Astoria. Indeed, the very next day, Vempo started her rehearsals and soon she was on stage. She became instantly popular in Thessaloniki.

Within a week her reputation reached Athens and she was invited to perform at the theatre of Fotis Samartzis.

Still using her original surname Bembo at the time, she participated in a satirical theatrical play playing a gypsy woman with a guitar. She was stunning and everyone was asking her to perform her songs again after the end of the play.

Many renowned actors who were there, congratulated Bembo, who signed a contract for 10,000 drachmas per month, a huge amount of money for the time.

Pol Nor, who was also in Thessaloniki that time changed her name to Sofia Vempo, whose career skyrocketed.

From 1935 till 1940 Vempo dominates in the Athenian life and Greek music. Her songs became huge hits.

Some of the famous songs of that time are “Psaropoula”, “Zechra”, “Poso lypamai”, “O anthropos mou” and more.

Vempo during the Greek Italian War in 1940

The absolute “explosion” in Vempo’s career came with the declaration of War on October 28th 1940.

All the satirical plays adjusted their program so as to follow the current situation and her voice became the voice of Greece, that encouraged the soldiers at the front and stunned the country.

At that time, she offers the Greek navy 2,000 gold liras. When the Nazis invaded Athens, she was fled to Middle East where she sung for the Greek soldiers and the allies.

Her great success Zechra became “Paidia tis Ellados Paidia“, one of the most inspirational and enticing songs of Greek music during the War.

Other famous songs of the time were: “Ston polemo bgainei o Italos”, “Vazei o Duce ti stoli tou“, “Simaia”, “Koroido Moussolini”, ” I Ellada pote den pethainei” and more.

Vempo became the voice of the Greek resistance, and she did everything possible to encourage her compatriots and soldiers during the war and the following German occupation until 1944.

Sofia Vempo after World War 2

In 1949, after the end of the German occupation and the Civil War, she got her own theatre in Metaksourgeio area in Athens, called Vempo Theatre.

In 1957 Vempo got married to her long lasting lover, Mimmis Traiforos, who had written many songs for his beloved wife. In the following years, the career of Vempo started to perform rarely and she retired in the 70s.

However, it was not accidental that Vempo became the symbol of the fight of the Greek people against fascism. It is characteristically proven by the following event that took place a few years before her death:

On the night of the attack of the junta army to the Polytechnic School of Athens on November 17th in 1973, Vempo hid some students in her house and she refused to give them in, when the Police knocked on her door and threatened to arrest her.

A year later, when the junta regime fell, there was a big feast for Democracy at the Kallimarmaron Stadium in Athens, and Vempo sung ” Paidia tis Ellados paidia, ta tanks gonatisan ekeini ti bradia” ( meaning: “Children of Greece, even the tanks kneeled that night).

She died on March 11th 1978 from stroke and her funeral became something like a huge public demonstration. The Singer of Victory was glorified that night from the people of Greece, who considered Sofia Vempo their hero.

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