Anna Mela-Papadopoulou (Marseilles, September 3, 1871 – Athens, March 12, 1938) was a Greek volunteer nurse who became known by the name «The Soldier's Mother» for her activity on the war front during the Greek wars of the decade 1912- 1922. The honorary title "The Soldier's Mother" was also attributed, in later years, to other distinguished nurses of the Greek Red Cross as a medallion, to commemorate her.
. Her portrait by Thalia Flora-Karavia Θάλεια Φλωρά-Καραβία
Anna Mela-Papadopoulou was one of the 7 children of Michail Melas and Eleni Voutsina. Her father was a Greek nobleman and a merchant by trade, an ardent patriot, proud of his descendance from Epirus, that was still under the Turkish rule. He loved the Arts and encouraged Anna to paint. Her mother was a noble and devout Christian lady, dedicated to her duties that derived from her social privileges and her Christian Faith. Anna was brought up to care and work hard for the relief of her fellow sufferer.
One of her brothers was Pavlos Melas. He became a folk hero when, in 1904, he was killed in action, fighting in Macedonia as an undercover officer, during the guerrilla war, between Greeks and Bulgarians, for their territorial influence, under the Turkish rule. His death and the tragic - for the family - circumstances under which it occurred, affected deeply his sister Anna and influenced her life.* She left her husband's village in Euboea, where he was the local landlord and she had devoted herself to welfare activities and returned to Athens to work for more extensive charity schemes. Firstly she organised a First Aid Polyclinic in Omonia Square and secondly a shop, called "The Progress", where women could sell their handicrafts and earn an income.
When the First Balkan War broke out on the 11th of September in 1912, she enlisted as a volunteer nurse. She served in the Greek Army, at the war front, for a decade (1912-1922) throughout the two Balkan Wars, the North Epirus Struggle, the Great War and the Asia Minor Campaign
For her work in Serbia as Head of the newly founded Greek Red Cross she was awarded in December 1914 the Silver Cross of the Order of the Redeemer of the Greek State and in spring of 1915 the Serbian Medal of Saint Andrew and the Cross of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, for her services to the captives of the Serbs. She was honored with 28 medals in total. She was also awarded with the Silver Medal award for virtue and self-sacrifice by the Academy of Athens
She dedicated her post-war life to the struggle against tuberculosis from which the refugees from the Asia Minor Disaster suffered. She raised funds for the construction of a wing at the Sotiria (Salvation) Hospital for Thoracic Diseases in Athens. In 1927 she travelled to Egypt and the United States of America and visited the Greek Communities there, to raise funds for the construction of a Sanatorium in the Peloponnese at Korfoxilia, in Arcadia, near Vytina and Magouliana. Eventually she succumbed to tuberculosis herself.
- For diplomatic reasons Pavlos Melas' death had to be kept a secret. So his companions cut his head and buried it separately from his body. His brothers Leon (Λέων Μ. Μελάς) and Constantine (Κωνσταντίνος Μελάς) went in search for the burial grounds but Leon died of some infection within 3 months.
- Μπακοπούλου, Ελένη (2004-01-01). Η Μάννα. Athens, Greece: ONra Α.Ε. (Private publication). pp. 22–34. ISBN 960-88392-0-3.
- Moore, Mabel (1909). Days in Hellas. London, England: W. Heinemann. pp. 49–51.
- Σταυρίδης, Αντώνης (2007). Εκεί που δεν πεθαίνουν οι άνθρωποι. Athens, Greece: Νίκος Χαϊδεμένος (Militos Books). pp. 81–312. ISBN 978-960-8460-96-6.
- Μπακοπούλου, Ελένη (2004-01-01). Η Μάννα. Athens, Greece: ONra Α.Ε. (Private publication). pp. 146, 183. ISBN 960-88392-0-3.
- Σταυρίδης, Αντώνης (2007). Εκεί που δεν πεθαίνουν οι άνθρωποι. Athens, Greece: Νίκος Χαϊδεμένος (Militos Books). p. 355. ISBN 978-960-8460-96-6.
- http://www.magouliana.gr/old/manna.htm Magouliana
- Άννα Μελά Παπαδοπούλου (2010). Ως ελευθέρα πολίτις... Ημερολόγιο Εκστρατείας 1912-1926. Αθήνα: Μίλητος. p. 733. ISBN 978-960-464-149-9.
- Φωτογραφίες (2010). Ως ελευθέρα πολίτις... Επιστολές προς την Άννα Μελά-Παπαδοπούλου 1912-1926. Αθήνα: Μίλητος. p. 248. ISBN 978-960-464-182-6.
- http://flps.newberry.org/article/5422062_4_0343/ An Appeal from "The Soldier's Mother" to the Greeks of America