AGAPW Honors Diaspora Mothers

NEW YORK – AGAPW hosted its “Annual May celebration Acknowledging the Mothers
of the Greek Diaspora” on May 26.
Anthousa Diakopoulos Iliopoulos, Maria Logus, and Lila Prounis were chosen both to
receive honors and to pay tribute to “Greek American women, who through their
volunteer philanthropic and charity work become ‘mothers to the community,’” as the
invitation noted.
The speakers were introduced by attorney Evgenia Soldatos.
Logus is prioritizing Philoptochos activities like feeding the homeless and acknowledged
the presence of Catherine Moutousis, president of Cathedral Philoptochos.
After recounting the humble backgrounds of the society’s founders, Logus said “we are
professionals now, doctors, lawyers, educators…but we are also the community’s
mothers, working to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Dr. Olga Alexakos, AGAPW founder and first, called Prounis a great role model.
She represented the Archdiocese at the UN for many yearsand was one of the first
women to be appointed to the Archdiocesan Council but guests were moved by her
State Department career.
She began as one of only two female Voice of American (VOA) radio program
producers, and their male colleagues undermined them. Her parents taught her to
always strive for excellence, and after winning the Ohio State University (OSU) Award
for Excellence in Radio, they won the respect and admiration of their peers.
The guests were intrigued by Iliopoulos’ presentation, a perspective of the unheralded
role of women in the community’s history. “Women have participated in and contributed
greatly to the success story of Greeks in America,” she said.
Iliopoulos, who has advanced degrees and has taught history, embraced Alexakos’
invitation to speak despite not being a Greek-American.
As the wife of a diplomat – her husband is Amb. George Iliopoulos, Consul General of
Greece – she has raised children born in two countries and grew up in six. She has
lived the challenge of infusing the values and traditions of Hellenism in the next
generation despite being far from the homeland.
In addition to her research, through their 25 years of service among Greeks abroad
Iliopoulos heard the stories of Diaspora Greek women and their mothers, which echoed
some of her own family history. Her great aunt became a “picture bride” when her
people lost everything in the Asia Minor Catastrophe.Iliopoulos referred to Maria Iliou’s film The Journey: The Greek American Dream and
other sources, to paint a picture of both the humble women who formed the backbone of
the community and those to stood apart, excelled, and inspired, like the woman – only
her last name, Magerou, is known – who addressed the needs of the hard-pressed
Greeks in America’s mining towns as a self-trained midwife and physician.
She emphasized that Greek-American communities began to be organized and
establish the institutions that enabled Hellenism in American to prosper and endure,
only “when the women arrived.”
Iliopoulos cited studies that showed that in places where women did not follow the men,
the latter married non-Greeks and the Hellenic presence withered away.
When the women came, Greek Orthodox weddings and baptisms had to take place,
requiring priests, parishes, and eventually, the critical component of schools.
But the mothers played perhaps the greatest role in conveying ethnic pride to the
children of immigrants growing up in America at a time when diversity was either not
valued – or directly attacked.
Alexakos thanked the guests for attending and invited them to network during the
reception that followed. She also described the objects of art and fashion created by
members that were raffled in support of the organization.