By Theodore Kalmoukos
BOSTON, MA – The Greek Independence Parade on April 30 in Boston began beneath a pristine blue, sunshine-covered sky,but ended in rain that was not forecasted by meteorologists, thus leaving marchers and spectators alike unprepared for the elements.
At the head of the Parade was Boston Mayor, Marti J. Walsh, who praised the Greek-American community when he spoke to TNH.“I am very proud for this day and the parade. I have great respect and love for Boston’s Greek-American community,” Mayor Walsh said. Police Commissioner Bill Evans told TNH he was “happy to here with my all good friends from the Greek community.” Evans was also present at the annual gala on April 29 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s Center in Brookline.
The Parade began at 1PM, led by the police motorcycle corps and the Greek-American Evzones Guard, which belongs to the Federation of the Hellenic American Societies of New England (HASNE). At approximately 1:45, a strong rainshower ruined the Parade, although many marchers including Greek School students continued to march, praising Greece and the Greek-American community. More than 50 units marched. Many came from long distances such as Cape Cod and Holyoke; Saco and Lewiston, ME; Cranston, RI, and Manchester, NH. According to police estimates, between 15,000 and 17,000 people were on hand.
Greek School students dressed in traditional ethnic costumes added enthusiasm and color, as did a number of Greek-American students from various colleges and universities from the Greater Boston area.
The cultural event in the Boston Common, which was scheduled immediately after the Parade, was canceled due to the rain. Parade organizers HASNE scheduled the Parade in late April, hoping to good weather conditions.
Mayor Walsh, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, Central Greece Governor Kostas Bakoyannis, and Consul General of Greece in Boston Iphigenia Kanara were the Grand Marshals. Honorary Grand Marshals were Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, Colonel Richard McKeon of the Massachusetts State Police, Dr. George Velmahos, and Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis.
A doxology service was held beforehand at the Annunciation Greek-Orthodox Cathedral of Boston officiated by Methodios.
On April 29, the Parade Annual Dinner Gala was held at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Center in Brookline, with over 300 guests in attendance. Dr. George Velmahos, Chief of the Trauma Center at Massachusetts General Hospital was honored with the Freedom Award. He was introduced by his son Konstantinos, in fluent Greek. Konstantinos Travayakis was the Award Ceremony Gala Chairman.
The dance group Sons and Daughters of Alexander the Great gave a special performance under the direction of George Papadopoulos.
Seven scholarships of $1,000 each were given to Greek-American college students, Vasilios Stefanopoulos, Eleni Blanas, Mary Kandaras, Jason Maresces, Nicholas Patsaouras, Nikos Eliades, and Olga Fotos.
The keynote speaker was Vasileia Pigidiki, Visiting Scholar FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, Harvard University, who spoke on topic “The Meaning of Freedom.”
She said among other things that “the history of nations is filled with important events, great events in every respect, yet only a few of these have succeeded in capturing the soul of a people. Such events shake the very consciousness and move the spirit of nations, with a lasting impact that can still be felt today, even if the distance that separates us from them is often times very large. These are the events that stem from an idea, or they give birth to a new set of ideals, and shape the evolution of nations and their people.
“Such an event is the Greek revolution of 1821, which for decades has been a source of inexhaustible inspiration for many. And particularly today that our country faces a seemingly perfect storm of trials and tribulations from every conceivable angle. Today, that our country finds itself at the epicenter of a potential powder keg of conflict, with neighbors that are either in a fanatic frenzy or on the verge of internal upheaval, and in the middle of an endless deluge of displaced people seeking safety and a better life, the message of the revolution of 1821 is more relevant and louder than ever.”
On April 28 , the annual celebration at the Massachusetts State House took place, organized and hosted by state representatives and senators of Greek descent and friends of the Greek-American community, attended by 200 people. Greek-American State Senator Bruce Tarr was the presenter.Kostas Bakoyannis,Governor of Central Greece, thanked the community for its “support to Greece during today’s difficult times.”
HASNE honored Vasileios Patsios for his longstanding support of the Federation and the Parade.
Nikolas Valayannopoulos and Eleni Georhgountzos,students from the Cathedral of Boston Greek School and Elefteria Pantekidi from the St. Nicholas Greek School of Lexington presented their essays at the State House ceremony.
Massachusetts Governor Charls Baker issued proclamations marking the Greek Independence Day and also in honor of Consul General of Greece Iphigenia Kanara for her successfulfour-year tenure in Boston.
Methodios noted that “it was around this time of year, in March of 1821, that thetorch of the Greek revolution was lit from the vigil lamp beforethe Icon of the Virgin Mary and passed quickly to every GreekOrthodox soul. United as one body, resolved in purpose, andnourished by their zealous faith, the Greek people rose upagainst their Turkish oppressors. After a long, bitter andbloody battle, the Ottoman Empire was crushed. News of therevolution resounded instantly and loudly. People everywheremarveled at the small, heroic nation that stirred up an angrywave of opposition to expel an oppressive Turkish overlord.”
Methodios also said “they were amazed that the heroic warriors of Greece – greatly outnumbered – rid themselves and all othersubjugated nations around them of the onus that weighedheavily upon those who were held captive for centuries by theTurks.”
Consul General Iphigenia Kanara in her greeting said “we are all here today to pay tribute to an important moment in our nation’s history.196 years ago, Greeks rose up against the oppression of the Ottoman’s to reinstate one of the world’s preeminent nations. In doing so, they safeguarded not only their ancient heritage, but also the legacy of Western principals, those principals that have united our two nations for nearly 200 years.
“Just like the American Revolution, the Greek Revolution inspired Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Volunteers came from every part of Greece, but also from every part of the globe, including the United States. Some of the most famous and dedicated soldiers of the Greek War for Independence came from right here in New England.”
A reception followed at the Greek Consulate, located a short distance from the State House.