NEW YORK – The Consulate General held its annual open house on March 22 in celebration of the 198th anniversary of Greek Independence.
As expected, the turnout was massive. New York Hellenism crowded the Consulate General to commemorate the national holiday and March 25, 1821, the day that marked the beginning of the Revolution against the Ottoman yoke and 400 years of slavery.
Consul General Konstantinos Koutras gave the welcoming remarks and spoke of the importance of the Greek Revolution, Philhellenism, the importance of historical memory and the preservation of the Greek language and tradition as a necessary precondition for our survival as a nation, not forgetting of course the contribution of our Cypriot brothers to the liberation struggle. “Today’s event is a history lesson,” Koutras noted.
The Consul General said, “Maintaining our language, our history, our tradition is sine qua non of our survival – as a nation. We owe the survival of our nation and its progress to the Thinkers of Ancient Greece, to Heroes of ’21, to all those who have been deprived, who sacrificed, fought against obscurantism, tyranny, to those who have never calculated the magnitude of the enemies of freedom and culture.
“We owe it to our ancestors, the pioneering Greek immigrants who founded the greatness of America’s Hellenism, made the Greek Diaspora strong and powerful so that today it is characterized as a ‘Valuable Power.’ That is why I urge you not to lose what our ancestors have bequeathed to us, as the poet (G. Seferis) says, ‘to rise up a bit higher’! Our times do not allow for rest; Freedom must not be taken for granted.”
In his speech, Koutras spoke about Philhellenism, not only in 1821 but also in the period of the Balkan Wars and the presentation to the public of a historic trophy from the Battle of Bizani. This battle, as it is known, was the key to the liberation of Ioannina during the First Balkan War.
With the aforementioned trophy, known as the Hutchison Loving Cup, the Nashville Greeks honored American Colonel Thomas Setzer Hutchison, who fought as a volunteer on the side of Greece and returned victorious back to the United States. The American Colonel, along with his significant contribution to the victorious outcome of the battle, led, along with Greek soldiers, 2,700 Turkish prisoners from the site of the battle to Corfu.
The trophy arrived at the Consulate General two days before the event, as a powerful tangible example of Philhellenism, by two Greek-Americans, historians and art collectors, Mike Peters and Peter Giakoumis, who want to offer the silver bowl for exhibition in a museum in Greece.
Koutras then introduced His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who said, “I would like first to thank our exalted Consul General for organizing the celebration but also for what he said. The text of his speech should be in the hands of all of us and published in full. The exhibition, which is inaugurated tonight, may have the title ‘apollumai,’ (I’m sorry) but the slogan should be ‘I am not sorry’ tonight, because our conquerors and rulers have not succeeded in eradicating us.”
Archbishop Demetrios praised not only the self-sacrifice of the revolutionaries, but also their ingenuity, saying, “In a moment the Revolution of 1821 was in a very difficult position because of the lack of money. Thus it was decided to sell the gold and silver objects of the Church in order to cut coins, as the struggle was considered more important.”
His Eminence left early for the Salutations to the Virgin Mary.
Meanwhile, the event, also served as the opening for the art exhibition by Giorgos Taxidis, curated by Tiffany Apostolou.
Taxidis has roots in Pontos and this year marks the 100th grim anniversary of the Pontian Genocide. The artist attempts to convey the feelings of exile and immigration as he experienced through his family’s history first from Pontus to Russia and then from Russia to Drama. Like many other immigrants, Taxidis’ grandparents took with them, as sacred objects, a bit of soil from their homeland and an icon.
Taxidis told The National Herald, “The title of the exhibition comes from the ancient Greek word ‘apollumai,’ which has the meaning of both absence and loss. The word is found both in biblical texts and secular ancient Greek texts and has a special power. The story is personal but also universal. Many people approached me today telling me, ‘my grandparents also left that way,’ ‘I remember myself with my mom just like that.’ This connection to the viewer is also the goal of the exhibition.”
Phyto Stratis along with the Cyprus New York Productions performers enriched the event with songs related to the history of Greece and the fight for freedom adding another patriotic element to the evening.
It was also announced that the Apostolopoulos Family Medical Association of Athens is offering the Greeks of America the “Omogeneia Card” free of charge, providing the opportunity for medical treatment at the Medical Centers of the Group during their stay in Greece.
Present at the event were, among others, the Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Ambassador Maria Theofili, Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou, Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, Consul General of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, Federation of Hellenic Societies President Cleanthis Meimaroglou, Professor Nikos Alexiou, AGAPW President Olga Alexakos, President of the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce Nicolas Nicolaou, New York City Greek Film Festival Director Maria Tzobanaki, Mimi Denissi, Hellenic Film Society USA President Jimmy DeMetro, and Yanna Darili.
The event was sponsored by Emirates Airlines and wine from the Pangregorians and Nico Lazaridis Winery.