Nisyrians Celebrate 110 Years in New York City

NEW ROCHELLE, NY – If any non-Greek residents of New Rochelle had dropped in on the VIP Country Club on Saturday night, judging from the size of the crowd, the lavish array of food and drink, and the contagious exuberance on the dance floor and at the tables, they might have thought Nisyros must be a rather big place. And if they were told about the numerous success stories of the Nisyrian-American community – the countless, doctors, lawyers, academicians, entrepreneurs, politicians and, most notably, philanthropists – they might even think that Nisyros is one the biggest islands in Greece. In fact, their jaw might drop if they were to learn just how tiny Nisyros is – a wee dot on a typical Greek map, too small on which to even print its name!

Saturday’s event was a celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Nisyrian Society of New York, and from the looks of things, they are just getting started.

Well over 600 people had assembled for cocktail hour at 6PM, and by dinnertime, the numbers had grown even larger. The unseasonably warm November evening made the VIP’s outdoor patio an ideal spot for those preferring more spacious seating, and the extended time (until 7:30) allowed the legions of Nisyrians of all generations ample opportunity to congregate and reminisce.

As the ever-growing crowd gathered into the ballroom for dinner, the familiar sounds of traditional Nisiotika emerged from the live band. The imprint of event coordinator George Andriotis, former president of the Society and current president of the Dodecanese Federation, was evident. Andriotis understands that as a general rule, attendees are not interested in long-winded speeches. Appropriately, the music and dancing endured for a full two hours before the first speech was made. Even better, the speeches were passionate but not loquacious: the speakers energized the crowd, though the themes of eating, drinking, and dancing remained predominant.

Andriotis paid tribute to the Nisyrians of the early 20th century, who paved the way for today’s generation, emphasizing that while they struggled with the tribulations that immigrants of that era typically faced, they remained united not only among themselves in their new country, but steadfast in their determination to send as much of their hard-earned dollars back to their beloved island. Society President Yianni Konstantinidis echoed those sentiments, and promised that the current generation of Nisyrian-Americans would be no less vigilant in supporting their beloved island as their forefathers had been.

Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis offered congratulations to the Society and expressed his admiration for the Nisyrians’ unyielding devotion to the place from which they came. Tributes were paid to numerous Nisyrians who left a legacy over the past century plus, as well as a few who were on hand, including veteran nanogenarian George Magos, and Federal Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas.

The dancing continued well after the midnight hour, consistent with Nisyrians’ particular spirited sense of glendi. It all began with Nisyrian youth dressed in traditional folk costume, performing an array of dances, building up to the famous island jig, the sousta. The rest of the attendees soon joined in, displaying their virtuosity, particularly their ability to distinguish between the syrtos and kalamatianos dances, a distinction often taken for granted. Of course, more soustes were to follow, as no Nisyrian event would be complete without them.

Proceeds from the event will go to help – what else – the attendees’ cherished homeland: Nisyros!