Omonia Has PAA Soiree In Astoria

ASTORIA – The Omonia chapter of the Pancretan Association of America (PAA) filled their Cretan House in Astoria for its annual dinner dance on October 12, as usual, but this year it was a special occasion. Sons and Daughters of Crete are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the island’s union with Greece, and Saturday’s event was the first of many

ASTORIA – The Omonia chapter of the Pancretan Association of America (PAA) filled their Cretan House in Astoria for its annual dinner dance on October 12, as usual, but this year it was a special occasion. Sons and Daughters of Crete are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the island’s union with Greece, and Saturday’s event was the first of many commemorations scheduled for the New York Metropolitan area.
Like the best community events, the speeches were short and sweet, the food delicious, the music fantastic and the children delighted everyone with their dancing that presages a bright future for Hellenism in America.
Emmanuel Kouroupakis, who served as the Emcee, welcomed the guests and paid tribute to the member of the society saying, “we do what we can to preserve our traditions and values far from our homeland,” and presented an overview of recent Cretan history, and the struggle to liberate the island from the Ottomans and unite it with Greece. He also lauded the great Cretan statesman Eleftherios Venizelos. {68940}

Kouroupakis acknowledged the special guests, including the new Greek Consul General, Manos Koubarakis, a Cretan, who said the purpose of the gathering was to also honor those who fought and died for freedom and union with Greece.
Regarding the current struggles of the people of Greece, he declared, “The homeland will soon return to the path of prosperity, economic development and national advancement.”
Koubarakis, who expressed what a “joy and honor it was to attend his first community event among his countrymen, and since Cretans often communicate through mantinades (rhymed couplets) he concluded with a brief one apropos of the evening’s celebration:
“Kriti kai Ellada ginon kapote en soma – apo ton Venizelo pou tima olli i GIs akoma – Crete and Greece became one body – through Venizelos who is still lauded, around the world by everybody.”
Cyprus’ Consul General in New York, Koula Sophianou, also greeted the guests and spoke about the event’s significance, as did and former PAA president Emmanuel Velivasakis.
Kostas Kapelonis, president of the Omonia chapter, also offered greetings and thanked the volunteers, and invited to the podium Costa Constantinides, Democratic candidate to running to for New York’s City Council in heavily Democratic Astoria.
Constantinides, who would be the first Greek and Cypriot in the City Council, said he shared a background with many in the room.
“My grandfather came here and worked in the kitchen in a restaurant and my grandmother was a seamstress… they worked hard for their children and grandchildren” to realize the American dream.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas attended, along with Irene Stathatos, who offered greetings and congratulations in behalf of State Senator Michael Gianaris to those present “for raising good Hellenes,” whom he hopes will also run for public office when they grow up.
The live music, performed by Greg Manouselis and George Kokonas on laouto, and Chris Fasaraksi playing the lyra and singing, transported the Cretans back to their childhood and inspired non-Cretans to visit the remarkable island renowned as “the site of the oldest civilization in Europe,” as Constantinides said earlier.
Attorney, John S. Sargetis the National President of the Pancretan Society of America, traveled all the way from California,” noted that the Society was established 84 years ago – on October 14, 1929 – not as a national entity, but through the efforts of dynamic local chapters like Omonia.
Apropos of the 100th anniversary of the union, he cited the island’s achievements since union with Greece, including the establishment of its university, and the triumphs of people like Venizelos and Nikos Kazantzakis.
Sargetis was presented with the Daskalogiannis Award. Also presented with plaques were Panagiotis Rodamis, who was honored for volunteering his time and energy to manage the society’s finances and properties, and Evangelos Kouridakis, who is the principal teacher of the dance troupes.
Kapelonis told TNH there are about 70 children who participate in the dance classes presented on Wednesday and Friday nights by their three teachers.
“All children are welcome. They don’t have to have Cretan roots to learn our dances,” he said.
Velivasakis summed the night to TNH. “This is the first celebration of the enosis in New York. We are all filled with joy and ready to mark the centenary.”
He noted that Crete suffered 250 years of Turkish occupation which provoked dozens of uprisings and the sacrifice of thousands of dead. They gained autonomy in 1898, but they were not satisfied with that. For the Cretans, it was enosis with Greece or death.
Indeed a huge blue and white banner dominated the stage on Saturday night emblazoned with the letters “K-E-E-Θ” which stand for “Kriti-Ellada-Enosis I Thanatos (Crete-Greece-Union or Death).”
He said a number of impressive events will follow, including a gala banquet, a theatrical production and a symposium at the UN. Velivasakis invited everyone to join them for traditional Cretan song and dances and rousing celebrations, but he added “we are also celebrating the future, because despite the current darkness, our future will be bright and everyone should join us to support Greece.”