Kalymnians in NY Celebrate the Past, Plan for the Future

NEW YORK – The Kalymnos Society of New York celebrated its 80th anniversary with a dinner dance and award ceremony on June 20 at Terrace on the Park in Queens. Visitors from as far away as Ohio and Florida also attended three days of meetings and cultural events related to the fourth convention of the Pan-Kalymnian Federation of America.

Katerina Brontou was more than the emcee. Her reminiscences of the island, its history, and the love Kalymnians feel for their home alike touched her fellow islanders and those with roots elsewhere. “Every Kalymnian has left a small piece of his heart on this island, but when they came to America they re-created the spirit of the island,” she said.

Maria Marangos, the President of the New York society, said it was created to perpetuate the traditions of their homeland and to convey their love to the youth. The event was also the occasion for honoring individuals for their achievements and their devotion to Kalymnos and the Society.

When introducing the honorees, Brontou emphasized the Kalymnian immigrants’ commitment to education as the “foundation for a better tomorrow for their children…our parents came here and struggled to educate us.”

Dr. Michael Zervos, noted surgeon, expressed thanks for the special honor, and paid a Father’s Day tribute to his father, who dreamed his son would continue the family medical tradition. He then thanked both his parents for their sacrifices and for believing in him.

Dr. Chris Iakovou, who is also a member of the society’s board, honored his father also, and acknowledged his wife Galatea.

JEWEL OF THE DODECANESE Among the special guests was Metropolitan Anthony Gavalas. When he was given a plaque, he told the story of his father’s emigration to America with $12 in his pocket, and thanked him for endowing him with a love of education and Orthodoxy. He then gave touching advice to the young people there – the guests were later delighted by performances by the society’s dance troupe – saying, “Find the jewel within you. Develop it – and pass it on to your children.”

Maragos presented an award to Ioannis and Sevasti Pantelis, “who always give 100 percent toward the success of every event.”

Sevasti said she loves participating with her children, thanked the board, and offered best wishes to everyone. Before presenting Evdokia Koullias-Karapanos her award, Marangos said that successful organizations must give special acknowledgment to those who go beyond what is expected. During her emotional thank you speech, she noted that the society is a big part of her life, and that things like watching the children of the dance troupe made it all worthwhile. She then urged everyone to work for unity and to support the society.

Marangos told TNH that during the meetings, “We made important decisions to move forward in our endeavors with greater zeal, especially regarding the youth.” She said next year’s convention will be held in Ohio, and that they plan to invite officials from the island in order to develop deeper relations so that their problems could be solved more easily.

TEACH US TO DANCE, WILL YOU?

Maria Atsas was born in Campbell, OH and was educated in Greece. She is the 2nd VP of the New York society was in charge of the convention. She told TNH the discussions were dominated by the search for ways to help their island, including more fundraisers for things like obtaining supplies and equipment for the hospital. To date they have sent money for the needs of the home for the elderly.

They also set as a priority helping Kalymnian youth from across the country to meet and work together. The effort is expected to turn into a very valuable networking organization. Among the new ideas is to generate events on Kalymnos during the summer, like a dance in the main square that will attract young visitors from the entire diaspora.

This year the organizers include Emanuel Frangos.

George Andriotis, the President of the Federation of Dodecanesian Societies, told TNH he attends the events of all the societies, but he was especially pleased to participate in the 80th anniversary gala of an organization he said serves the entire community. He said he enjoyed the historical and cultural presentations that were held at the Stathakion Center on June 19.

Attorney Alex Konstantopes, whose roots are in Symi, another Dodecanesian island, attended “because we support our friends and family from Kalymnos.”

Before and after the speaking program, the guests filled the dance floor inspired by Asteri Entertainment, led by Spiro Papavlasopoulos on bouzouki, and singers Natassa Pantelidi and Fotis Dimitratos.