ATHENS – The official delegation of the annual AHEPA Family Leadership Excursion to Greece, Cyprus and Constantinople have returned home after a series of informative meetings that put the various crises confronting the Hellenic homeland and diaspora – as well as the world as a whole – into perspective. The trip was also an opportunity for the Ahepans to convey to Greek, Cypriot, and Patriarchate officials how the largest diaspora organization can be helpful to their endeavors. Led by Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas of Brooklyn, NY, the group also met with several U.S. national security officials.
In Cyprus they met Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Issues and Overseas Cypriots Fotis Fotiou and discussed the geopolitical situation in the East Mediterranean, including statements made by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland during her recent visit there which disturbed many.
In their meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades they discussed efforts to lift what remains of the U.S. embargo on Cyprus receiving military material, the War in Ukraine demonstrating that the Republic’s deterrent capability must be strengthened. A dinner was held honoring four members of AHEPA chapters in Cyprus for their financial and cultural contributions to Cyprus.
In Constantinople April 14-18, the delegation had visits with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Consul General of the United States, “who had very nice things to say about the Patriarch” Kokotas said. They went to the Theological School of Halki and other historic sites. “It was a beautiful trip. We visited with His All-Holiness at the Phanar on Saturday afternoon and attended Vespers on Saturday night and Palm Sunday services the next day. On Saturday he acknowledged us in his sermon, saying that the organization is known throughout the world for all the good it has done and he thanked us. That was special,” Kokotas said.
During their official meetings, AHEPA presented the Patriarch with donations to his cause and asked how else the Order can support his efforts.
Asked what the Patriarch conveyed to them about a Holy Week with two Orthodox Christian nations at war, Kokotas said, “he is obviously disturbed about it, but I give him so much credit that he’s taken the high road” regarding attacks he has endured from Moscow Patriarch Kirill and others. “Our Patriarch has shown he is the true one,” he said.
There is an AHEPA chapter in Constantinople that the delegation visited.
As was reported by TNH in last week’s edition, the first half of the trip focused on Athens and among their meetings was one with Secretary General for Diaspora Greeks Prof. John Chrysoulakis; AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis said, “he has always been helpful to AHEPA, especially for last year’s historic Supreme Convention in Athens.
Another highlight of the trip was the visit to the expanding U.S. facilities in the port of Alexandroupolis in northeast Greece. “It’s positioned adjacent to the airport. They are bringing in a lot of equipment in support of NATO movements related to helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion… everything is mobile – I didn’t see many permanent structures. They build a supply network which is really what you need, Mossaidis said, adding that, the United States has established the ability to facilitate the movement of material to where it needs to go that reveals Greece’s growing strategic importance to the United States.” Paralleling that fact, experts have also seen the Alexandroupolis developments as a signal to Turkey that the United States has a red line from Alexandroupolis up through Greece’s northern border, a potential deterrent that bolsters Greece defense in a key region.
They were informed during the trip by that the next meeting between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and the United States – the so-called 3+1 group – will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The delegation also inaugurated an AHEPA museum in Alexandroupolis. Mossaides told TNH, “after WWII, AHEPA established medical centers throughout Greece. The chapter in Alexandroupolis aquired the building from the municipality and refurbished it with donations from AHEPA worldwide. The museum honors the work of AHEPA in that region and features photos of the vital inoculation campaigns in the 40s and 50s.”
During the delegation’s visit to Thessaloniki, they met with local chapter leaders and discussed objectives and goals. There were also meetings with church and political officials and the Daughters of Penelope held a seminar.
The official delegation was also included, Supreme Vice President Lou Atsaves, Canadian President Emmanuel Costans, Supreme Secretary Savas Tsivikos, Supreme governor Region 10 – Yiannis Mitropoulos, Grand President of the Daughters Katy Bizoukas, Grand President of the Maids MariaAna Pantelous, PSP, current Board Chairman Nick Karacostas, Daughters Executive Director Elena Saviolakis, PSP George Horiates, and Chairman of AHEPA Cyprus and Hellenic Affairs Committee Dr. Zenon Christodoulou.
There were also discussions about the upcoming trip AHEPA will undertake with AHI, the B’nai B’rith and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that begins on April 26 in Cyprus and proceeds to Israel and Greece.