ASTORIA – March will not see Greek-Americans marching on Fifth Avenue this year – the Parade was bumped by Western Easter to a hopefully warmer April 10 – but it is a month filled with celebrations of Greek Independence in New York and on March 11 the Borough of Queens weighed in at the Stathakion Center in Astoria.
New York State Senator Mike Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Costa Constantinides, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz hosted the annual fete that shines a spotlight on Greek heritage and culture and on Hellenes who are devoted to philanthropy civic service.
The honorees included Petros Galatoulas, President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies which organizes the New York Greek Parade, Anna and Stamatis Bililis, Owners of Stamatis Restaurant, Harry Xidias of City View Pharmacy and Niko and Vicky Voulkoudis from the Christos Voulkoudis Guardian Angel Foundation.
Left to right, front row: Mike Gianaris, Melinda Katz, Aravella Simotas, Vicky Voulkoudis, Anna and Stamatis Bililis, Nikos Voulkoudis. Back row, L-R: Costas Constantinides, Harry Xidias, Sophia and Petros Galatoulas, Vasilios Gournelos.
Greek Independence and Notable Hellenes Feted in Queens
The guests were delighted by the dance troupe of the A. Fantis School from the community of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Brooklyn and singer Christos Alexandrou presented the national anthems.
Gianaris said, “I am proud to celebrate another Greek Independence Day. There is no better place than here in Astoria, the heart of Greek-American culture, to remember out heritage and celebrate the spirit of freedom and the desire for independence that as for so long linked American with the country of our ancestors.”
“Celebrating Greek Independence is about rejoicing in the passion for democracy that we all share. As I raise my own daughter I am always mindful of my responsibility to pass on the story of Greece’s heroic fight for freedom and justice,” Simotas said, adding “Today we recognize six Greek-Americans who have spent their lives honoring the ideals of their Hellenic heritage and who have made indelible contributions to the well-being of our communities.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “I join with Queens Borough President Katz, Senator Gianaris, and Assemblymember Simotas in celebrating our Greek cultural heritage, which has encapsulated democratic and civic values for millennium. We’re especially proud to honor these Greek-Americans who have worked to promote Hellenic values throughout our community. We recognize their contributions to our city. I thank everyone for attending today’s celebration and for helping to promote civic engagement in our neighborhood.”
Greek Independence Day is a national holiday in Greece, commemorating the start of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. The holiday coincides with the Annunciation to the Theotokos, celebrated by the Greek Orthodox Church, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God
Galatoulas expressed his appreciation for the honor and said he shares it with all his colleagues on the Federation and all the volunteers working for the success of the parade and its related events.
Xidias thanked Katz and the Greek-American elected officials and declared service to the community and the pursuit of a good life are his priorities.
Anna Bililis, also speaking on behalf of her husband, expressed her appreciation for the award, which recognizes their philanthropic activities.
Niko and Vicky Voulkoudis aslo thanked all concerned for the recognition for the Christos Voulkoudis Guardian Angel Foundation, which was founded in memory of their son.
Katz noted that Astoria has three exceptional elected officials representing the Greek and Cypriot-American community in Gianaris, Simotas, and Constantinides and noted that Queens, with is 2.3 million people who speak at last 130 languages is a special place.
The dignitaries included Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropopulos, Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral, who represented Archbishop Demetrios, and Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis.