NEW YORK – Imprisoned Graves-Fylakismena Mnimata composed and directed by Phyto Stratis drew an emotional response and prolonged applause from the audience on May 18 at the Queens Theater in the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The community members experienced a moving artistic experience that commemorated the era of the Cyprus Liberation Struggle, the four years 1955-1959, and the 13 EOKA heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A host of actors known in the Greek-American community joined forces and, in collaboration with the Pancyprian Choir and experienced musicians, brought to life for the audience the turbulent period which gave rise to a generation of immortal heroes of Cyprus and greater Hellenism.
The program included songs such as Ta Paidia tis EOKA, Ton Athanaton, Adia Thrania, etc., which accompanied the performances of the actors, presenting the psychological journey of the heroes and their loved ones, as the young men faced execution and were then buried in the "Imprisoned Graves" which were graves in the prisons set up by the British in Nicosia.
The show included powerful performances by the actors: Theodore Petropoulos, Stavros Markalas, Ioanna Katsarou, Tasos Karydis, Periklis Kassandrinos, Aggeliki Psonis, Lazaros Theodorakopoulos, Marios Ioannides, Georgios Berbpeis, Chrysa Petridou, Theodora Loukas, Anna Tsoukala, Christiana Kandilioti, Demetris Bonaros, Angela Tsamasirou, Mantalena Papadatou, Elena Crociani, Penny Tsinias, Fanis Gkikas, Demetris Michael, and Ariadne Panagopoulou.
The musicians were: Aris Antoniades on piano, Jim Reedman on clarinet, Navid Kandelousi on violin, Peter Pearson on cello, Alexis Lambros-Davis on double bass, Antonios Fardias on oud and bouzouki, and Theodoros Tsinias on percussion.
Among those present were Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, Pancyprian President Philip Christopher, and Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations President Kyriacos Papastylianou.
The show was held under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades.
"The applause for the heroes"
At the end of the show, Phyto Stratis thanked the audience for their support and the warm applause, emphasizing that the applause are for the heroes, who were the inspiration for the work presented.
For his part, Pancyprian President, Philip Christopher, thanked all the contributors and pointed out that the current situation in Cyprus in many ways is similar the 1955-1959 period.
“Congratulations to everyone for this presentation. Cyprus is now in a similar situation after the 1974 invasion. The struggle for freedom and justice continues,” Mr. Christopher said.
Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras spoke of the “testimony of a soul not only of Phyto Stratis but also of all the contributors,” while his counterpart, Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, shared a similar sentiment.
“We received the message of that time and a picture of the soul of those who must also guide us today like a beacon of light,” said Mr. Phedonos-Vadet.
Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations President Kyriacos Papastylianou recited a poem which in English translation said, “if you love freedom, do not set your hopes on strangers, take it yourself if you can, otherwise you do not deserve it.”
Stratis then invited to the stage former member of EOKA Andreas Karacostas who said that “the fighters gave their best and were first Orthodox Christians, second patriots and third leaders of their families.”
"Remember what it means to be a patriot"
Speaking to The National Herald, Stratis noted that the goal was to perform a memorial service for the heroes, which was emotionally charged even for the performers themselves.
“The purpose was achieved because we wanted to create, in essence, a... liturgy for these people, a memorial service for them, addressed to us, to remind us of what it means to be a true patriot, what it means to love your fellow man, your neighbor, and to give your life for the sake of others,” he said, unable to hide his emotion.
Pianist Aris Antoniades, a gifted composer in his own right, spoke warmly about Stratis and the artistic endeavor that was presented. “I was also part of this work at all its stages of evolution. It started off from a small musical symposium with piano, but eventually it turned into a larger production with additional musical instruments, musicians, and actors,” said Antoniades.
Students of the Academy of Hellenic Paideia performed two songs with the Pancyprian Choir before the presentation of Fylakismena Mnimata. Stratis in his speech following the performance thanked the youngsters noting that they are the hope for the future.