PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Cranston, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, and the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, Newport, hosted celebrations throughout Rhode Island and at the State House, bringing together state leaders and members of the Hellenic community to recognize the 200th anniversary of Greece's independence.
This is a tradition that was started in 1993 by Senator Raptakis, postponed last year due to COVID-19, and resumed once again this year on March 23 at Rhode Island College where the Rhode Island State Senate is holding its sessions. The invocation was given by Father Philip Zymaris of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket and there was a reading of Senate Resolution S-694, which was introduced by Senator Raptakis and signed by all thirty-eight State Senators. Maria Koukoutsi, Vice Consul General of Greece in Boston addressed the Senate and also in attendance was Major Nicholas Stratikis of the Hellenic Ministry of Defense.
On the morning of March 25, flag raising and greeting ceremonies commenced in five Rhode Island cities and for the first time at East Providence City Hall hosted by Mayor Roberto DaSilva and Charles Tsonos of the East Providence School Committee. The mayor presented a proclamation honoring the Greek community of the city and recognized School Committee Member Tsonos and Senator Raptakis on their efforts to share the meaning of the 200th anniversary of the declaration of Greece's independence. From the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Evan Dokos read a poem honoring Greece's Independence at East Providence City Hall.
The traditional annual events commenced at 12 Noon at Pawtucket City Hall hosted by Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, Newport City Hall by Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and then, later in the afternoon, at Cranston City Hall by Mayor Kenneth Hopkins. All three mayors gave greetings and presented proclamations to their host Greek Orthodox parishes highlighting the important contributions of the Hellenic communities and historic bonds within their cities. At Newport City Hall, Senator Dawn Euer read portions of the Senate Resolution S-694 and Captain Spyridon Pollatos of the Hellenic Navy addressed the attendees. Melina Johnson sang a poem in a solo performance honoring the Greek flag and many children participated in reciting poems and songs about the Greek Revolution.
Throughout the day, Greece's national flag was also flown atop the Rhode Island Statehouse building and at Providence City Hall by Mayor Jorge Elorza. At the Veterans Auditorium, where the Rhode Island House of Representatives met, Father Aaron Walker of St. Spyridon Church gave the opening prayer and a resolution sponsored by Representative Joseph McNamara was passed commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation and the 200th Anniversary of Greece's declaration of independence and highlighting the continuing bonds between the United States and Greece. Both State Senate and House resolutions recognize the continuing support by the United States to the people of Greece and note especially the historic ties between both nations and the expanding economic and defense cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Following the ceremonies in the House of Representatives, a program was held outside the Statehouse with remarks offered by Rhode Island's new Governor, Daniel McKee, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and the keynote speaker Captain Spyridon Pollatos of the Hellenic Navy. The audience joined together to sing the national anthems of the United States and the Hellenic Republic.
Fr. Andrew George and Fr. Nicholas Lanzourakis of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Cranston, Fr. Philip Zymaris of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, and Fr. Aaron Walker of St. Spyridon Church in Newport delivered the Invocation and Benediction during the ceremony. Proclamations of congratulations from all the members of Rhode Island's Congressional delegation, which included United States Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen David Ciciline and James Langevin were shared by State Senator Raptakis.
The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language school teachers Koula Rougas and Ioanna Andreopoulou led students to recite a poem by Gabriella Santos `Souliotisses and Zalogo' while her brother, Christian Santos, translated the views on the `1821 Revolution.' The St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language School teachers Eleni Anagnostopoulos and Smaragda Eliopoulos led their students, Melina Johnson, who sang a poem in a solo performance honoring the Greek flag flying above the Rhode Island Statehouse, while Costantinos Haralambidis recited the poem `Double Celebration.'
Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language School Principal Panayiota Vastis, teachers Stavroula Papavasileiou and Sophia Augoustakis also led their students, Christos Stephanopoulos, Harry Papavasiliou, Eleni Dimitrouli, and Theodore Campos, who recited a poem translated by Harris Stathakis, `Ta Ellinika.'
The Rhode Island Statehouse dome was lit up in Greece's blue and white national colors as was Interstate Route 95 Pawtucket Bridge and the Sakonnet River Bridge for the entire week of March 22-27. The 100 Westminster Street Building, the Rhode Island Convention Center and the Greek revival Renaissance Hotel, all located in the capitol city of Providence, were also in the blue and white colors. In the City of Cranston, City Hall on Park Avenue was also in light in blue and white.
“This event is always a wonderful expression of our strong Hellenic community in Rhode Island and the strong connection between this state, known for its commitment to independence, and the nation which was the birthplace of democracy,” said Raptakis. “This 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Republic's Declaration of Independence brought together so many people this year and highlighted the bonds between our nations and the many American Philhellenes who traveled to fight on the side of the Greek people.”