PITTSBURGH – With the conclusion of the events and the exhibition next week, the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Greek immigrants to the city of Pittsburgh comes to an end, Dr. Nick Giannoukakis, American-Hellenic Foundation of Western Pennsylvania (AHFWP) Secretary, told The National Herald.
It is worth noting that since Pittsburgh does not have a twin Greek city, Mayor William Peduto, through his co-operation, encouraged the undertaking of the relevant proceedings.
The goal, said Dr. Giannoukakis, is for a twin city to be inaugurated by 2020. “With great joy, we agreed with the mayor that with the arrival of the New Year we will begin the proceedings,” he added.
In particular, with regard to the events for the 125-year presence of Greeks in Pittsburgh, the historic exhibit in the Main Hall at Pittsburgh’s City Hall continues this week through January 6th.
This community, he said, “in those years, and under the circumstances, overcame the challenges and prospered above and beyond the Greek communities in the largest cities in the U.S., which had a larger population and geographic expansion.”
In 1906, the community received the permit as a legitimate organization. In 1920, many immigrants became owners of small businesses, restaurants, cafes, hair salons, and even as founders of the city’s first cinema (Antonopoulos and Baziotis).
Among these were doctors, lawyers, and bankers (executives in the Mellon family's investment firm, which later became the famous Mellon Bank).
The first organized, pan-American union and educational Hellenic American organization was created in Pittsburgh as the Greek American Progressive Association (GAPA) before AHEPA was formed. Many other organizations were also founded at that time (ENOSIS, Greek national and educational associations).
On December 20, 2018, the Mayor of the City, together with the Board of Directors, issued a proclamation for this important anniversary.
Representatives of various Hellenic American organizations and associations in the Pittsburgh area (AHEPA, GAPA, Pan-Icarian Brotherhood, Pan-Cretan Fraternity, Greek Nationality Room Committee of the National Rooms Program at the University of Pittsburgh) attended the event and formally co-signed the Proclamation.
Mayor Peduto, in his speech noted the role and contribution of Greek immigrants in the development of the city and the wider region, both at the economic level, but also in the development and formation of the spirit of the citizens of the region, turning towards hospitality and ministering to "foreigners" through love and the well-known Greek philotimo.
The mayor thanked the attendees for their contribution to the positive modern development of the city as a world-class center of high technology, medical innovation, and the export of new models of entrepreneurial excellence, but also their involvement in the hospitality organizations for immigrants and refugees.
The official opening of the "We, too, Immigrants: Commemorating and Celebrating 125 Years of the Voyage from Greece to Pittsburgh-1893-2018,” was held on December 30.
With the noble contribution of Mayor Peduto, this exhibition focuses on the architecturally impressive Central Hall of the Town Hall (which was built and crafted on a design inspired by elements from Ancient Greece). The rich history of the first immigrants is on display, their work, the first unions and brotherhoods, the first community, and the challenges.
For the first time, the handwritten first statute of Allegheny County's united, largest Greek community is presented to the American public.
The exhibition opening was honored by Mayor Peduto, His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of the Holy Metropolis of Pittsburgh, the Reverend Protopresbyter Christopher H. Bender, Dean of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral (which traces its roots back to the first community of 1906), and representatives of various Hellenic American organizations and associations in the Pittsburgh region (AHEPA, GAPA, American Hellenic Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, Pan-Icarian Brotherhood, Pan-Cretan Fraternity, Greek Nationality Room Committee of the National Rooms Program at the University of Pittsburgh).
Mayor Peduto also hosted a reception which followed a tour and historical review of the City Council.