NEW YORK – Greeks from all across the United States filled the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan, across from the United Nations, on March 18 to rally for Macedonia with blue and white flags waving. The message was clear for all those present, Macedonia is Greece. The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, the Pan-Macedonian Association, and the Hellenic Congress of America organized the event to bring attention to the issue that has lingered on, unresolved, since the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. The issue has recently been in the news as the governments of Greece and its northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic, have stepped up talks with UN Special Representative Matthew Nimetz to finally resolve the name issue.
Greeks from the New York tri-state area were joined by their fellow Greeks from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, and Montreal to show their unity on the non-negotiable use of the name Macedonia by any other nation except Greece. Braving the cold temperatures in New York City, Greeks from Florida, Ohio, Utah, and California also joined the protest against the distortion of history perpetuated by Greece’s northern neighbor. Many carried signs that read “Macedonia is Greece” along with the flags of Greece and the United States. Other signs made more pointed statements including “Stop Selling Greece.”
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America who spoke not only as the Archbishop, but as a Macedonian born and raised in Thessaloniki, the capital of Macedonia. He added that his family’s history in Macedonia goes back 300 years and noted that since he became archbishop, he has met with every U.S. president, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump, for the annual celebration of March 25th, Greek Independence Day, at the White House and every president has said the same thing to him, “I know what you’re going to say- the Patriarchate, Macedonia, and Cyprus” and he said, “If you know what I am going to say, then why don’t you do something.”
Archbishop Demetrios then referred to today’s Bible reading about having faith in God and added that God is with us on this issue. There is only one Macedonia.
Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England President Vasilios "Bill" Kafkas told TNH that the contingent from Boston and all Massachusetts set out very early in the morning with ten buses filled with supporters as well as many more who followed in their own cars to attend the rally in New York. In his speech, he said that the temperature in Boston when they left was 16 degrees Fahrenheit, -8 Celsius, but that could not keep them from the rally since everyone must understand that the Greek people are unified on this issue. He noted the rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki, and “we’ve been to Washington, do we have to go to the Greek Parliament, too?” to which many in the crowd responded, “Yes!”
Pancyprian President Philip Christopher also spoke movingly about the issue, “My fellow Hellenes, we are here as American citizens, we have an obligation… to Greece and Cyprus, we are by your side. The Greek politicians are ready to give up. We are not ready to give up. Macedonia is Greek. We are not ready to give up the Aegean islands to Turkey. We have to fight in Washington, we have to fight for the Macedonia name.”
Dr. Sam Chekwas, born in Nigeria, studied in Thessaloniki, and said he lived the best years of his life there in the Macedonian capital where he became a son of Alexander the Great.
The event concluded with the singing of Ti Ypermacho, the final kontakion of the Akathistos Hymn to the Theotokos and the Greek National Anthem.