By Fotis Papagermanos
FLUSHING, NY – The community commemorated the victims of the Cyprus tragedy with a memorial service at the Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing
Archbishop Demetrios of America presided over the service after the Divine Liturgy on July 20, the 40th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation by Turkish troops.
A tray filled with kolyva – boiled wheat – was placed between the Cypriot and Greek Flags, a symbolic gesture of respect for the long-suffering island
Among the dignitaries were Nicholas Emiliou and Michel Spinellis, ambassadors to the UN of Greece and Cyprus respectively, Amb. Vasilios Philippou, Cyprus’ Consul General, and Manolis Koubarakis, Greece’s consul.
Kostas Tsentas, president and Panikos Papanocolaou of the Cyprus Federation of American and Phillip Christopher, the president of PSKA, the two groups that organized the memorial under the auspices of the Cypriot Consulate, Aravella Simotas, New York State Assemblywoman and Costas Constantinides, New York City Councilman, Leonidas Raptakis, Rhode Island State Senator, Timoleon Kakouros, the First Deputy Speaker of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and Laura Neroulias, president of the Cyprus Federation’s Young Professionals.
Archbishop Demetrios conveyed the greetings of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who said he shared in the pain over the unjust loss of those killed in Cyprus.
After the memorial there was a blessing of the loaves – Artoklasia service for health and well-being of all Cypriots.
The Archbishop declared that the Prophet Elijah, whose feast day was celebrated that day, was able to open the heavens, “then we can achieve justice for Cyprus.”
There followed a brief and simple remembrance of the fallen soldiers with personal testimonies of speakers.
Christopher made a presentation and Tsentas’s remarks followed. Both men are from Kyrenia, and the latter noted the invasion began in his hometown. He said he remembers those days very clearly and called July 20 a day of sadness.
Amb. Spinelli said “for us, even though we were not as close to it as you were, also mourn the fallen and the destruction of Cyprus. We are here to gain courage to look to the future. I hope to soon see the liberation of Cyprus.”
Amb. Emiliou, whose family is from occupied Famagusta. He said the passage of 40 years has neither healed the wounds not alleviated the pain.
Citing the pain of the refugees, the unknown fate of the missing, the Greek Cypriots trapped in the occupation zone which is undergoing Turkification, he said “we must continue our efforts, our struggle for liberation, and keep alive the memories, which motivate us to continue to strive to see the sun of Justice rise again in our country after so many years.”
Simotas expressed her support for efforts of the Cypriot community to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem. Born after the invasion, she went to school with Cypriot classmate and at home she grew up with the hope that the situation would change.
Simotas along with fellow Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotaki obtained a Cyprus proclamation from the State Assembly’s
Constantinides said that his grandmother was from Asgata and remembered that she often spoke often about Turkish invasion. “I feel proud to be with you today,” he said.
Christopher noted that during last week’s national PSEKA conference PSEKA in Washington they heard many promising statements that complemented the words of Vice President Biden and he hopes they will be translated into political will and action, but added, “What is important is for each of us to find the courage to fight for Cyprus every day.”