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The Greek Independence celebration at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity’s newly renovated Chiotes Hall on March 24. Photo: TNH/ Zafeiris Haitidis
NEW YORK – The Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras hosted the annual Greek Independence celebration at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity’s Chiotes Hall with a large crowd present on March 24. The event drew members of the Greek-American community from various organizations and fields in person in a festive atmosphere following so many cancelled events during the two years of the pandemic.
The celebration, usually held at the Consulate was moved to the larger and newly renovated Chiotes Hall where attendees greeted one another warmly, some of whom had not seen each other in person since the start of the pandemic.
Consul General Koutras welcomed everyone: “I would like to express my great joy for your presence tonight. The last few years have been particularly difficult and painful for all of us. We were deprived of each other, we lost our loved ones, we were deprived of our events, our holidays, our churches. I hope and wish that we never find ourselves in such a dire situation again.”
In a pleasant surprise, the former coach of the Greek National Soccer team Otto Rehhagel, assistant coach Ioannis Topalidis, and the 2004 European champions Giorgos Karagounis and Antonis Nikopolidis, as well as King Otto director Christopher André Marks, who are in New York to promote the film, stopped by the event for a short greeting and photos. They were welcomed with enthusiastic applause and cheers from the crowd. Rehhagel addressed the crowd, in German, with Topalidis translating. He noted that “in 2004 we achieved something great that is difficult to repeat and brought joy to the Greeks not only in Greece but Greeks around the world.”
To this day, even in his native Germany and his hometown of Essen, when he eats at a Greek restaurant, they never let him pay, he said, and joked that if they pay for his dinners here as well, he will gladly visit again. “Long live Greece,” Rehhagel concluded.
Nektarios Antoniou, the Principal Cantor of Holy Trinity Cathedral and The Treasury NYC founder, served as the Master of Ceremonies and introduced the students of the Cathedral School who performed the Greek National Anthem, Ti Ypermaho, and selections of well-known songs by the late Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.
Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou noted the memories from childhood of celebrating March 25th which are so connected to our parents, grandparents and our traditions that we try to pass down to our children. “But March 25th is greater than our traditions, and more than honoring our ancestors who fought for freedom, our country, and independence,” Amb. Papadopoulou said. “It’s about having faith in yourself and in the future, to know where you come from and where you are going, and what it means to be free. Freedom is never a given, and never free… Freedom is connected to the soul of the Greeks… Long live Greece and long live the spirit of Greece!”
Consul General of Cyprus Michalis Firillas noted the contributions of Greece and Greeks to civilization and other cultures and traditions and the importance of never taking freedom for granted. He pointed out that April 1 is coming up, a significant day for Cyprus and for Hellenism, EOKA Day, which commemorates the start of the fight for freedom against the British in 1955. Firillas recounted that during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, young soldiers guarding the Fylakismena Mnimata of the freedom fighters, continued in their position because it is sacred ground, “without these, we don’t deserve to exist,” the young soldiers said. Firillas concluded with best wishes to all.
Consul General Koutras thanked all those for attending and especially Endy Zemenides, Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director, for the surprise of bringing Rehhagel, Topalidis, Karagounis, Nikopolidis, and Marks, Atlantic Bank President Nancy Papaioannou whose support is deeply appreciated. He also thanked Pan Gregorian of New York and of New Jersey, Gyro World owner Dimitris Petridis for the food and support, and the Holy Trinity community for the space which allowed more people to attend and display a strong message far and wide of the unity of Hellenism. Koutras also expressed his thanks to Phyto Stratis, Cyprus New York Productions Artistic and Music Director, and performers Ariadne Anna, Aggeliki Psoni, Demetris Michael, Louis Panayiotou, and Theodoros Petropoulos who performed patriotic songs and text at the conclusion of the event.
Koutras then spoke about the significance of March 25th and the fight for the liberation of Greece from Ottoman oppression and for every Greek to declare his national heritage, his faith, and for Greeks to decide their fate themselves. “Today, Greece and Cyprus belong to the European Union family and are pillars of stability and safety in our region in spite of Turkish revisionism and the destabilizing efforts of Ankara,” he said “The Greek community in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and worldwide makes us proud and constantly fights for the motherland.”
“And of course, we do not forget the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, the Hellenism of Ukraine and the Greeks of Constantinople, for whose rights we are fighting and will continue to fight,” Koutras said. “We also do not forget the Genocide of the Pontians and all the Greeks of Asia Minor. We do not forget the open wound of Cyprus. Therefore, if our neighbors really want to build an honest relationship with Greece, they must first accept both the historical truth and international law in its entirety.”
He continued, “’21 is inside us. We bring it and keep it inside us, as then. It inspires us, and it should inspire us, as it inspires other peoples who are now writing their own page in history, always the weak against the strong… And above all, let’s share this ’21, our ‘21, with the whole world.”
Among those present were Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Ambassador Maria Theofili, Consul of Greece in New York Dimitris Papageorgiou, Popita Pavli, Consulate General of Greece in New York Cultural Attache and Public Relations Officer Evelyn Kanellea, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral Rev. Fr. Nikolas Karloutsos, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas, Louis Katsos, Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce President Athas Ioannou, Antonis H. Diamataris, Eraklis Diamataris, Despina Axiotakis, Dr. George Liakeas, Dr. Stella Lymberis, Chrisanthy N. Zapantis-Melis, George Zapantis, Jeannie Kouros, Adamantia Mari, Nikos Kartalis, Kalliope Ziangos, and many other members of the Greek-American community.
SAFETY HARBOR, FL – The Pancyprian Association of Florida, in conjunction with the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), on January 28 at their Annual Banquet held at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, honored Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis with the Kyrenia Award for her dedication and commitment to the cause of the Cypriot people for freedom and justice.
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