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EMBCA Event on 1821 and Genealogy Tourism

NEW YORK – The Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) on July 26 presented the 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 and Hellenic Genealogy Tourism Panel Discussion via Zoom and in association with Hellenic Genealogy Geek (HGG), the National AHEPA Hellenic Cultural Commission, AHEPA New York District 6, and AHEPA Hellas.

EMBCA’s President Lou Katsos, the Chairman of AHEPA’s Hellenic Cultural Commission and the Governor of New York AHEPA District 6 hosted the panel discussion and gave the opening remarks, noting that this is the first of a series of events ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution. Katsos also hosted the first National Hellenic American Genealogy Conference in 2015 in New York with HGG, an organization with 25,000 Facebook members.

As Katsos noted, Hellenic Genealogy research and ancestry is increasing in popularity in the Hellenic Diaspora communities with many traveling annually to the homeland to discover family roots, histories and birthrights, meeting newly found relatives, researching Hellenic archives and digital databases, and performing DNA research.

This event launched a year-long celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821-2021; in partnership with the American Hellenic Revolution of 1821-2021 Bi-Centennial Committee, currently in formation, Katsos said, adding that committee members include civic and community leaders: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Founder and Co-Chair of the Hellenic Congressional Caucus; Congressman Gregory Meeks, Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Hellenic American National Congress Members, including Paul Kotrotsios, Rhode Island State Senator Lou Raptakis, Dr. Panos Stavrianidis, and Bill Mataragas.

The panel included the Hellenic Minister of Tourism Harry Theocharis who spoke about the success Greece has had in dealing with COVID-19 and the ongoing efforts to monitor the situation, making changes and adapting in this “war against an unseen enemy.” He pointed out the testing at the borders, and the efforts using AI in areas with the highest risk, ensures that even if a tourist coming into Greece tests positive, they do not spread it to others.

When Katsos asked about the plans for next year’s bicentennial, Minister Theocharis responded that the planning continues in cooperation with the committee on the 200th anniversary, adding that the diaspora is important to the effort.

Also on the panel, Hellenic genealogy researchers Georgia Stryker Keilman, Founder and President of Hellenic Genealogy Geek; and Gregory Kontos, Founder of Greek Ancestry, based in Patras, Greece; Peter Vlitas, Senior Vice President of Airline Relations for Travel Leaders Group, a New York-based company, with 6,000 company-owned, franchised and affiliated travel agencies worldwide; and AHEPA Ellas Governor Efstathios Kefalidis.

Vlitas noted that Greece will be the #1 destination for most markets, not just for members of the diaspora due to the success of Greece in dealing with COVID-19 as well as Minister Theocharis and the Tourism Ministry efforts in creating a plan to deal with the crisis as no other country in the European Union did. Vlitas also pointed out that there will be seven daily nonstop flights to Athens next year from various carriers which has not been the case in years and even American Airlines will be adding a flight from JFK. The tourism marketing for the 200th anniversary should showcase not only Greece for the fun and sun, but the historical aspect for the Hellenic diaspora community and also for non-Greeks highlighting the contribution of Philhellenes to the Revolution with packages and tie-ins.

Concerning Hellenic genealogy, Georgia Stryker Keilman noted that the Facebook group has members from all over the world, with many seeking information about their ancestral homeland. Gregory Kontos noted that great strides have been made in recent years in many areas in Greece concerning records and databases which can be searched. There are records all over Greece, in churches, museum archives, the National Library, but he noted, some are digitized and some are not, and many people would like to research while they are visiting Greece.

AHEPA Ellas Governor Efstathios Kefalidis spoke about the efforts and cooperation to help connect the diaspora with their roots and the need for making it a national effort in the homeland.

Lists of those honored for their service or lists of those who were taken captive, dating back to the 19th century are also available in some cases for those who would like to trace their family back to the Revolution itself.

Katsos thanked all those for participating in the online event and noted that upcoming events are also in the works.

More information is available online: https://embca.com/.

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