NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented 100 Years: The Building of the Future Global Center of Pontian Hellenism in Sourmena panel discussion online on February 20. The event was held in association with AHEPA’s National Hellenic Cultural Commission.
The panel was introduced by Lou Katsos, EMBCA’s President and AHEPA’s National Hellenic Cultural Commission Chairman, and co-moderated by him and architect, lecturer, and artist John Fotiadis. The distinguished panel included Rhode Island State Senator Lou Raptakis, Hellenic Mayor of the Municipality of Helliniko-Argyroupoli Giannis Konstantatos, Architect Sotiris Tsoulos, TTZ Group Partner; and Educator/ Community Leader in Hellenic Genocide Issues, Peter Stavrianidis, PhD.
The panel focused on the plan to build the Global Center of World Pontian Hellenism in Sourmena as the hub of world Pontic Hellenism to be built in an area where in 1922 Pontian and Thracian refugees from the Hellenic Genocide began to rebuild their lives after the population exchange.
The historical background of the Hellenic Genocide that led 100 years later to the plan to build this monument in Sourmena was also discussed. “The area 100 years ago called Hasani is where the communities of Komnenos and Elliniko were created and became the site of the old Athenian airport, now the site of the Hellenikon project,” Katsos noted, adding that “the architectural conceptual design was created by the Doxiadis Associates office, Giannis Pazianos, with architect Sotiri Tsoulos on a non-profit basis. It is anticipated the construction costs for this forward thinking masterpiece will be taken up by Spyros Latsis who responded to a request by the Municipality of Helliniko-Argyroupolis.”
A video was also presented on the proposed project which highlighted the vital need for the center and how it will be a dynamic addition to the area.
Mayor Konstantatos noted the importance of the discussion for Greeks in Greece and for Greeks living abroad who have a great love for Greece. He pointed out that the Helliniko-Argyroupoli municipality was established exactly 100 years ago as the first Greeks from Pontus settled there, “faced their hardships bravely,” and “had their love, memories, and traditions from Pontus and nothing else, those were the only things they brought with them.”
“Inspired by their rich and long history, they built the towns of Sourmena and Argyroupoli, the new Sourmena and Argyroupoli, which were cities with 30 centuries of history in the past, 100 years later we have an honorable cooperation with Dr. Spyros Latsis, the main investor of the Hellinikon project, who has embraced our dream to build this Center for Global Hellenism in Sourmena. Our dream to build a center for locals and unite all Pontian Associations of the Greek diaspora was the basic idea, our dream is supported by Senator Leonidas Raptakis and all the senators and all the Greek politicians elected all over the world because we want this center to be the base, the united base for all Greeks from all over the world. This project brings us all together under one roof. I’m proud of this vision because all of you have embraced our goals.”
Konstantatos pointed out the significance of unity and when we all work together, Greeks can accomplish great things in spite of the odds.
Sen. Raptakis noted that the efforts for Hellenism are about remembering the past and also preparing for the future and “passing the baton to the future generation, making sure that our children and grandchildren don’t forget what happened.” He spoke about the efforts for recognition of the Pontian Greek Genocide on the state and federal levels in the U.S. “We have to make sure that genocide doesn’t occur again, any genocide. If we don’t remember and recognize any of these genocides, especially the Pontian Greek Genocide, it could happen in the future.”
“I’ve been inspired by the determination of the Pontian people, by their accomplishments, the spirit that has driven them to preserve their story and to tell it to the world, so these horrors don’t happen again,” Sen. Raptakis said.
Tsoulos spoke about how the project came about and his inspiration, as well as his discussion with the mayor who is the first mayor of non-Pontic descent of Helliniko-Argyroupoli, highlighting the importance of the Pontic community in the area. Working with an international team, Tsoulos noted that they had to learn as much as possible about Pontus. They decided on Panagia Soumela as the symbol of Pontus to be incorporated into the design of the center. Slides and the video offered an impressive glimpse of what the center will look.
Stavrianidis thanked Katsos for the event and noted how moved he was by the presentations of the other speakers and particularly the architect, Tsoulos, and the effort to go in depth, along with his team, into the history of Pontus for the design of the project. He also pointed out that members of his family were from Sourmena in Pontus, and his relatives who escaped to the Soviet Union, eventually settled in Sourmena in Attica. Stavrianidis spoke about the history of the Pontians and how they settled in Sourmena in Greece in waves. He noted that his uncle, age 96, still lives in Sourmena, after 30 years working hard in the U.S., he returned, and built a four-story building.
Katsos thanked all those for participating and mentioned the next EMBCA panel discussion on Aristotle Onassis set for February 27.
More information is available online: https://embca.com/.