The EOKA commemoration was held on April 3 at the St. Demetrios community's Petros G. Patrides Hall in Astoria. Photo: TNH/ Christodoulos Athanasatos
ASTORIA – In an emotionally-charged atmosphere with words of intense symbolism, and a very moving artistic program, on April 3, the Cypriot community honored in a befitting way the 67th anniversary of the beginning of EOKA’s struggle against British colonial rule in Cyprus.
Organized by the Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations (FCAO), in collaboration with the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), and the Consulate General of the Republic of Cyprus in New York, the event commemorated, honored, and highlighted the events from 1955 to 1959, when the Greek Cypriot youth stood up against the mighty power of Britain, fighting for the ideal of freedom.
FCAO President Kyriacos Papastylianou asked: “How can a speaker today stand up to the heights of such a struggle and so many unjust sacrifices?”
He also recognized, among those present, the EOKA fighter Andreas Karacostas. “We applaud you Andreas Karacostas and at the same time in your presence we applaud all the fighters and all those who have been hanged, sacrificed, and imprisoned during this fight. A struggle that the British believed would never happen that the Cypriots would never revolt for their freedom. They did not realize that the dream of the fighters was virtue, the dream for a better tomorrow, hope, altruism,” Papastylianou noted.
His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, who represented Archbishop Elpidoforos, read His Eminence’s message, which stated, among other things, that “this struggle is not over.”
“Cyprus is suffering from the invasion, although we are turning to the war in Ukraine, we should not forget the long occupation of Cyprus by an illegal invasion,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said.
In his own speech, Bishop Apostolos praised the EOKA fighters, remembering how shocked he was when, at an earlier event, at the Archdiocesan Cultural Center, letters from the fighters to their families were read.
“From the communications they had with their families, we could see that these people are martyrs to the faith. I was moved when the event took place at the Cultural Center of the Archdiocese, several years ago, where we read the letters of these young people who were sacrificed, but also how bravely they faced their sacrifice,” said Bishop Apostolos.
PSEKA President Philip Christopher drew the parallel between the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, emphasizing that the drama of the uprooted refugees is identical.
“Today, we see on television the invasion of Ukraine. Mariupol could be Famagusta, Odessa, Kyrenia, and these refugees like those waiting to return to Kyrenia, Morphou, and Famagusta. If Turkey had been stopped in 1974, there would not have been an invasion of Ukraine today,” Christopher said.
Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus Michalis Firillas referred to his personal experience and the way the fighters were honored in his own home, given that his uncle was a comrade in the fight with Markos Drakos, who was cold-bloodedly executed by the British.
“We made the memorial for Markos Drakos at my house, with refugee neighbors. Thus, the historical epic of EOKA in our house was very intense,” he said, calling on the Greek Cypriot community to contribute with its efforts in the policy making centers.
Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, referred to the awe he felt during his repeated visits to the Filakismena Mnimata, the “imprisoned tombs” and urged the younger generations not only to maintain what was earned through the struggle, but also to learn from the example of the fighters.
“With the comfort of prosperity, we find it difficult to realize how much courage these youths had. That’s why today is a day of remembrance, of paying tribute to the dead heroes. Heroes are people who are born free even in slavery,” said Koutras.
This was followed by the screening of an educational documentary, which included testimonies and historical facts from the time of the EOKA struggle. The musical program with artistic and musical direction by Phyto Stratis, then touched the audience’s heartstrings.
The gifted soloists Aggeliki Psoni, Ariadne Anna, Demetris Michael, Louis Panayiotou and the members of the Pancyprian Choir participated in this program which highlighted the EOKA heroes Grigoris Afxentiou and Evagoras Pallikarides. The student Nicolas Polydorou gave a special performance on violin and with a poem he wrote. The St. Demetrios School second grade students with their teacher Dr. Eirini Grapsias and accompanied by Stratis on piano performed moving songs.
Also present were Permanent Representatives of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus to the UN, Maria Theofili and Andreas Hadjichrysanthou, respectively, St. Demetrios Cathedral Astoria presiding priest Fr. Vaseilios Tsourlis, Parish Council President Stephan Thomatos, Federation of Greek American Educators President Stella Kokolis, military representative of the Republic of Cyprus George Ioannou, Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Maria Pappas and Executive Director Despina Axiotakis, as well many other well-known members of the community.
The MC for the event was Louisa Sirimis, Nepomak USA President.
The EOKA 1955-59 Photo Exhibit, organized with the support of the Cyprus Press and Information Office, was also part of the program along with the “Agros village” exhibit, a project by the St. Demetrios second grade students.
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