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The portrait of Giorgos Karaiskakis is featured in the exhibition titled ‘The Diachronic Coexistence of Hellenes and Liberty’ at the War Museum in Athens.
ATHENS – An exhibition of paintings at the War Museum in Athens these days titled ‘The Diachronic Coexistence of Hellenes and Liberty’ is bound to be both informative and painful given the many thousands of Ukrainians of Greek descent who are suffering with their countrymen who are under invasion.
The images are the work of Alexander Lantoukhov, a Ukrainian artist of Greek descent who was recently forced to flee the Ukrainian city of Odessa carrying only one suitcase with a limit of 23 kilograms. He chose to take with him just the series of paintings of the heroes of the Greek Revolution of 1821 which inspired him in the past and give him hope in the face of today’s tragedies. They will be on display through August 10 in the lobby of the museum’s amphitheater.
“I met the president and the Board of Directors of the Museum. I showed them my paintings…and they embraced me,” says Lantoukhov.
Guests at the opening reception on July 7 were reminded by the museum’s president, Anastasios Liaskos, that its permanent collections include fascinating items from all of Modern Greece’s struggles and conflicts – those from 1821 not least among them. It is the new arrivals from Ukraine, however, that capture one’s attention – visually, and emotionally when their story is told, Lantoukhov’s tale being the latest chapter of the saga of individuals and nations yearning to be free.
As the exhibition’s title indicates, Lantoukhov is powerfully affected by how deeply the love of freedom permeates the Hellenic spirit, and he has long been inspired by the heroes and heroines of 1821 – as well as by the great admiration and respect people in Greece have for them today, independent of their social, economic and educational levels, which also reflects the love of freedom that has lived in the hearts of Hellenes for thousands of years.
“Many times have I seen the images of the heroes in our churches on March 25 where children celebrate the anniversary of the revolution by reciting poems and singing songs. The heroes of 1821 will never be forgotten. They live in the Pantheon of our collective memory.” He also emphases that the Greek Revolution inspired other freedom fighters in Europe, and are thus not revered only by Greeks.
THE BRIDGE IS GONE, YET HOPE OF A RETURN REMAINS
And today it is the turn of the people of Ukraine to have their lives turned inside out. “Of course, I left Odessa with the hope of returning one day,” Lantoukhov said to the guests on July 7. “We crossed the bridge over the River Dniester – that bridge does not exist today. It was destroyed by Russian missiles.”
He knows people that have had homes destroyed and loved ones killed, so he is grateful that there is a Greece to shelter him, but most importantly, he said, “I feel gratitude for all the assistance Greece has given to Ukraine…which has helped spare Odessa from occupation by disrupting Russia’s plans…my mind remains focused on the people still in Ukraine, facing a foe who wants to take their freedom and Independence. My heart remains with them, and from depths of my heart I thank you all.”
During his welcoming address, Liaskos highlighted the exhibitions and other projects that the Museum presented as part of its celebration of the Greek Bicentennial despite the pandemic. He also spotlighted the projects undertaken since he became president two year ago and those which are planned for the enhancement of the experience of visitors and scholars. Guests, who included past Greek Prime Minister Andonios Samaras and past minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, were also greeted by writer-journalist Giorgios Karahalios.
The opening night program featured moving videos, including one with children singing and dancing to the words ‘δεν φοβαμαι – με την Ελλαδα εγω ξυπναω και κοιμαμε’ (I am not afraid, I awake and go to sleep with Greece), and new video ‘Η Επικληση της Θεας Αθηνας’ (Invocation of the Goddess Athena) by international mezzo soprano Alexandra Gravas. The evening concluded with a cocktail reception.
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