ASTORIA – On March 8, the Federation of Dodecanese Societies USA celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the unification of the islands with the motherland Greece.
The celebration began with the Divine Liturgy at St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria and continued with the cultural event in the Petros G. Patrides Hall.
The well-attended event brought together representatives of the Dodecanese Societies and community members to commemorate the historic unification. John Sakellis of Kos, former Vice President of the Federation, gave the welcoming remarks and served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria, led the opening prayer.
The National Anthems of the U.S. and Greece were then performed by Areti Marangos and Markos Pavlakis, respectively, to enthusiastic applause.
Federation of Dodecanese Societies President Maria Marangos offered her greetings and thanked all those present for attending the event and commemorating the 72nd anniversary of Dodecanese unification. She noted that this year she would not give a typical speech but instead would read a piece written by Kalymnos-native Skevos Zervos, a prominent professor, pioneer surgeon, and philanthropist in Kalymnos and in Greece, who assisted Eleftherios Venizelos at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Zervos emphasized the Greek-ness of the Dodecanese and how its people who are Greek to their very souls longed for unification with the motherland Greece. Marangos then urged everyone to research the people and the history behind the statues we see on our islands and educate our children so they can learn where they came from and know where they are going. She said, “The community faces challenges every day and that is why we need unity so we can continue the struggle and remain free Greeks forever. Long live Greece, long live the islands, and long live the Dodecanese!”
The Consulate General of Greece in New York was represented by Cultural Attache and Public Relations Officer Evelyn Kanellea who noted that Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras was attending the services for the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros presiding, but sent his greetings for the celebration. Kanellea pointed out that although the Dodecanese unification with Greece happened only 72 years ago, their history as an integral part of Hellenism goes back thousands of years, adding that many from the Dodecanese lost their lives fighting for Greece and many facing economic struggles immigrated but maintained a strong connection and dedication to the culture and traditions of the homeland. She mentioned the upcoming performance of the play The Lady of Ro on March 14 which tells the story of one woman and her dedication to her island home. Kanellea concluded by offering her best wishes and hope to see everyone next year at the annual celebration.
Fr. Papazafiropoulos also offered his greetings and best wishes and congratulated Marangos and the Federation for their efforts and organizing the annual celebration.
The Dodecanese Anthem was performed by Melina Tsiropoulou. New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris also shared his greetings and best wishes speaking in Greek at the event and noting that more Greek-Americans are in statewide office in New York than ever before. He reminded everyone that New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides is running for Queens Borough President with the special election coming up on March 23.
Keynote Speaker Ilias Tomazos, head of the Modern Greek Studies program at the University of Connecticut, President of the Hellenic Society Paideia, and President of the Pan-Rhodian Society of America, spoke about the thousands of years of Hellenism in the islands and the history of the struggle to finally and officially be unified with Greece. Throughout history, the people of the Dodecanese have always been dedicated to Hellenic ideals. He said that unification was a significant moment not only in the history of the Dodecanese but for all of Greece. Tomazos also noted the efforts to further connect the community living abroad with the homeland including a camp that is in the works in Rhodes which other islands might also use as a model.
The event included performances by the member societies’ dance groups representing Kasos, Kalymnos, Karpathos, and Nisyros, and the entire Dodecanese Youth dance group in traditional costume. The event concluded with everyone invited to join in the dancing. The traditional music of the islands, nisiotika, was performed live by the talented musicians Nikos Diakos, John Themelis, Savvas Perselis, and Anastasis Sifounios
Among those present were St. Demetrios Parish Council President Kyriakos Sideris, Theologos Tiliakos, Manolis Cassotis, Adamantia Mari, Nikos Kartalis, Thalia Tzortzis-Vlepakis, Kalliopi Ziangos, Timoleon Kokkinos, and Demosthenes Triantafillou.