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Consul of Greece in New York Dimitris Papageorgiou, Rev. Fr. Vasileios Tsourlis, and Rev. Fr. Nicholas Paros at St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria for the celebration of Dodecanese Unification with the homeland Greece. Photo by Eleni Sakellis
ASTORIA – The Federation of Dodecanese Societies USA celebrated the 74th anniversary of the unification of the islands with the motherland Greece at St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria on March 6 with services following the Divine Liturgy, presided over by the new Dean of the Cathedral Rev. Fr. Vasileios Tsourlis and in the presence of the Consul of Greece in New York Dimitris Papageorgiou.
The National Anthem of Greece and Ti Ypermaho were sung by all those present in celebration of the special day. The Federation also hosted a reception with coffee and refreshments after the church services which included a prayer led by Fr. Tsourlis and greetings from Federation of Dodecanese Societies President Maria Marangos (Kalymnos). She thanked all those for attending the event to commemorate this important day, and offered a brief history of Hellenism in the Dodecanese, noting how Homer mentions the islands in The Iliad. Marangos also noted the years of Ottoman oppression, how the Dodecanese participated in the struggle for Greek independence from the earliest days, Mussolini closing the schools and forbidding the Greek language and yet the Greek language, culture and traditions were maintained throughout history and the long years of fighting for Unification that cost so many lives and finally the dream was realized in 1948.
Fr. Tsourlis congratulated the organizers and noted the significance of celebrating the Unification and maintaining the language, traditions and faith and passing them down to the younger generations. It was his first official day as Dean of St. Demetrios and he noted his previous position in Tarpon Springs, FL, where so many members of the community are from Kalymnos. He quoted from Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta who said that we should fight tooth and nail to teach the children about their roots, adding that a tree with deep roots will stand strong while a tree with weak roots falls at the slightest wind. Fr. Tsourlis mentioned that it is a shame for the community to lose the Greek language, culture, and faith, and how he is also a member of the Diaspora from Germany, as is his wife, and grew up speaking only Greek at home and he and his wife keep up the rule at home with their own children as well.
Consul of Greece in New York Dimitris Papageorgiou noted that Consul General Konstantinos Koutras could not attend as he was in New Jersey for another event but sent his greeting and best wishes. Papageorgiou spoke about how moving the celebration of Unification was, noting the importance of the event, remembering the contributions of the Dodecanese in the War of Greek Independence, how the occupation in World War II offered an opportunity for the islands, and how history has its tragic and joyful aspects. He pointed out that unity is the key and the community should not lose touch and should communicate to the younger generations the significant of unity and celebrating the Unification even as the islands daily continue to face a neighbor who makes threats to their freedom and does not respect sovereignty. Papageorgiou also echoed the sentiments of Fr. Tsourlis concerning the importance of maintaining and promoting the Greek language, speaking Greek at home to the younger generations so that the language and the culture will not be lost. He concluded by offering his best wishes and saying: “Long live Greece!”
Due to the pandemic, the event was not on the scale of previous year’s celebrations but still had a greater turnout than was expected following last year’s virtual event. Everyone looked forward to a return to a grander celebration next year with the accustomed live music and traditional dancing.
Manolis Cassotis (Karpathos) and Demosthenes Triantafillou (Nisyros) were among those present and mentioned the latest books available about the history of the Dodecanese, including a book they translated into English about the islands role in the Greek War of Independence and a new book on the Battle of Leros which will soon also be available in English. Triantafillou contributed financially to the publication of the books in honor of the memory of his late wife Barbara.
Also among those present were St. Demetrios Parish Council President Stephan Thomatos, former Federation president George Andriotis (Nisyros), the members of Dodecanese Federation Board including Second Vice President Andreas Goustos (Tilos) and Secretary Adamantia Mari (Leros) as well as the presidents and representatives of the Dodecanese Societies including Kos Society of New York Hippocrates President Manolis Stamatis, Pan-Rhodian Society Apollon New York Vice President Kalliopi Ziangos (Rhodes, Nisyros), and Dodecanese Youth President Sotiria Zouroudi (Symi).
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
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