The Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece, arrived in Philadelphia, ready to celebrate Greek Independence.
PHILADELPHIA – On Friday, March 18, 2022, The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia kicked off in earnest its Greek Independence Day celebrations. On a beautiful sun splashed day at historic Philadelphia City Hall, the Flag of Greece was raised by the 2022 Grand Marshal Consul General of Panama in Philadelphia Georgia Athanasopulos with assistance by this year’s Eleftheria Award recipient George Horiates.
An overwhelming crowd greeted the return outside of Greece for their first post pandemic appearance by the Presidential Guard, The Evzones. As they marched on City Hall, overwhelming applause from Hellenes and philhellenes seemed to drown out the traffic noise at Philadelphia’s most famous intersection in the heart of it all at Broad and Market Streets. Stirring renditions of the national anthems ensued from Kaliope Karapalides and then introductory remarks were made from Parade Chair Stefanos Evangelopoulos. Philadelphia Federation President Dimitrios Rozanitis was then introduced by the MC of the event Elena Panaritis. The economist , former member of European Parliament and former alternate director of the International Monetary Fund graciously accepted the responsibility to be the MC of both the flag raising at City Hall and the following evening’s Eleftheria Award and Dignitaries Banquet, highlighting the Federation’s accumulation of A list speakers for the week.
In introducing the Evzones, Past Federation president and Federation spokesperson Stathis Karadonis welcomed the group to what he termed “The epicenter of Hellenism” for the week. He also commented on the roots of the City of Philadelphia and its important role in the Greek revolution as a fundraiser and supporter of the cause of Greek Independence. The City, named “The Athens of the New World” at the beginning of its existence, with its Greek revival architecture predominating the City landscape to this date “will always be a special and most important place for Hellenism and the Greek Nation”.
City of Philadelphia representatives were on hand as well. Amy Eusebio of Philadelphia’s International Affairs and City Representative Sheila Hess welcomed all of the attendees and presented the City Proclamation to His Eminence Archbishop Elpidoforos. This was the first appearance at a Greek Parade since the enthronement of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidoforos of America and the Parade itself is dedicated this year to the Centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as well as that of The Order of AHEPA. His Eminence’s remarks centered on welcoming the Evzones to Philadelphia, noting the Greek based name’s translation to “The City of Brotherly Love” and the importance of this year’s celebration coming out of the pandemic with this truly international celebration with the Presidential Guard.
A contingent of Philadelphia’s significant diplomatic corps were also present. They were there to honor one of their own and one of the Greek community’s own, Consul General of Panama in Philadelphia Georgia Athanasopulos. Ms. Athansopulos is this year’s selection as the 2022 Grand Marshal of the parade, and she delivered in every regard. From diplomats to City officials to a substantial crown of supporters, she thanked the Federation for the honor, noting that Panama and Greece both celebrated their Bicentennials last year. She spoke of Greeks abroad, that is to say not just in America but in other parts of the world. It was her goal this weekend to highlight this most important part of the Omogenia this weekend with this coming out party.
The following evening’s Eleftheria recipient George Horiates was then introduced. He thanked Ms. Panariti for the honor of her presence during the weekend. He discussed the Centennials of the Archdiocese and AHEPA, noting they are the twin pillars of Hellenism that should be cherished during Greek Independence celebrations worldwide and called for other Federations to follow the lead and celebrate these two most cherished institutions. Noting Philadelphia’s support of the Greek revolution he pointed across the street to the Masonic Hall, a stone’s throw away, to tell the story of a concert for the cause held there as well as other important events by the City of Brotherly Love’s first inhabitants supporting Greece’s Independence. He stated ” we do honor by celebrating the Independence of the Greek Nation, the land that gave the world democracy, with the Presidential Guard, in the City that gave democracy to the New World.”
In the lead up to Friday’s Flag raising, a welcome evening reception was held on Wednesday March 16 and sponsored by George Maniatis in honor of his father, Past Federation President Sotiris Maniatis. The following day, The Evzones were given a tour of Old City Philadelphia and a luncheon sponsored by the Hellenic University Club. Later in the evening the first official presentation by the Evzones in full costume was given to the Greek school and community of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Wilmington, Delaware.
After the Flag of Greece was raised at City Hall, where it will continue to be until after Greek Independence Day, the Evzones and dignitaries were treated to a special tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, granted by the United States Park Service to the Philadelphia Federation. Stopping during the tour in the room where the Founding Founders of the American Nation signed the Declaration of Independence, it was not lost on the attendees that each signatore to the Declaration itself spoke Greek and desired to be like the Hellenes.
Later in the evening, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidoforos of America presided at Salutations services at Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The Evzones were in attendance and stood in full dress in honor of the occasion.
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