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Greek Flag-Raising Ceremony in Athens Square Park Honors March 25th (Vids & Pics)

March 27, 2023

ASTORIA – Under clear blue skies and bright sunshine, the Greek flag-raising ceremony honoring Greek Independence Day was hosted by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York on March 26 at Athens Square Park in Astoria.

The event, held ahead of the New York Greek Independence Parade, set for April 30 this year, featured moving speeches, poetry, songs, traditional Greek dances, and live Greek music by Melodia orchestra with Eirini Tsiaras and Mpampis Sampelidis as well as bouzouki by Giannis Staikos.

Parade Committee co-chair Nomiki Kastanas and Sophia Stroumbakis served as the emcees for the event. Rev. Protopresbyter Anargyros Stavropoulos, presiding priest of St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria, led the opening prayer which was followed by the raising of the Greek flag.

The students of St. Demetrios Greek Afternoon School, under the direction of musician Phyto Stratis, performed ‘Ti Ypermaho’ (The Akathist Hymn) in honor of the dual holiday of Greek Independence Day and the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.

The keynote speech was given by Sophia Fasos, Professor at Queen’s College, CUNY, who spoke about the Greek Revolution and noted that “we must continue to fight for that freedom wherever we are.”

Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou in his remarks called the day one of “collective memory” and mentioned the tragic loss of the 57 young people killed in the train collision in Tempi, adding that “our prayers and thoughts are with them.”

The students of St. Demetrios School in Astoria with Greek Afternoon School Principal Kalliopi Xanthopoulos and teachers Phyto Stratis and Peggy Simakos at the flag-raising event in Athens Square Park on March 26. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

He then spoke about the 202nd anniversary of the start of the Greek Revolution, noting that “today, we remember the bravery of Kolokotronis, the self-sacrifice of Karaiskakis, the heroism of Athanasios Diakos, and the unwavering faith of Patriarch Gregory V.”

Konstantinou also mentioned Makrigiannis and the Philhellenes from all over the world who participated in the Revolution, including Lord Byron and George Jarvis, the first New Yorker to join the fight in 1821, and the Philhellenic Society of New York and the workers of Brooklyn who supported the war effort with materials and financial contributions.

Parade General Chairman Philip Christopher shared his greetings and called for a round of applause for the young people who participated in the event. He then thanked all those working on the parade, the committee members, those working on the journal, and the publicity committee. “Having a parade on April 30 is a very difficult task, we need your support and participation,” Christopher said. “I want to thank all of you for being here today to celebrate Greek independence and more importantly, we as Greek-Americans are the descendants of the birthplace of democracy and we are proud American citizens.”

New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris at the flag-raising event in Astoria in honor of Greek Independence Day. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

He continued: “We are proud of the American values and ideals that are based on the Hellenic values and ideals and for this reason when that Greek flag and the American flag are flying together, it is the strongest message we can send to Washington, DC, that it is unacceptable for Cyprus to be occupied, it is unacceptable for Turkey to be violating the airspace of Greece. We have two messages to send, first that we are proud Greek-Americans, proud of our birthplace and proud to be American citizens, the second message is that it is unacceptable for our foreign policy not to be supporting Greece.”

“I remind you, on April 30 on Fifth Avenue, 1:30 PM, from 64th Street to 79th Street, we will be there and we are waiting for you, the white and blue will be all over Fifth Avenue on April 30, thank you all so much for being here today,” Christopher concluded.

The St. Demetrios Greek Afternoon School students then recited poetry by Dionysios Solomos and sang the Thourios of Rigas Feraios as well as ‘To Raya’ under the direction of Phyto Stratis.

Traditional Greek dancing was performed by the dance groups of the Federation of Dodecanese Societies USA, the Kalymnian Brotherhood in New York, the Greek-American Folklore Society of NY, and the award-winning dance group of the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church of Port Washington, NY, which competed in Atlanta at the Hellenic Dance Festival in January of this year and won silver.

Greek-American writer Maria Micheles shared a poem she wrote about the Greek Independence Parade that captured the spirit of the parade.

New York State Senator Kristen Gonzalez, the youngest woman to ever be elected to the NYS Senate, tepresents the 59th district which includes parts of Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. She mentioned the diversity of the district, noting that “it feels so special to share this space with you because the Greek community has been a staple in Astoria for generations.”

The crowd filled Athens Square Park in Astoria for the Greek flag-raising ceremony which included speeches, poetry, songs, and traditional dances. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris spoke in Greek at the event, wishing everyone all the best for Greek Independence Day and noting that it was an honor to be there. He added that he was the first Greek-American elected to statewide office in New York, now there are five Greek-American legislators in Albany, and they had hosted a Greek Heritage celebration at the State Capitol on March 22. Gianaris thanked the event organizers and said “we will see you on April 30 on Fifth Avenue, all together, it will be a beautiful day like today, to show our strength, our unity, and for everyone to see us because we are proud to be Greek.”

The event concluded in a festive atmosphere with everyone present invited to dance to the live Greek music. Many on the sidelines were moved to see that first on the dance floor were the youngsters dressed in traditional costume from the various dance groups, who were dancing not because they had to, but because they love Greek music and dancing.

Left to right: Philip Christopher, Consul of Greece Dimitris Papageorgiou, Phyto Stratis, Stelio Stroumbakis in traditional costume, Consul General of Greece Dinos Konstantinou, Nikos Bardis, and Demetris Filios. (Photo: Yiannis Stroumbakis)


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