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Greek Schools and the Contribution of TNH to the Greek Language in America Presented at Boston Conference

BOSTON – With proposals for targeted interventions for Greek schools and the planning of academic programs, the activities of the ‘10th International Summer University ‘Greek Language, Culture and Media’ continued on Saturday morning, June 1 at the Maliotis Cultural Center in Brookline, MA. The afternoon session, attended by the Consul General, Ambassador Symeon Tegos, devoted much time to the topic ‘The Contribution of Ethnikos Kirikas to the Protection, Teaching, Preservation, and Dissemination of the Greek Language in America’, which was delivered by the writer of this article.

In the Saturday morning session, speakers included Stamatia Dova (Hellenic College-Holy Cross), Elena Griva (Vice-Rector of the University of Western Macedonia), Ioanna Lekakou (Odyssey Charter School), Kostas Dinas (University of Western Macedonia), and Fernanda Lemos De Lima from Rio de Janeiro University in Brazil.

There was also an open discussion with visiting journalists from Greece, the Greek-American community, and representatives of various Greek language tutoring centers.

In the afternoon session, Eirini Grapsia, a teacher at the Greek High School of the St. Demetrios community in Astoria, spoke. Last year, she served as Deputy Education Coordinator at the Coordinating Office of the Greek Consulate General in New York. Grapsia said, among other things: “I spoke with people who are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th generation Greeks, many of whom are in mixed marriages, striving ‘tooth and nail’ to maintain their Greek identity. They are literally fighting to pass on Orthodoxy and Hellenism to their children, mainly speaking Greek at home, some sending them to community-parish day Greek-American schools, afternoon-Saturday schools, private and other types of Greek schools, others opting for private lessons, etc. At this point, the fundamental role of grandparents should be emphasized, as they insist, quite rightly, on speaking only Greek to their children and grandchildren.”

Excerpts from the presentation by the author of this article titled ‘The Contribution of Ethnikos Kirikas to the Protection, Teaching, Preservation, and Dissemination of the Greek Language in America’ follow:

“Since April 2, 1915, Ethnikos Kirikas [The National Herald] has been continuously and uninterruptedly writing the history of the Greek-American community, this other Greece, the intangible one if you will, outside the natural borders of Greece.

“Beyond documenting the sequence of events, that is, the historical substantiation of the life of the Greek-American community, it has contributed and continues to contribute substantially, practically, and decisively to the protection, teaching, preservation, and dissemination of the Greek language in America and the promotion of the interpenetration (αλληλοπεριχώριση) of Hellenism and Orthodoxy.

“For many decades, especially in the early years of immigration, but also later when there were no books and teachers, Ethnikos Kirikas was the book and the teacher in every Greek household. It was the Greek school, if you prefer. This continues to be true even today despite technological advances because the printed word is what remains, or if you prefer, substantiates history, without intending to diminish any other form of public discourse. Many teachers still use Ethnikos Kirikas in the classrooms of Greek schools.

“I offer my personal testimony that hundreds of Greek-Americans over the years of my writing at Ethnikos Kirikas during my travels across America approach me and say, ‘Thank you, because we learned Greek from Ethnikos Kirikas.’ And I do not say this with any intention of boasting about Ethnikos Kirikas, but to practically explain what the title of this brief presentation proclaims.

“Ah, I must not forget to say to you who are visiting from Greece, as well as to those living or born here, that the first fundraiser for this School of Theology, where we are today, was conducted by Ethnikos Kirikas, during the tenure of Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou of America, who later became Ecumenical Patriarch, with the well-known events of succession at that time, including his traveling to Constantinople on President Truman’s presidential aircraft – but these are not going to be mentioned at this time.

“The pioneers, despite not having financial ease, being laborers, without education, without knowledge of English, without social standing, managed to establish the Greek-American Community, the Church, the schools, the naves.

“And today, through the various [Endowment] Funds, the Orders of the Archons, organizations including Leadership 100, millions have been distributed for years now everywhere, but when it comes to the matter of Education, the Greek Language, Hellenism, Culture, everything dries up. Yes, this is the harsh reality.

“Without any intention or disposition for critical intervention, I simply say that even a fleeting glance at the financial reports and budgets of the Archdiocese of America, which Ethnikos Kirikas revealed two weeks ago, is enough for someone to understand the priorities. Visit our online edition and read for yourself. Listen, dear friends, today we are ‘leaving the scene without being chased by anyone’. The Greek Language and Education is the poor relative, plain and simple.

“Pay attention: This situation did not start today, but to be fair, it began during the Archbishopric of Iakovos, when Hellenism was vigorous, with waves of immigration from Greece that rapidly renewed the Greek-American community.

“I tell you clearly that our Greek schools are barely surviving. Teachers work with starvation wages, without insurance, without health care, unfortunately, abandoned by everyone. There are plenty of declarations and good intentions, but the famine of action is glaring. Admittedly, Greece has done a lot, and it can do more.

“Three or three-and-a-half-years ago, Greece gave two million euros to Hellenic College and Holy Cross for the promotion, upgrade, cultivation, and hiring of Greek language teachers, and this amount was to be given annually. I mention this because we were the ones who revealed it. However, since these funds were used for ‘other’ purposes, that was the first and last installment. And rightly so.

“A few years ago, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation approved a grant of 25 million dollars for the school of the St. Demetrios community in Astoria, which the Parish Council, along with the then-Head Priest, rejected due to shortsighted narrow-mindedness.

I mention these things, dear delegates, because you said, ‘we are here to listen to you, but also to convey the concern of the homeland for the dissemination of the Greek Language.’ Welcome, then!

“The very existence of Ethnikos Kirikas since 1915, and its continuous publication within the Greek-American community remains a spiritual achievement and offers strong resistance to the alienation of the identity and personality of the Greek-American community.

“I remind you that it was founded before the Archdiocese of America, AHEPA, and other organizations. The history and role of AHEPA regarding the Greek language and Hellenism are well-known issues, and I do not wish to make the slightest reference to them. After all, we are here to talk about Ethnikos Kirikas, the Voice of the Greek-American community. That’s all.”


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