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United States

Koraes School Students Visit the Asia Minor & Pontos Hellenic Research Center

February 14, 2023

CHICAGO, IL – Thirty-four students, two teachers, and ten parents from Saints Constantine and Helen’s Koraes School in Palos Hills, Illinois, visited the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center (AMPHRC) in Chicago on February 10. AMPHRC Founder and President George Mavropoulos welcomed everyone and thanked the teachers Stavros Kariofilis and Vivian Niestrom who had the initiative to organize this visit.

In his welcoming remarks, Mavropoulos noted that “it would be wonderful if other schools followed the example of Koraes and visited the Center.”

He continued with the history and contributions of the Greeks of Asia Minor and Pontus as vital to the history of Greece and the Western world.

Koraes School students participating in the program at the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center (AMPHRC) in Chicago. (Photo: Courtesy of AMPHRC)
Koraes School Greek Department head Stavros Kariofilis. (Photo: Courtesy of AMPHRC)

Mavropoulos said: “Today, you will learn about the achievements of the most famous Greeks of Asia Minor, who contributed to Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics and culture in general. Unfortunately, a hundred years ago, the 3,000-year continuous presence of the Greeks in Asia Minor and Pontus came to an end. Those who survived after the catastrophic events of 1913-1923, were forced to leave their homeland and become refugees in other countries and mainly in Greece. My parents, who were from Pontus, were forced to leave their villages and arrived in Greece in 1923.”

Mavropoulos continued: “At the beginning of last year I received an invitation to visit your school to see the historical exhibits on the centenary of the Smyrna Catastrophe and the end of the Greek presence in Asia Minor.”

“Your work was impressive,” he said. “I am pleased to see your involvement and concern for this part of our history. Today, you will learn more from our teacher Anastasia Spiridis-Skoupas, who is a high school teacher and President of the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago as well as a member of the Center’s Board of Directors. For many years she organizes and participates in workshops and seminars with other educators from the Holocaust education group as well as with Armenians and other ethnic groups, presenting the history of the Greeks of Asia Minor.”

Koraes School students participating in the program at the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center (AMPHRC) in Chicago. (Photo: Courtesy of AMPHRC)

With the guidance of Ms. Spiridis, the participating students learned about the history of the first Greeks, about the great thinkers of antiquity in Asia Minor and about the historical events that led to the end of the Greek presence in Asia Minor.

Through engaging in group activities and discussions, the students embraced the meaning of the Center’s educational program. The highlight of the activities was when the students listened to the Pontic lyra and the drum while learning a popular Pontic dance, the Dipati.

“The students engaged in their group activities and it was an exciting experience for them,” said Anastasia Spiridis. “Not many of them know this forgotten part of history, and it is very interesting to have this opportunity to teach our history to the next generations. We need to continue this important educational department to make sure that the world learns about the Genocide of the Greeks.”

Koraes School Board Chair Elizabeth Christofylakis said: “It was an amazing experience to come and visit the AMPHRC in Chicago and to watch an enlightening presentation of a part of our history that for the younger students was unknown. It is an excellent opportunity to come and see the Center and become familiar with the information presented and in this way the children had the opportunity to engage in small group activities, learning about the philosophers and hearing the survivor accounts from the events of the Genocide as well as the close of the period with the traditional Pontic dance. It was an absolutely wonderful opportunity for the children to learn about our history. At the Koraes School, we help our children to learn not only the Greek language but also history and culture. I honestly think it’s incredibly important to know where you come from and to know your history and your culture. I feel very grateful that the Research Center has given us this opportunity to consolidate and integrate it into our history and to be informed by first-hand accounts.”

Koraes School Board Chair Elizabeth Christofylakis. (Photo: Courtesy of AMPHRC)

Koraes School Greek Department head Stavros Kariofilis said: “Today, we visited the AMPHRC with the students because we must somehow with all our strength and with love for our history and our tradition approach the dark period of Greek history and at the same time support the organizations that help to preserve the memory of what our ancestors suffered. Our presence here today also marks the union that exists between today’s Hellenism, the Hellenism that is far from the homeland, with history and with our ancestral legacy. The work done at the Center is excellent. There is extremely interesting material here. There is a love and devotion to history and especially the history of Asia Minor and Pontic Hellenism and I want to believe that my students today had a first class opportunity to know not only what our ancestors suffered but to know their culture, to get to know the language they spoke, to get to know cultural aspects of their life, such as, for example, the dance and the musical instruments and thus for the students to reach a total understanding of who these people were in Asia Minor and Pontus. Two geographical areas in which there is a several centuries-old Greek presence. I would like to thank Mr. Mavropoulos and the teacher Ms. Anastasia Spiridis who guided the children in this presentation and hope that there will be other schools to visit the Center and that there will be an overall effort to support the Center and the work it does in the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage.”

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