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The Archdiocesan Department of Greek Education in conjunction with the Hellenic Book Club of New York hosted a lecture presented by Dr. Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou on November 13 at the Archdiocesan Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
ASTORIA – The Archdiocesan Department of Greek Education in conjunction with the Hellenic Book Club of New York hosted a lecture presented by Dr. Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou on November 13 at the Archdiocesan Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria commemorating the Burning of Smyrna on its 100th somber anniversary.
‘Understanding Two Important Commemorations: America’s Involvement in the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922’ offered fascinating insights into history by Dr. Hatzidimitriou based on years of research. Documents from the U.S. and UK at that time as well as excerpts from the testimony of eyewitnesses demonstrated how involved the U.S. government and individual citizens were in the pivotal events of Hellenic history. Hatzidimitriou presented the information in a clear manner and slides further highlighted the history and how individuals rose to the occasion to help suffering Hellenism when the government was more interested in maintaining commercial interests rather than helping save lives.
Archdiocesan Department of Greek Education Director Anastasios Koularmanis gave the welcoming remarks noting that the topic of the lecture is “a vital part of our history.”
Hatzidimitriou dedicated the presentation to two of his dearest Astoria friends and fellow scholars, unfortunately, no longer with us, Professor Spyros Koutsoupakis and Dr. George Gianaris, may their memory be eternal.
He opened the lecture by noting that 2021 and 2022 mark two crucial events for Hellenism that had profound implications, the impact of which shaped the modern Greece we know today- the beginning of the struggle for freedom against Ottoman tyranny in 1821 and the last phase of the Turkish Genocide of Anatolian Hellenism that resulted in the destruction of Smyrna in 1922.
Having studied primary sources over many years, Hatzidimitriou has published two books and many scholarly articles on the subject of his lecture. His first book, Founded on Freedom and Virtue: Documents Illustrating the Impact in the United States of the Greek War of Independence, 1821-1829, was published in 2002, and attracted the attention of President Bill Clinton who sent Hatzidimitriou a letter noting he had used it since “he was particularly interested in what Jefferson had to do with the Greek Revolution.”
Hatzidimitriou’s second book, American Accounts Documenting the Destruction of Smyrna by the Kemalist Turkish Forces, September 1922, was published in 2005 and just this summer was published in Greek translation, updated with additional material.
“What is often overlooked is that the United States played a unique and important role in both of these events and the United States’ involvement also illustrates the close ties that bind the Greek and American people together,” Hatzidimitriou said. “The ties are beyond power politics and greed and economic interests and government interests.”
He noted that “during Hellenism’s most desperate hours, when all seemed lost, the American people, not the government, proved themselves better than the government and sent precious aid that one observer called ‘unauthorized acts of humanity.’”
“This unprecedented American philanthropy saved thousands of innocent Greek lives and went well beyond what any other nation has done for Greece before or since,” Hatzidimitriou said. “Additionally, I found several originally top secret State Department documents that prove that the Turks deliberately burned Smyrna, that the United States government knew about it, and they covered it up for political reasons.”
“Recently, I have also added new material concerning America’s contribution to the Greek Revolution as part of a remarkable Stockton University exhibit and online publications called ‘The Greek Revolution through American Eyes,’” Hatzidimitriou noted.
A Q&A session followed the informative presentation.
Hellenic Book Club of New York President Jeannie Kouros congratulated Hatzidimitriou on his presentation and The National Herald English edition for its 25th anniversary, noting that TNH has been there since the beginning of the Book Club. She also thanked Koularmanis for his support of the Book Club, pointing out the vital role of people who really care about the community, the culture and heritage. Kouros also mentioned that the Archdiocesan Hellenic Cultural Center would be the new home of the Hellenic Book Club of New York with the screening of the Costa-Gavras film Z scheduled for December 7 among the upcoming events at the venue.
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