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Leros Society of NY Hosted Its 77th Annual Dinner-Dance

March 18, 2024

QUEENS, NY – The Leros Society of New York held its 77th Annual Dinner-Dance in a festive atmosphere on March 16 at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The event honored Antonis I. Filakouris, Nikolas Arapis, and Irene Filakouris while also commemorating the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Leros during World War II.

Attendees enjoyed the cocktail hour and dinner as well as a dance performance by the Leros Society’s dance group and live music by the talented musicians Anastasios Sifounios on violin, John Themelis on laouto and tsabouna, Renos Efthymiou on drums, Pavlos Denesidis on keyboards, Thomas Nikolopoulos on bouzouki, and Pantelis Gatanas on vocals.

Manolis Papazoglou, in charge of the Leros Society’s public relations, gave the welcoming remarks and served as MC for the event. He noted that it was nearly five years since the last dinner-dance and thanked everyone for attending the event. “We’ve been through a lot, we haven’t been together for nearly five years and I thank you all for joining us here tonight and we will have a wonderful party, a wonderful glendi, and I wish you health, happiness, and enjoyment tonight. We’re going to celebrate withe all the traditional music of Leros and all the Twelve Islands and then some.”

Papazoglou then introduced the Leros Society dance group which performed in traditional costume, entertaining the guests with their impressive skills from the very youngest to the most experienced of the dancers.

The Leros Society of New York held its 77th Annual Dinner-Dance on March 16 at at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, NY. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Among those present were Federation of Dodecanese Societies USA President Maria Marangos, Federation 1st Vice President and President of the Pan-Rhodian Society of New York Nikos Kartalis, Kalymnos Society President John Smallios, Federation Youth Society President Vasilis Michaelides, Youth Vice President Manolis Smallios, and Maria Mouzakitis who is in charge of the Youth Society’s public relations. Former president of the Amorgos Society Nikos Gavalas and current President Nikitas Theologitis were also in attendance.

Vasilis Michaelides read a letter from His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros to the Leros Society offering his best wishes and congratulations on the Society’s anniversary and also on the commemoration of the 1943 battle, noting that “in preserving this storied history, you remain a beacon of remembrance and education for future generations. Therefore, I encourage you to never forget your story of hope, inspiration, solidarity and perseverance. May you always celebrate the revered memory of your blessed ancestors with much dignity and respect.”

Vasilis Michaelides read the letter from His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros at the Leros Society of New York 77th Annual Dinner-Dance on March 16. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Papazoglou then introduced the honorees, “three people who have worked hard for many years for the Leros Society and we would like to thank them,” beginning with past president Antonis Filakouris, whose son John accepted the award on his behalf.

Left to right: Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos, John Filakouris accepting the award on behalf of his father Antonis Filakouris, and Manolis Papazoglou. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Nikolas Arapis was honored next for his many years in the Society. “He has given his life and his heart and he is always our right hand,” Papazoglou said, congratulating Arapis. Leros Society President Takis Rizos then took the floor, congratulating the honorees and thanking them for their contributions to the Society. “I hope there are many more people like Nikolas Arapis so that the Society will endure,” Rizos said, and then introduced the next honoree Irene Filakouris. “We give her a big thank you for all she contributes to our Society, what can we say about her? She’s not from Leros, she’s Cretan… we praise her and I’m pleased to have such young people beside me who help out, because without her, the presentation, the book you see here, would not exist, a big thank you for all she does with the dance group, for tonight, for the book, she deserves to be congratulated. Irene, thank you very much, May God keep her well to help us always.”

Left to right: Manolis Papazoglou, honoree Nikolaos Arapis, and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Rizos also honored the women who helped organize the event, Adamantia Mari “for all her contributions throughout the years she has been with us, thank you,” Rose Kamitsis Filakouris for being “tireless and always with us, thank you for your contributions,” Maria Elenis, “Marinos’ Maria, not Soulis’,” Rizos pointed out, and Anastasia Livanou, “our second teacher for the dance group, a great help, and we thank her very much.”

Left to right: Manolis Papazoglou, honoree Irene Filakouris, and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Rizos added that Maria Elenis “is also not from Leros, but we are all from Leros now, she helps the Society a great deal and has also put together this wonderful cookbook which is available for sale tonight, thank you, Maria.”

Left to right: Adamantia Mari, Manolis Papazoglou, and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

“I hope this evening remains engraved for everyone as a success, fun and carefree,” Rizos said. “Five years have passed since our last dinner-dance, five years we missed a great deal, we tried all these years to help those who needed us, people on our island… I want to thank all the association presidents who have honored us tonight with their presence, especially those from the islands, the Dodecanese, and everywhere, we thank them very much for their presence.

Rose Kamitsis Filakouris and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

He continued: “I would also like to say about our dance group, what you saw earlier, we can only keep up thanks to the cooperation of the parents, without whom we wouldn’t be able take even one step. Thank you to all the parents. I’m grateful to see all the children dancing whose parents many of whom are not from Leros, but these children follow the steps of our Society, and this is reassuring, this is the future of our Society and generally for Hellenism and our homeland. This concerns us most of all, this is why we are here… and this book you see, we struggled for a year and a half to put it together, but we succeeded, many offered their congratulations, and inside you will see old photos from 30 years ago, of people who are no longer with us, this is the album, this is why we made this book, so you can have this in your home, so you can look at it and remember your parents, siblings, and our compatriots… and with your help, we did it, I thank you very much. A big thank you to those on the Board who worked so well on it.”

Anastasia Livanou and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

He also mentioned the cookbook which includes recipes by various members of the Leros Society and looked forward to seeing everyone at the Society’s upcoming events. The event continued with dancing well into the night and a raffle drawing with many prizes.

Maria Elenis and Leros Society of New York President Takis Rizos. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

The Leros Society of New York held its 77th Annual Dinner-Dance on March 16 at at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, NY. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

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