NEW YORK – The Greek-American New York State legislators on March 24 participated in a virtual celebration honoring the 200th anniversary of Greek Independence. New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes, representing Southern Brooklyn, hosted the event which could be viewed live on his Facebook page.
In his welcoming remarks, Senator Gounardes noted that there are now six Greek-American legislators in Albany, including himself and Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, Senator James Skoufis, Senator Daphne Jordan, Assembly Member John Lemondes, and Assembly Member Michael Tannousis.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros also attended the event and noted that the freedom fighters of Greece were inspired by the American Revolution of 1776 which was inspired by ancient Greece. He quoted Petros Mavromichalis who said to U.S. citizens in 1821, “it is in your land that liberty has fixed her abode and… in imitating you, we shall imitate our ancestors and be thought worthy of them if we succeed in resembling you.”
Gounardes also introduced a special guest, his son, Vangelis, dressed in an Evzone costume, undoubtedly preparing for next year’s parade.
Greek Ambassador to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou sent her greetings via video, congratulating “the Greek-American legislators for choosing the path of public service, honoring their responsibilities as citizens of the United States of America, but also upholding the Hellenic ideals of their forebears who considered public service a high ideal and a responsibility for all citizens.”
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros spoke live during the virtual Greek Independence Day event hosted by the Greek-American legislators of New York State. Photo: TNH Staff
“Thank you for honoring your Hellenic heritage by celebrating this landmark anniversary in the history of Greece and for the work you do in your local Greek-American and broader community, as well as in support of Hellenic ideals,” she said, adding that she hoped to meet them in person as soon as the pandemic allows and offered her best wishes for a successful celebration.
Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras also offered his greetings via video, noting that this year Greece celebrates 200 years since the start of the struggle for freedom and independence. “Compared to the history of Hellenism which spans millennia, two centuries passes in the blink of an eye, yet this is exactly how quickly Greece transformed,” he said. “Despite their difficulties, Greeks are now a confident modern nation, member of the European Union family. This transformation could not have been achieved without the support of the United States of America, from the moment our Greek forefathers brought the famous letter to John Quincy Adams in 1821 to the 20th century legislators who have contributed to our own European dream.” He added that “New York State’s resolution recognizing March as Greek History Month in honor of Greek Independence Day fills us with pride… I wish to thank and congratulate our Greek-American legislators, Greece is very appreciative of your contribution. Happy anniversary to everyone and many happy returns of the day.”
Consul General of Cyprus in New York Alexis Phedonos Vadet thanked the legislators and noted the contributions of Cyprus to the Greek War of Independence “with the darkest moment being the July 9, 1821 Ottoman execution of the Archbishop Kyprianos by hanging, as well as the execution of an additional 486 Cypriots including three Metropolitans by beheading.”
“The unity amongst Hellenism at the time was one of the most important contributors to the success of the War of Independence, that is a lesson for us today as we face aggression and revisionism from Ankara whose leadership has openly expressed an ambition to abolish the Treaty of Lausanne which among others stipulates the Republic of Turkey’s international borders,” he added. “Let us honor all those who sacrificed their lives for Greece’s freedom, thank you and Xronia polla.”
New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes with son Vangelis during the Greek Independence Day virtual celebration. Photo: TNH Staff
Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris then offered his remarks, noting that he was the first Greek-American from New York City elected to statewide office and was inspired by those who paved the way, including Michael Dukakis, and he hoped to pave the way for others. He concluded by saying Zito H Ellas, Xronia polla, and thanking all those participating.
Senator Skoufis noted that his father came to the U.S. with pappou and yiayia in the 1960s and they instilled their pride in Greece. He wished happy anniversary to the Diaspora and to Greece.
Assembly Member Tannousis noted it was a proud moment for him to introduce the resolution in the Assembly for Greek Independence Day. He added that the struggle for freedom is not over, and as the son of Cypriot refugees who lost everything in 1974, and in spite of testing positive for COVID last week, he had to be a part of the event.
Assembly Member Lemondes and Senator Jordan also shared their greetings via video and all the legislators honored deserving community members from their respective districts with proclamations, including Vicky Simegiatos of Bay Ridge whose dance studio and performing arts center is well-known in the community. A video of an interpretative dance performance, titled Zaloggos, was then screened in honor of Greek Independence.