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Events

Philadelphia Federation Hosted the Eleftheria Award & Dignitaries Banquet

DEPTFORD, NJ – Messages of unity and optimism set the stage for the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley Eleftheria Award and Dignitaries Banquet at Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford, NJ, on March 19, the eve of the parade celebrating the 201st anniversary of Greek Independence.

Two years after the cancellation of the events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was the starting point for a long period without mass gatherings, but mainly of a health crisis that cost the loss of so many lives, including loved ones of the Greek-American community, the Hellenism of Philadelphia again was present with about 450 people attending the traditional pre-parade event. At the same time, the presence of the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece, gave a special color, inspiring emotion with the indisputable symbolism, but also its institutional character.

During the Eleftheria Award presentation, left to right: Dimitrios Rozanitis, Georgia Athanasopoulos, George Horiates, and Efstathios Karadonis. Photo: Steve Lambrou

“It is a moving night, as we have a lot of people with us, as well as the Evzones, the Presidential Guard, who gave the event a patriotic pulse,” Federation President Dimitrios Rozanitis told The National Herald.

The event’s honorees were the Grand Marshal and Honorary Consul General of Panama in Philadelphia Georgia Athanasopoulos, as well as AHEPA previous Supreme President George Horiates, who was honored with the Eleftheria Award for his contribution to the Greek community and the Greek national issues. Honorary Marshals were His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas, Daughters of Penelope Grand President Kathy Bizoukas, and Maids of Athena Grand President Maria Ana Pantelous.

Among those present were Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou, Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, and Consul Dimitrios Papageorgiou.

The officers of the Presidential Guard presented souvenirs to Dimitrios Rozanitis and Efstathios Karadonis at the Eleftheria Award and Dignitaries Banquet on March 19. Photo: Steve Lambrou

Plaques were handed out to the honorees and souvenirs were given by the officers of the Presidential Guard to Dimitrios Rozanitis and Efstathios Karadonis, in a particularly moving moment during the event.

The presentation of the program was undertaken by the former Member of Parliament and well-known economist Elena Panaritis.

“Remember why they fought”

Taking the floor, Rozanitis gave the welcoming remarks and made a special reference to Archbishop Elpidophoros, expressing, in turn, the timeless support of the Federation and the Greek-American community of Philadelphia for the work of the Archdiocese and Archbishop.

For her part, Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou expressed her satisfaction with the fact that the health conditions allowed the live events again, while she hinted that the latest developments on the planet show that freedom and peace are not a given.

The Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley held the Eleftheria Award and Dignitaries Banquet at Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford, NJ, on March 19. Photo: Steve Lambrou

“I arrived during the pandemic and it is the first time I celebrate Greek Independence, especially in the city of Philadelphia. It is a day to remember the struggles and why the heroes fought: For our values, our principles and all that we take for granted, but today it is not to be taken for granted. The need to defend these values ​​is always alive and always in front of us,” said Amb. Papadopoulou.

In her own remarks, Georgia Athanasopoulos could not hide her emotion for the honorary distinction, while she pointed out that, apart from Greece, Panama is also completing two centuries of independence.

Left to right: George Horiates, Maids of Athena Grand President Maria Ana Pantelous, and Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley President Dimitrios Rozanitis. Photo: Steve Lambrou

“It’s a night full of emotions. It is a great honor for me and my family, my children, my late father and mother, my relatives and friends who have traveled far and wide. We, either from Panama or from the USA, feel that we are a part of Hellenism everywhere. It is our duty to show our love for Greece and our admiration for the heroes of 1821,” said Athanasopoulos.

Archbishop Elpidophoros made a special reference to the Evzones, and called on everyone to “become Evzones themselves” regarding the preservation of values.

“They are guards, they are soldiers, they are the ones who guard our freedom, our tradition, our culture, our religion, our right to have the identity we have. Each and every one of us here in the room should become ‘evzones’, guardians of our identity, our language, our religion and our tradition. When we all become ‘evzones’ like the lads, we will have nothing to fear,” said His Eminence.

Left to right: George Horiates, Daughters of Penelope Grand President Kathy Bizoukas, and Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley President Dimitrios Rozanitis. Photo: Steve Lambrou

Former president of the Federation Efstathios Karadonis spoke with TNH in the presence of the Evzones, emphasizing that “it gives the special color, the special brilliance and the exaltation of all the patriotic feelings that are held in the soul of the Greek all year round and are expressed this weekend.”

Finally, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas noted that “we must always remember that in order for us to have freedom and the beautiful things we have in our lives, some people made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The Philadelphia Greek Independence Parade was held on March 20.

Left to right: George Horiates, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas, Efstathios Karadonis, and Philadelphia Federation President Dimitrios Rozanitis. Photo: Steve Lambrou

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