As these lines are being written, at the end of March, fear of the coronavirus, the great pandemic of 2020, is mounting.
Schools and churches remain closed. Restaurants and bars as well. The same goes for theaters and cinemas.
Other than those on the front lines, I feel as though only we, in the media, are working. People are more in need of information today than ever before.
Entire estates, the efforts of lifetimes, are being destroyed from one moment to the next. Unemployment has reached immense heights.
People’s mental health is being tested by the lockdown.
Everything is empty. Very empty. Depressingly empty. Desperately empty.
We, you, the whole world, are living in a void. We do not know how much deeper we will fall. Nothing is certain anymore.
You will probably ask me, dear readers who view these lines in and out of America, what does this have to do with the 105th birthday of The National Herald-Ethnikos Kirix?
The answer is that they are connected.
Recall the state of Greece, the world, and the mass media on April 2, 1915, when The National Herald was born.
Recall what has happened in the world over the past century, plus five years:
Two world wars. The destruction of Hellenism in Asia Minor. The Spanish Flu epidemic. The Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. The Greek Civil War. The lengthy interruption of Greek immigration to the United States. Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus.
And yet, The National Herald endured. It endured because it stood on the right side of history. And because it became one with the Greek-American Community.
I described the historical path of TNH from its inception through it’s 100th anniversary in a special collector’s edition we published five years ago. I wrote it for the sake of transcribing the history of the Greek diaspora.
Today, I quote the message I wrote then in its entirety, together with this introduction and a conclusion about the last five years, to provide a comprehensive historical review of the first 105 years of The National Herald.
There is so much I want to write. Pages and pages. I want to write, if possible, a classic text for this anniversary. Not out of vanity or pride. It is not a selfish impulse – but rather, I want to do it for the Greek-American Community. To present its history, and to honor the memory of the founder of the newspaper Petros Tatanis, and his successors: Euripides Kehages, Paul Dimos, Vaso Vlavianos, Babis Marketos, who remained at the helm for a full 30 years (1947-1977), Eugene Rossides, co-owner (with me) Georgios Leonardos, and finally, me (1979-2019).
And for the thousands of contributors who toiled at this newspaper, and especially for those who have worked with me during the last four decades.
For those of you who bring TNH into your home. For those that support it. For those who consider it their own – because frankly, it is yours.
So I’m going to try to do the best I can. What else can one do?
I have borne on my shoulders – from the first day that I took charge of the publication of this newspaper – the heavy burden of responsibility given its history.
That’s why in my mind, when facing no matter which of the thousands of problems I confronted through the years, I carried with me one thought: don’t give up – clench your teeth and keep moving forward.
For us, The National Herald is not merely words and photos – or the ink and paper with which we battle to build from scratch every day.
It is a never ending life-struggle.
It is the fulfillment of our debt to our Community.
A community that struggles every day, consciously and even unconsciously, individually and in groups, to stand worthy of its ancestors.
To add a little stone to what we have been building in this hospitable country, America.
Over the past five years, we have been living with an even greater awareness of the newspaper’s historical importance. We absorb it every minute. We hold every issue in our hands with reverence, with joy, and we stare with wonder at the websites.
We analyze and struggle with every issue and decision we make, small and large.
We want to always pay tribute to the honorable status that TNH holds in the international media kingdom.
An honorable position we hold with modesty. With humility.
The perspective we take on our mission can be summarized thusly: To serve. To teach. To guide – always with gratitude.”
The past five years were turbulent, and often sad.
It was a period that left its mark on the Community. Negatively.
The condition of the Archdiocese, especially regarding the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero, greatly disturbed the community. They obsessed over it. They worried about it.
The National Herald was obligated to stand up in those historical circumstances.
To reveal the truth. To comment on the facts. To suggest solutions.
It was not always a pleasant task, but it was necessary. For the common good.
We upset many, including the former Archbishop. But we had no choice. We were accountable to history.
Eventually, the solution was found. A new leader was recruited. The path to a brighter future opened again – and, along with it, the inevitable and unavoidable struggles the future always brings.
Our Community is built of so many struggles, so many sacrifices, so much respect in the memory of our ancestors. Such powerful bonds with our language, history, culture, could not be lost.
And our motherland during this time had its own road to Calvary.
Greece drew near the lion’s jaw. It was at the edge of the cliff. Face to face with the cross of its martyrdom.
A catastrophic crashing out of the eurozone was just around the corner.
Shortly thereafter another phenomenon materialized. A new potential disaster knocked at our door. Hordes of refugees from civil war-ravaged Syria.
And armies of migrants from failed African states.
How could the former withstand the brutality of civil war? How can the latter cope with starvation?
But how can economically wounded Greece endure them, unable to give them even a bed?
And on top of that, the president of our Turkish neighbor challenged the very foundation upon which the peace between us rested: the Treaty of Lausanne that both countries signed on July 24, 1923.
In America, we saw the turbulent, meteoric rise of Donald Trump. And now, the coronavirus.
All the while, this period was also an important time for the newspaper. It was the time of the consolidation of the new information reality, the collision between print and electronic publishing
At TNH, we seized the opportunity to lay deep foundations for future generations in a world of information without borders.
We addressed a world-wide audience hungry for authoritative journalism. For honest information. A world that will embrace The National Herald with the same devotion with which the Greek-American community embraced it.
Which will make TNH its bible, just like America’s Hellenes had done.
Already, many of you reading these lines are located outside of the United States.
You are in every corner of the earth.
For example, in February our websites had 1,630 visits from Canada, 35,000 from Greece, 3,600 from Cyprus, 491 from Australia, 38 from South Africa, 420 from Norway, 2195 from Germany, etc.
Also during this last five-year period, I was invited by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to contribute, from the post of Deputy Foreign Minister with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad, to the further strengthening of relations between Greece and the Diaspora.
Mitsotakis gave me more power and responsibility than any of my predecessors ever had.
My colleagues at the Ministry and I applied a ‘new’ doctrine: solving the problems of everyday life – those which torment the Diaspora Greek in his/her contacts with the Greek state and those which drive away our children.
We also devised a strategic, long-term plan that would change the dynamics of Diaspora-motherland relations.
We achieved a lot, but this seemed to frighten our political opponents and part of the establishment.
I came back to be close to you with joy – just like I had said I would when my mission in Athens was completed.
While I was serving in the government, I assigned the management of the newspapers and websites to my children, in collaboration with my sister. I had no involvement.
They did a great job with the help of my faithful, able associates.
I am so very proud of everyone. I am at peace. And so today. I serve as their advisor.
But above all else, I would like to thank you, the readers. I am forever grateful.
With respect and love,
Antonis H. Diamataris