ATHENS – The Magazine insert of the weekend edition of the Athens newspaper ‘To Vima’ featured an interview with U.S. Ambassador to Greece George J. Tsunis.
The interview, which is also the cover story of the magazine and included numerous photos, took place in the village where the Tsunis family has its roots, Platanos of Nafpaktia.
Tsunis often speaks with emotion about his Greek origin and especially about his village. “It is a great joy for me every time I am in my village. The best summers in my life were spent here,” he said at the beginning of the interview, recalling his grandfather and grandmother, from whom he learned “what love and family mean.”
“I also had an aunt, Athena, and when she was in the village I could do whatever I wanted. I remember she had a nice garden and I would go every afternoon, take a tomato, wash it, and eat it like a fruit. All day I played soccer with the kids who have been my friends since 1975, the first time I came,” Tsunis said.
At another point in the interview, the discussion revolved around Greek-Turkish relations, with Tsunis being asked about the crude threats Ankara is making against Athens. “At a time when unity among the Allies is absolutely essential, the United States regrets the escalation of provocative statements. We will continue to urge all our allies to avoid threats and provocative rhetoric that only succeeds in increasing tension without helping anyone.”
Tsounis also referred to the efforts of the Greek government to repatriate the Parthenon Sculptures. “I believe that this would be consistent with what the Pope has done and with some agreements with other major institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the return of Cycladic antiquities. I don’t think any of the people who created these unique masterpieces would have wanted to see them looted. This practice is not in keeping with the ethos that should permeate our world. Without wishing to engage in controversy, it is my understanding that works of art looted in the past are making their way back to their place of origin.”
Tsunis was also asked about the events of January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol. “I often say that the United States and Greece are the defenders of democracy and we have a sacred obligation to protect the democratic values that unite us. But that does not mean we are perfect. The greatest threat to our democracies is not that we are flawed. It is that our people may one day lose faith in our ability to heal our wounds, correct our inequalities, or right our wrongs. Democracy can be fragile and needs defending. In the case of the United States and Greece, democracy has endured and will continue to endure. The United States has shown the world that our democracy is resilient, that as a people we can overcome challenges and come out stronger.”
Concluding the interview, Tsounis was asked “Greece or America?” and he replied: “My father used to tell me ‘six months in America, six months in Greece.’ He wanted to stay in Greece from Easter to the Feast of St. Demetrios. Is there a better life?”