ATHENS – Hundreds of enthusiastic visitors from the United States and around the world – reminded when necessary to mask and properly social distance, Greece fighting a 4th wave of COVID – filled the Ballroom of the renowned Grand Bretagne hotel in Athens for The AHEPA Family Opening Welcome, the kickoff event of the 2021 Supreme Convention of the Order of AHEPA.
Supreme Counselor Lou Atsaves served as Emcee, keeping the speaking program of short and sweet greetings and acknowledgements moving forward.
Also welcoming the guests was Supreme President George Horiates, whose extended term of office during a challenging period – he and especially fellow attorney Atsaves, worked hard to set the practical and legal foundation for keeping the members of the Order around the world connected via Zoom and other technological means – was rewarded with passionate expressions of appreciation and loud applause.
Both `Supremes' graciously in turn acknowledged and thanked the leaders of all of AHEPA's divisions and levels for doing their part, and demonstrating that AHEPA truly is a family. They also spotlighted those responsible – especially AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaides – for the fact that on Sunday evening, July 25, the 500 Ahepans who are registered for the Convention and those who accompanied them on their `journey to the homeland' – around 2000 people in total – were `miraculously' present in Athens during a pandemic for the first Supreme Convention held there since 2008 to celebrate the Greek Bicentennial and launch the festivities for the 100th anniversary of AHEPA in 2022.
The evening's highlight was the presentation of U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, who both received thanks and applause from the guests for his tenure in Greece and expressed his appreciation for the contributions of AHEPA to the deepening and broadening of U.S.-Greece relations – he noted the centrality of people-to-people contacts in the United States' relations with its allies – and his optimism for the continued strengthening of those relations and economic development in Greece.
Bishop Chrysostomos of Evripou, representing Archbishop Ieronymos of Athensand all Greece at the event, received on his behalf AHEPA's Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award presented by Past Supreme President Dr. John Grossomanides, whose wife Anna-Hellene Grossomanides of Brooklyn, Past Grand President of the Daughters of Penelope, delighted the guests with her renditions of the national anthems of Greece, the United States, and Canada.
Kostas Varsamis, the Governor of District 25, Hellas Greece, who welcomed the guests to Greece, was congratulated for his team's work preparing for the convention's many events.
Also offering greetings were Daughters of Penelope Grand President Celia Kachmarski and Past Supreme President Andrew Zachariades.
The Convention's many meetings devoted both to internal AHEPA matters and important topics such as Turkey's threat to Cyprus and Greece and the latter's economic development began in earnest on Monday, July 26, to be topped by the AHEPA 99th Anniversary Event that evening at the Greek War Museum featuring appearance by the Minister of Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff Konstantinos Floros.
Horiates concluded Sunday night's event by expressing the dominant spirit of AHEPA's visit to the homeland for its Bicentennial: “It's going to be a great party!”