ATHENS – The glorious sunshine of a Sunday morning in Summer welcomed the hundreds of delegates of the Supreme Convention of the Order of AHEPA to Athens on July 25.
The first Supreme Convention held in Greece since 2008 began on a reverent note as leaders, delegates, and family members gathered at Syntagma Square in front of the Hellenic Parliament for a wreath laying ceremony before the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Supreme President George Horiates is delighted to lead members of the Order from throughout the Hellenic Diaspora as part of the return of tourism to Greece.
“The brothers and sisters are all here,” he told The National Herald. “We have been preparing meticulously for this challenging” – given COVID restrictions – “and special event during the celebration of the Greek Bicentennial.”
Horiates noted that prior to registering for the convention, many people travelled to nearby events marking 1821 sponsored by local AHEPA Hellas chapters – there are 44 in Greece.
He noted there are pent up emotions that this year's great journey has released as the pandemic has limited AHEPA events in general and Bicentennial celebrations in particular.
Both official convention hotels – the Grand Bretagne and the affiliated King George next door – are sold out, Horiates said, and he noted there are about 500 paid delegates, part of a total of approximately 2000 people who have come to Greece.
“It's a beautiful day and I cannot think of a better way to kick off the week than with the Presidential Guard ceremony and the wreath laying, Horiates said, adding that “of course the Greek nation has been very accommodating to us in these trying times and it's a great honor for me to lay the wreath in front of my family, friends, and brothers and sisters.”
The work of the Convention begins later on Sunday – committee meetings and various kinds of events which will be attended by numerous high officials of Greece, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Grand Banquet later in the week – and picks up in earnest on Monday, but Horiates also emphasized “we are just going to enjoy each and every aspect of getting back to Greece and celebrating the Greek Bicentennial.”
According to Ahepa.org, “founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage yand Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.