One of my favorite authors, Thea Halo, wrote about the genocide of the Pontic Greeks, in her book "Not Even My Name." She writes: "To remember does not mean stirring up hatred within or without. Hatred destroys what was good and pure in the past and the present. It simply means to embrace what is ours'
September 6-7 is the 58th anniversary of the 1955 Anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul which I witnessed as a child. Those of us who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Read my recent article in Hellenic News of America:
It began after dark on a Tuesday night, at a time when howling wolves roam in their packs and evil flourishes unencumbered by the light of day. They had marked our home with a red cross and in so doing had also marked its inhabitants as enemies of the Turkish nation and Islam. We were ethnic Greek Christians in a country that had to be washed clean of minorities. The year was 1955. It was the start of the systematic destruction of the Greek community of Istanbul, which traced its lineage back thousands of years, before a single Turk had ever set foot there.
The events of that day are obscured in time, the subject of revisionist American, British and Turkish historians who seek to whitewash the sins committed that day against innocent people. The facts however are impossible to hide, the crime too heinous to cover up and as is always the case, truth will inevitably see the light of day.
By Chris Georgallis
Ten to three am, ticked the clock
Time for sleep, not for prose,
Thoughts flapping in the wind, held fast by will, but mostly, letting slip a
page of dreams and desires, which seem to ever ascend away, without even a
What am I ?
Have i lived the life written, or am i writing it as i go?
Deep thoughts searching upward to the throne of my All-knowing , Father!
Sad thoughts , regrets and frustrations, dragging me down to my mother's
feet, where the tears mix with the mud and give me eyes which see again, and
so the cycle continues!
My heart cries to belong.
My life defies this longing, i am set to be a wanderer, forever searching
and seeking to return to her that bore me.
Not a mother of flesh and bone, but the rich soil from which my line was
Britannia, gave me weight, colour and hue, but....
Venus, Aphrodite's Isle, is where my roots find their rest.
My spirit, is not earth bound, but my feet... are of the clay of men, and
the soil calls me, it presses me to return to where it all began.
Cyprus... my land?
Am i wanted?
Do i belong?
Perhaps, London is a closer call ? Full of memories and childhood tales.
Maybe it's Cape Town the "Mother City", this African Queen, to whom i now
She certainly has given me my todays and my tomorrows!
Yet the call of my ancestor's , is further north, deep into the warm middle
sea, where warm currents and white sands mix with the sounds of Byzantine
chants and Grecian and Roman sensibilities.
My journey, continues, my wanderings never cease , but always, i feel that
call to my nation, to my tribe.
Yet where my father took his first breath, and where his mother cradled him
to her breast, in beautiful Rizokarpaso, by Apostolos Andreas's shadow....
I am precluded, not wanted,disallowed,my soil, my family, uprooted and
The invader, argues that he came to save, but all he left was bloodshed and
Our churches,deserted, no liturgy, no chants, only old people, crying their
tears, for a time and a nation, that has long since... past into the arms of
the Turkish advance.
The stories aren't simple, the Greek and the Turk, once sharing coffee and
sweet baklava, now set at odds by the political right, both lamenting their
villages and friends, lost, to the sounds of foreign designs.
My journey continues, the night turns to light, my odyssey unfinished,
My "Ithaca" seems, still a distant dream,
Yet, my prayers and hopes, rise on the dawn of a new day!
(dedicated to my yiayia Sophia, who would not leave her home and died a
prisoner in her own land!)
Tens of thousands of Turks filled a stadium to bid farewell to Lefteris Antoniadis, one of Turkey's top football players, who died at age 86 in Istanbul. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the funeral ceremony on Sunday at Fenerbahce's Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium to honor Antoniandis, known to Turkish fans as Lefter Küçükandonyadis.
Born in 1925 in Istanbul to a Greek father from Turkey's minority Greek community and a Turkish mother, he was the first player from Turkey to play abroad. From an early age he showed his great love for football. He began his football career in Taximspor, a district team of the City. After a four year stint in the Turkish Army, he joined Fenerbahce in 1947, where his talent was immediately recognized. In 1951 he played for Italian Fiorentina, the first player from Turkey to achieve recognition by a foreign team.
He returned to Fenerbahce, where he helped win two championships, founded the national team, and helped to earn three titles (1959, 1961, 1964). From 1947 to 1964 he played 615 games scoring 423 goals. His prowess on the field and legendery status earned him the respect of all Turkish fans. In the season 1953–1954, he was the top scorer in the Turkish league. After ending his career in Turkey in 1964, Küçükandonyadis played a single season in Greece with AEK Athens the team of the Greek Athletic Union of Constantinople. He participated in five games in the 1965 season scoring two goals before an injury in the match against Iraklis forced his retirement.
He played 50 times for the Turkish national football team, 9 of them as the captain. He also played at the 1954 World Cup netting in 2 goals, one against West-Germany and one against South-Korea. He scored 20 goals for his national team and was the top scorer for Turkey till overtaken by Hakan Şükür. He was the first Turkish football player to receive the “Golden Honor medal” from the Turkish Football Federation. Lefteris coached Egaleo F.C. in Greece and Supersport United in South Africa. He later returned to Turkey and coached various Turkish clubs.
In Turkey, he was loved, never hiding his identity as a Greek Orthodox Christian. In fact, he embraced his faith, daring to wear a Cross prominently on his chest outside his player's jersey even while standing at attention when the Turkish National Anthem was played. He was a gifted footballer and a great human being, who by the dint of his talent and example was admired by Turkish fans and players alike. The Turkish fans nicknamed him "Küçük" which means small, due to his 5' 4" height, adding it to his surname. It was chanted repeatedly at games when he played,
In recent years he lived out his retirement in the formerly Greek inhabited Princess Islands, entertaining a steady stream of visitors like Soukour Hakan, one of the greatest scorers of all time in Turkey , Demis Nikolaidis of AEK and His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomeow, the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for the English version of this post.
Δεν ξέρω γιατί με τραβούσε ένα μέρος το οποίο το γνώριζα μόνο από τα παραμύθια της γιαγιάς μου. Ένα μέρος γεμάτο φαντάσματα, γεμάτο λύπες και χαρές. Αυτό το ορεινό χωριουδάκι όπου γεννήθηκε, μεγάλωσε και πέρασε τα καλύτερα χρόνια της ζωής της. Γιά εμένα ήταν ένα όνειρο θολό που δεν τελειώνει ποτέ. Κάτι που δεν μπορούσα να σβήσω από την μνήμη μου. Όταν είσαι νέος και ο κόσμος ανοίγη μπροστά σου, δεν σε νοιάζει τίποτα. Νομίζεις ότι πάντοτε θα είσαι νικητής και θα κάνεις την ζωή σου ότι θέλεις. Μόνο όταν τα χρόνια περάσουν καταλαβαίνεις ότι η ζωή, σου κάνει αυτή ότι θέλει. Αρχίζεις να επανέλθεις και να καταλάβεις που έχεις πάει και που πας. Τότε ρωτάς : «τι σημασία έχει η ζωή μου». Πως να απαντήσω στο ερώτημα αυτό χωρίς να βρω την αρχή ; Χωρίς να βρώ, όπως γράφει ο ποιητής Καβάφης, την Ιθάκη μου. Μόνο εκεί θα μπορούσα να καταλάβω την ιδιαίτερη σημασία της ζωής μου. Ο θάνατος του πατέρα μου, το καλοκαίρι του 2007, προκάλεσε σε μένα μία ανάγκη μεγάλη. Να γυρίσω στην πνευματική και γενέθλια πηγή μας. Στην πατρίδα όπου γεννήθηκαν οι πρόγονοί μου. Ένα ξεχασμένο κομμάτι του Ελληνισμού. Μία φλόγα που δεν θέλει να σβήσει. Ο χωματόδρομος που πάει στην Πολίτσανη είναι μακρής, δύσκολος, επικίνδυνος και ανεβαίνει συνέχεια. Θα περάσεις από ποταμάκια, χαράδρες και τεράστια βουνά, γεμάτο πεύκα. Νιώθεις επάνω σε αυτή την τοποθεσία την μεγάλη δύναμη του Θεού αλλά και την μεγάλη αγάπη του. Ο αέρας είναι καθαρός και μοσχοβολάει πεύκο και περπατώντας γυρνάς μιά απότομη στροφή και εμπρός σου βλέπεις το χωριό, κρυμμένο μέσα στην αγκαλιά του βουνού, που ονομάζεται Νεμέρτσκα.
Κατά την περίοδο του κουμουνιστικού καθεστώτος, η Νεμέρτσκα που έχει μήκος 8 χιλιόμετρα και περνάει τα ελληνικά σύνορα, ήταν ο δρόμος της ελευθερίας. Μέσα στα χιόνια της, σκεπασμένοι με άσπρα σεντόνια φεύγανε μερικοί θαραλέοι χωριανοί και περνούσανε σε μιά καινούργια ζωή. Τώρα ο δρόμος έχει ανοίξει και έχουν μείνει μόνο τα «Μανιτάρια». Τα καταφύγεια που βρίσκονται παντού, είχαν κτισθεί με μεγάλες δαπάνες. Όλα βλέπουν προς το Νότο και είναι μιά ομιλούσα διαθήκη της παράνοιας και μεγαλομανίας του καθεστώτος του Ενβέρ Χότζα. Πριν φθάσω στην Πολίτσανη είχα ένα άγχος, μιά ανησυχία. Δεν ήξερα τι θα βρω και τι θα γίνει. Που να ξέρω πως οι κάτοικοι του χωριού θα με δεχθούνε φιλόξενα και μάλιστα με αγάπη και θα έβρισκα μιά πραγματική πνευματική χαρά. Ήμουν με τον τρόπο μου ο «Οδυσσέας», γυρίζοντας στην Ιθάκη μου. Γιά πρώτη φορά το όνομά μου δεν ήταν ξένο και περίεργο. Γιά πρώτη φορά το όνομά μου έλεγε τα πάντα γιά εμένα. Δεν χρειαζόμουνα άλλα στοιχεία. Όταν άρχισα το ταξίδι μου, πήρα ένα ταξί από την πλατεία Συντάγματος έως τον σταθμό όπου φεύγουν τα λεωφορεία γιά τα Ιωάννινα. Ο ταξιτζής ακούγοντας την προφορά μου, με ρώτησε την καταγωγή μου.
Του είπα ότι γεννήθηκα στην Κωνσταντινούπολη, μεγάλωσα στην Αμερική, αλλά ότι οι γονείς μου είναι βορειοηπειρώτες. Αυτός ο «Νεοέλληνας» γύρισε το κεφάλι του και μου απαντάει με ένα εχθρικό τρόπο : «Δηλαδή είναι Αλβανοί». Εκείνη την στιγμή ένιωσα τον πόνο της Ελληνικής μειονότητας, οι ξεχασμένοι Έλληνες. Σαν τον Οδυσσέα άκουγα τις σηρείνες που με καλούσαν προς τις πέτρες και την καταστροφή και σαν τον Οδυσσέα έμεινα «δεμένος» στο κάθισμα του ταξί, χωρίς να απαντήσω. Ο ταξιτζής έμεινε σιωπηλός κι αυτός. Οι βορειοηπειρώτες δύο φορές μετά την τουρκοκρατία απελευθερώθηκαν και δύο φορές η μοίρα τους πήρε από την αγκαλιά της μητέρας Ελλάς. Στην διάρκεια της καταστροφής του εικοστού αιώνα, παρά το κουμουνιστικό καθεστώς του Χότζα, δεν έσβησε ο Ελληνισμός.
Οι βορειοηπειρώτες όπως πάντα έχουν γιά αιώνες δοκιμασθεί και αγωνισθεί να διατηρήσουν την θρησκεία, την γλώσσα, την ελληνική ταυτότητα και προ
πάντων την αθρωπιά τους. Αυτό το παράδειγμα είναι σημαντικό όχι μόνο γιά εμάς τους Έλληνες της διασποράς, αλλά και της Ελλάδος. Η Πολίτσανη, που το 1930 ήταν ένα χωριό με 2000 κατοίκους, σήμερα έχει 100 μόνιμους κατοίκους. Το σχολείο έχει μόνο 11 παιδιά και εκεί διδάσκετε η Αλβανική και η Ελληνική γλώσσα. Η εκκλησία των Αγίων Ταξιαρχών έχει ανακαινισθεί με χρήματα που έχουν διαθέσει οι Πολιτσανίτες στην Αμερική και στην Ελλάδα. Δυστηχώς οι νεαροί, λόγω της οικονομικής κατάστασης και της κρατικής αμέλειας, έχουν αναγκασθεί να μετανασθεύσουν αλλού : Αμερική, Ελλάδα και Κύπρο. Το καλοκαίρι όμως αναγεννήται το χωριό και ακούγετε ένας αντίλαλος, τα γέλια και οι φωνές των παιδιών. Στο μικρό καφενείο, απέναντι από την πλατεία του χωριού, κάθησα με τους άνδρες του χωριού και μέσα στα πρόσωπά τους έβλεπα τα πρόσωπα με τα οποία μεγάλωσα. Ξαφνικά έρχετε ένας ψηλός γεροντο-παληκαράς, ο κύριος Μιχάλης, μαυρισμένος από τον ήλιο, με χέρια μεγάλα και δυνατά και πέρνει το χέρι μου, που χάθηκε μέσα στο δικό του, και με διατάζει : «Έλα μαζί μου». Με οδήγησε σε ένα μικρό
πέτρινο σπιτάκι. Μέσα στην αυλή αυτού του σπιτιού αντίκρισα μιά εικόνα αξέχαστη. Κάτω από μιά κρεββατίνα, γεμάτη σταφύλια, καθότανε ένας περήφανος γέροντας, ετών 95, ο κύριος Νικόλας και πλάι η πιστή γυναίκα του, η κυρία Φρώσο. Μέσα στα μάτια τους διάβαζα μιά ιστορία γεμέτη πόλεμο, φτώχεια, εξορία και φυλακή. «Αυτός είναι ο Σταύρος Νάσσης, από το σόϊ Τζελάτι» αναγγέλει ο κύριος Μιχάλης. Και αμέσως δακρίζουν τα μάτια τους και λένε : «καλώς το παιδί μας, καλώς ήλθες».
Η κυρία Φρώσο τρέχει να βγάλη το τσίπουρο, το λουκούμι, το γλυκό και έτσι γινόταν από σπίτι σε σπίτι. Εγώ που δεν είχα προσφέρει τίποτα στο χωριό, αυτό μου έδωσε τόσα πολύτιμα πράματα. Το κυριότερο είναι ένας πίνακας, «Ανθρώπινη ζωή». Κάτι που χάνετε μέσα στην ταχύτητα και το πολιτιστικό και πνευματικό χάος που έχουμε κατωρθόσει γιά τον εαυτό μας. Σε αυτή την θρησκευτική έρημο που ζούμε εξαφανίζεται η ευγένεια, ο σεβασμός γιά τον άλλον, η συμπαράσταση, δηλαδή τα πολιτιστικά και πνευματικά στοιχεία όπου στηρίζετε η κοινωνία μας. Τώρα τα υποτιμάμε αυτά ώς άχρηστα. Όπως λέει ο μεγάλος φιλόσοφος (γιά εμένα) ο πεθερός μου, μόνο όταν θα μπορούμε να τα ξαναγνωρίσουμε αυτά τα απαραίτητα, θα μπορούμε να γίνουμε πάλι φιλότιμοι και να διακρίνουμε το σωστό. Η κληρονομιά της Πολίτσανης δεν έχει τιμή, γιατί το μέρος αυτό μου έδωσε την ταυτότητά μου. Όπως δημιούργησε η Πολίτσανη τους προγόνους μου, έτσι και αυτοί με δημιούργησαν σαν τον εαυτό τους. Το αίμα τους τρέχει στις φλέβες μου, αλλά τα πιό σημαντικά, τα αισθήματα, η περηφάνεια, η πίστη, η ιστορία και η αγάπη τους, ζούνε μέσα στην καρδιά μου. Τελικά τα φαντάσματα δεν είναι πιά φαντάσματα, τα ονόματα στους τάφους και τα πρόσωπα στις ξεθωριασμένες φωτογραφίες ζούνε μέσα μας και όποιος μπορεί να το δεί το καταλαβαίνει, ότι μένουν αθάνατοι στην μνήμη μας. Η Πολίτσανη δεν μας ξεχνά, φτάνει να μην την ξεχάσουμε και εμείς. Σταύρος Νικολάου Νάσσης Αθήναι, 1 Αυγούστου 2007
With the outbreak of the World War in 1914, a reign of terror descended upon the land of Pontos, a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey which had been occupied by Greeks since antiquity. In dispatches from Constantinople the Austrian ambassador Pallavicini reported the of death and destruction that swept Greek villages throughout the Pontos. He relayed that Greek women and children were detained and carried off into captivity to be converted forcibly to Islam. His dispatches also reported that the Austrian Consul in Samsoun was told by the town's mayor that "we are getting rid of the Greeks as we did the Armenians." On July 31, 1917, before Greece had even entered the war, the Austrian Chancellor Hollweg reported to his cabinet that "all indications are that the Turks plan to eliminate the Greek element as enemies of the state, as they did earlier the Armenians. The strategy implemented by the Turks is of displacing people to the interior without taking measures for their survival by exposing them to death, hunger and illness. The abandoned homes are then looted and burned or destroyed."
All Christian men between the ages of 20-50 were told to report for military service within eleven days. The Christian recruits were not assigned to regular military units nor were they allowed to bear arms, instead they were assigned to the infamous labor battalions, the Amele Taroubou. These recruits were overworked and lacking food, clothing and shelter, the life expectancy in these units was less than 4 months. Many Christians deserted and went into hiding. It was the search for the fugitives or deserters that gave the Turkish gendarmes and vigilante Muslim mobs the excuse to enter the villages and homes of the all infidels and to initiate the process of intimidation, rape, theft and murder throughout the Pontos. Between December 1916 and February 1917, the German Consul in Samsoun reported that in his region alone, on the pretext of seeking 300 Greek deserters, some 88 Greek villages were torched. Between 1914-1918 over 100,000 Pontic Greek unarmed civilians of all ages and gender perished at the hands of the Turks; and many others fled to Russia and Greece.
The Russians occupied the area in 1916 but after the fall of the Kerensky government in 1918, they withdrew not only from Pontos but also from the adjacent territories of Kars and Ardahan, which had been annexed by Russia in 1878. With this withdrawal, thousands of Pontians, some 70,000 from Kars alone, followed the Russian army into the Caucasus, fearful for their lives in the wake of the advancing Turkish troops. Their situation was so desperate that the British control authorities in Batoum, Georgia demanded that the Greek Government repatriate these destitute refugees to Greece.
In May 1919, the Greek Government created a special delegation under the leadership of writer Nikos Kazantzakis to help the Greeks of the Caucasus. Kazantakis' mission was to save thousands of destitute refugees who were trying to escape from the areas of the Caucasus that were falling to the Turkish army. In the interior of Southern Russia, thousands of other Greeks were trying to reach the cities of Tiflis (Tbilisi) and Batumi before the advancement of the Bolshevik army. Over 110,ooo refugees were evacuated resettled in Northern Greece. The following is an excerpt from Report to Greco, the autobiography written by Kazantzakis, published by his widow in 1961 and beautifully translated by P.A. Bien:
The ship was filled with human beings uprooted from their land; I was on my way to transplant them in Greece. People, horses, oxen, kneading troughs, cradles, mattresses, holy icons, Bibles, picks, shovels—all were fleeing the Bolsheviks and Kurds and traveling toward free Greece. It is in no way shame- ful to say that I was deeply moved. I felt as though I were a centaur and that this ship with the great troop on it, was my body from the neck down.
This video was shown at the 2009 Gabby Awards and featured the singing of Glykeria. More on this gathering of Greek-Americans that took place in Chicago here.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names,” Chinese Proverb.
Modern Greeks don’t generally hold Northern Epirotes in high esteem. They tend to equate them to Albanians, a people generally considered as culturally inferior in the common consciousness. This particular trait of self-loathing is nothing new by the way. When the Asia Minor refugees arrived in Greece, expecting to find a safe haven from persecution and intolerance, they too were segregated, isolated, and made subjects of derision. The irony is greater however, in the case of the Northern Epirotes, because their ancestor’s endeavours and bequests are responsible for the construction of most of the landmarks of Athens and the foundation of some of its most enduring educational and financial institutions.
Having endured some of the harshest forms persecution for approximately seventy years, which they did stoically, their eyes forever fixed upon Greece as a symbol of hope, Northern Epirotes generally find that apathy at best is their compatriots’ response to their plight. Sometimes, that apathy inexplicably turns into hostility, as is the sorry case among some insular Epirot groups here in Melbourne, unaffiliated to the Panepriotic Federation of Australia, and as was recently attested to in a bizarre incident in Canberra where a representative of a Sydney Epirot group purported to tear up Australian Hellenic Council submissions to Parliament on the subject of human rights for Northern Epirotes, claiming that “there is no issue,” and implying that he had been asked by ‘higher Hellenic powers,” to commit such a heinous act..
The human rights of ethnic Greeks in Northern Epirus seems to be of secondary concern when it comes to Greek government policy on bilateral relations with Albania. Just three months after the official state visit of Greek PM Karamanlis to Albania, a visit touted as a great success by his government, and his undertaking to support Albania’s accession to the EU, the Albanian PM, Sali Berisha, former doctor of the paranoid Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, has chosen to reciprocate, by announcing his plans to change all Greek toponyms in Albania to ones derived from “ancient Albanian.”
The ludicrousness of such a decision is immediately apparent. Firstly, no archaeological or literary records exist, attesting to an ancient Albanian language. Secondly, no amount of name changing can mask the fact that Northern Epirus has formed part of the Greek cultural world for over two millennia. The vast majority of toponyms in Southern Albania and coastal Albania are of Greek origin, simply because these places were or are founded and inhabited by Greeks. Dürres, for example, is Dyrrahion – the ancient Epidamnos. Gjirokastër is Argyrokastro, Himarë is Cheimarra and the list goes on endlessly. To change the names of these places is to deny their history.
Read the whole thing here.
by Dean Kalimniou
His Honour, the Mayor of Cheimarra Vasilis Bolanos, is currently languishing in prison. Some people have called him a criminal. I on the other hand, believe that he is the most stalwart Hellene I have ever had the privilege to meet. A cursory glance of any given year's batch of Diatribes will reveal as least one or two references to him. Vasilis Bolanos is the mayor of a historically Greek region that successive Albanian governments have deemed fit to keep out of the recognized "Greek minority zone." As a result, the Greek character of the majority of the inhabitants of the region is denied to them and they cannot enjoy the basic privilege of education in their mother tongue, or even the basic human right of being able to determine their own ethnic identity. Despite this non-recognition, successive Albanian governments have had to deal with the election of an ethnic Greek mayor over successive elections. This is somewhat embarrassing as it is difficult to explain why an ethnic Greek would be continuously re-elected in a region that is supposed to be non-Greek. Over the years, various Albanian groups have: beaten up and stabbed voters, stolen ballot boxes, engaged in blackmail and resorted to the Courts in order to have elections that Vasilis Bolanos had won, invalid. Despite all this, Vasilis Bolanos gets re-elected every time.
I will never forget driving with him through the village of Shen Vasilj, (Άγιος Βασίλειος), formerly inhabited exclusively by ethnic Greeks. As we struggled to negotiate the tortuous, pot-holed road, we came upon a desolate square, bordered all around by drab yellowing stone walls. On the far wall, in red ink, this slogan slashed its way across the brick-work: «ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ ΣΤΟΥΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΕΣ.» I looked at the ruddy complexioned Bolanos out of the corner of his eye. His jaw had tightened, his lips had pursed so that I could see small rivulets of veins appearing at the corners of his mouth. Then with a twinkle of this eyes, he quipped: "Yeah, well now I think you know what these people's attitude is to Greek package tours."
If generalizations are ever permissible, one would venture to say that Cheimarriots are generally known to be stoic, inflexible and more unflinchingly patriotic than their compatriots. It is this unquestioned commitment to the Hellenic cause that has made the region of Cheimarra suffer perhaps more than any other under successive Albanian regimes. It was the Cheimarriots refusal to support the Communist Hoxha regime (after all, as early as 1914 their captain Spyros Spyromilios had declared the union of Cheimarra with Greece) that saw him ensure that they were not included in the government-sanctioned minority zone. Amazingly, they retained their language and traditions despite the official prohibitions and dire punishments in store for those who would assert the Greek character of the region. Vasilis Bolanos, who is also the president of Omonoia, the organisation that champions the awarding of human rights to the Greeks of Albania, is thus merely continuing in the tradition of his kinfolk. He does so in Cheimarriot fashion, commemorating Greek national days, raising the Greek flag and doing his upmost to convince Albanian public opinion, imbued for the large part as it is with nationalist exclusivist myths, that a Greek ethno-cultural affiliation can harmoniously co-exist with an Albanian nationality.
Read the whole thing here.
Based on a True Story
Darkness embraced the small village of Neohori on the banks of the Bosporus. Panagioti looked up momentarily from the days receipts to say good night to his employees who were leaving for home. The store turned eerily quiet. The silence broken only by the comforting heartbeat of the railroad clock on the wall behind him. He turned off the light while his little white dog Bella tarried a while longer near her customary place near the wood stove. She waited for the next to last shutter to close and ran out to join her master before he locked the door of the grocery store.
There was a chill that night, the leaves had already started to fall and the wind would whip a pile into the air, swirling them around and around. Panagioti turned up his collar and picked up his step with Bella trailing behind him. He opened the heavy oak door turning the polished brass door knob and stepped into the carpeted hallway of his home. His senses were bombarded with a pleasant warmth and the smell of food cooking in the kitchen. Panagioti's two daughters, thirteen year old Fereniki and eight year old Evelini ran to meet him and hug him while Bella jumped on them balancing on her hind legs while her tail swung furiously to and fro. As he took off his coat his wife and Elias, his eleven year old son emerged from the kitchen to greet him.
Evdoxia had a worried look on her face and Pangioti sensed it immediately. "What's wrong?" he said in a hushed tone. "It's Evelini, she has what appears to be a small boil on her face. I only noticed it today and I tried some warm compresses on it. It didn't help but it doesn't bother her too much." Panagioti washed his hands in the kitchen and went into the dining room where the table was laid out for dinner.
"Come here a moment my sweet girl," he motioned to Evelini who was playing with Bella. As she approached he noticed a reddened area on the side of her cheek which was slightly swollen. "Does it hurt much?" he asked. "No patera, it's fine." Alright, dear but I think we should let Dr. Pantelis look at it in the morning, now why don't we eat the wonderful dinner your mama has prepared for us. They all sat down including Bella who took her customary seat behind Evelini. Panagioti lead them all reciting the Our Father and after crossing themselves they all began to eat. Fereniki was teasing Elias who was about to pull her hair but was frozen in the act by his father's glare. Evelini unobtrusively lowered a morsel of food below the table where Bella was waiting quietly to eat it from her hand. "A good day at the store today,"said Panagioti to Evdoxia. "We received delivery of the machine I ordered to slice pastrouma. We will be the only establishment in Neohori with such a contraption and I daresay that the Bey's cook will be very happy to present those paper thin slices at his table." "I love pastrouma." said Fereniki "Mind that you eat your supper before you dream about treats like that" Evdoxia proclaimed, smiling.
Once dinner was over Panagioti took his customary seat in the parlor where he read his newspaper. The world was still reeling from the effects of a worlwide depression. The oldest girl, Fereniki helped her mother clear the table while her brother appeared to be working on his lessons while surreptitiously hiding a small magazine in his mathematics book.. The youngest, Evelini was playing with a doll when she marched over to her father and asked him if she could recite a poem. " Would you like to hear my new poem, patera?" "Of course, my child." Evdoxia peeked at them from the kitchen. Half way through the poem, Panagioti would always say something to distract her, she would lose her train of thought, giggle and start again from the beginning. It was a game they played.
The house was quiet by the time Evdoxia finished her chores in the kitchen. The children were already in bed and Evdoxia feeling quite exhausted headed for her bedroom. She lingered for awhile at the family icons, an oil lamp flickering in front of them and said a silent prayer after which she laid down next to Panagioti who was already fast asleep. A few hours later she was awakened suddenly by the crying of a child. She looked at the alarm clock next to the bed. It was one o'clock and she ran quietly to the sound of the crying. It was Evelini, Fereniki was holding her hand. When she turned the light on she was shocked by the swelling on one side of the child's face. Her eye was swollen shut. She crossed herself and put her arms around Evelini who was burning up with fever and drenched in sweat. Panagioti walked into the room, crouching in front of them. He was white as a ghost. "I'll fetch the doctor."
Pangioti didn't remember how he got to Dr. Pantelis' home nor the trip back to his own home. All he could remember were the words Dr. Pantelis had spoken, "The child has a serious skin infection called Erisypelas. I have done all I can do. The rest is in God's hands." Those words kept repeating themselves in his head over and over again. He was supposed to be his family's protector, their eyes were upon him, pleading and for the first time in his life he was totally helpless. Evelini was vomiting now. "I'm going to get Father Arsenios." he told his wife and ran into the street toward his home near the Church. Breathless he arrived there and began banging on the door. "Father please, it's Panagioti Gellati." The door opened slowly. It was Father's wife, Polixeni. "What's wrong Panagioti?" "It's my daughter she is seriously ill and I need Father to come to my home to pray for her." "Oh my, but Father left yesterday for Imbros to pay his sister a visit."
Panagioti stood on the marble steps in a daze. The wind picked up as the first raindrops began to fall. Polixeni continued speaking but her words were lost in the deluge that followed. Panagioti stumbled home passing by the wharf where the fishermen tied up their boats. The masts swung back and forth as the water churned below them. Plodding home with his head down, he kept repeating, "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner," endlessly. "Where are you going in this rain, efenti. Even the fish seek shelter." Panagioti looked up. It was Osman the fisherman. Osman was a devout Muslim and a simple fisherman who was respected by Greeks and Turks alike for his piety. The Muslims who lived in Neohori often called upon him to pray for the sick. Panagioti had always been impressed by his soft spoken humility and his honesty. His clothes were covered with patches. "OSMAN!" he shouted for joy and put his arms around him in a bear hug. "Peace be upon you, efendi." "You must come with me and pray for my sick child. I beg of you." Osman looked into his eyes and said: "The Prophet teaches us: Show compassion to those on earth, and the One in the heavens will show mercy upon you. How can I do otherwise. Quickly, show me the way." They plodded through the narrow streets together. Each reciting a different prayer to the same God.
As the door closed behind them, the sound of the rain became muffled. Osman turned to Panagioti and asked for a basin of water while he removed his shoes. Standing in his bare feet he knelt. Cupping water in his hands he washed his face, then his hands, arms up to the elbows, he wiped his hair back, and washed his feet to the ankles. The two men climbed the stairs to the girl's room. Evdoxia was sitting on the bed next to her daughter wringing a washcloth in a small basin and draping it on her forehead. She looked up, surprised to see Osman in the room. Panagioti sensing her discomfort, said: "This is my friend Osman, God sent him to us and he has kindly consented to pray for our Evelini." Evdoxia looked perplexed but she said nothing. Osman smiled, knelt at the foot of the bed with his prayer beads and prayer book in his outstretched hands. He began to pray softly. "O Allah remove the hardship, O Lord of mankind, grant cure for You are the Healer. There is no cure but from You, a cure which leaves no illness behind." He touched his head to the floor. Panagioti also knelt beside him and prayed softly.
After an hour, Osman stood quietly and walked over to Evelini. He held her hand briefly, turned and put his hand on Panayioti's shoulder whispering "It is in the hands of God now." He walked out of the room, down the stairs, put his shoes on and opened the door. Panagioti rushed down to catch him before he left. "Osman, don't leave without letting me thank you." He placed a handful of bills into his huge rough hand. "There is no need for bahsis. I do this willingly for you. There are plenty of poor people much more deserving, give it to them. May Allah bless your home and those underneath your roof." He opened the door and walked out into the night.
Panagioti climbed the stairs to Evelini's bedroom, she was asleep and her mother was sleeping next to her. Panagioti collapsed in the chair, watching them until the sun began peeking through the shutters at dawn until sleep overtook him. A few hours later, Evdoxia shook him awake, "Wake up Panagioti, wake up, look, look, it's a miracle, a miracle. The fever has broken and the swelling is almost gone." He opened his eyes to see Evelini sitting up in bed smiling with Bella on her lap wagging her tail. Tears ran down his cheeks as he embraced his daughter, kissing her repeatedly while the sunlight of a new day bathed the room.
Η άλλη Ελλλάδα
ξεχάστικε αλλά δέν ξεχνάει.
Η άλλη Ελλάδα κοιτάει εμπρός,
θυμάται το παρελθόν
καί κρατάει τήν Ρωμιωσίνη μές στήν καρδιά της.
Η άλλη Ελλαδα δέν έχει σύνορα,
αγονίζεται να μείνει Ελληνική
Τιμάει τό φιλότιμο καί τό σεβασμό,
τά σχολεία της καί τήν αλήθεια.
Δεν περιμένει χατσιρλίκη από τούς γονείς,
δουλειά από τό δημόσιο καί λύση από προδότες.
Τά παιδιά της δέν είναι παιδιά τής γής
είναι παιδιά τού Μακριγιάννη, Μπότσαρη. καί τού Γρίβα.
Η άλλη Ελλάδα θυσιάζεται γιά τά παιδιά της,
όμως δέν κυβερνήται από αυτά.
Στήν άλλη Ελλάδα δέν φταίει κάποιος άλλος.
Περιμένει τήν ώρα καί τήν στιγμή όταν θά υπάρχη μόνο μία Ελλάδα
πάλι περίφανη καί εξαιρετική.
Μιά Ελλάδα πού πιστεύει στόν Θεό καί στόν εαυτό της
καί πού ανάβει παλι τήν λαμπάδα γιά όλο τόν κόσμο.
The other Greece
is forgotten but does not forget.
The other Greece looks forward,
but remembers the past,
and keeps Romiosini in its heart.
The other Greece does not have borders,
it struggles to remain Greek.
It honors filotimo and respect
its schools and truth.
It does not expect an allowance from its parents,
a job from the state, and solutions from traitors.
Her children are not the children of the earth,
they are the children of Makrigiannis, Botsaris and Grivas.
The other Greece sacrifices for its children,
but is not governed by them.
In the other Greece the blame does not belong to someone else.
She waits for the time when there will be only one Greece again,
proud and exceptional.
One Greece that believes in God and in herself,
and that lights again the torch for the entire world.
by Dean Kalimniou
The democratic Albanian government continues to deny the existence of the Greek character of Cheimarra. This is strange considering that its mayor is also the leader of the Union for Human Rights Party, a party that champions the rights of Albania´s minorities. This is as close to an ´ethnic´ party as one can get in Albania. While the Albanians are free to organise political parties on the basis of race in Kosovo and FYROM, they deny this to their own minorities. Vasilis Bolanos thus receives his votes because his constituents believe that he can advance the rights of the Greek minority in his region. Despite this, the Albanian government will not permit the operation of Greek language schools in the region. This does not seem to make any difference to the mayor. He takes me to a newly whitewashed, state of the art building covered with the drawings of children. "That is our Greek school," he states proudly. We sit in the playground, while the aged Greek school teacher recounts the difficulties of teaching Greek during the communist regime. Party cadres would take the children aside and ask them if they were being taught Greek, or whether their teacher was teaching them about God. What they did not reckon with was the response: "Yes of course." Brutal beatings and a sojourn in a work camp ensued. We sat silently watching a herd of goats cross a bridge, walk down the road and climb the steps of the school-house. "Yes," Vasilis Bolanos broke the silence. "We have the most well-educated goats in all of Northern Epirus."
Being a politician in Cheimarra is not easy. Election time in Cheimarra usually consists of the Albanian government busing in busloads of ruffians, to intimidate the local inhabitants and steal the ballot boxes. In 2001, a young Greek man was stabbed in the street by some of these ruffians. Early this year, a seventy-five year old elderly gentleman, also going by the surname of Bolanos, was stabbed to death in a random attack by an Albanian, outside his home. His only crime was that he was Greek and that he was related to the mayor of the town.
Anywhere you go in Albania, you find the European flag flying next to the Albanian one, leading one to believe that Albania is on track for entry into the European Union or that in the least, it subscribes to its guiding principles. It was for this reason that Vasilis Bolanos removed the road-signs in Cheimarra last December. All countries in Europe except Albania have signed a Council of Europe agreement that calls for bilingual road signs in areas where ethnic groups in a country are concentrated. Vasilis Bolanos considered that since Cheimarra was predominantly Greek in ethnic composition, it should have bilingual road signs. Big mistake. Even in the recognised minority villages, closer to the border, bilingual road signs were only introduced in 2006, in the wake of Greek President Karolos Papoulias´ visit to Northern Epiros, and even then, these road signs were placed on the main road from the border and serve as little more than window dressing for a regime that is definitely not enlightened when it comes to its policy on ethnic minority rights.
Albania has been promising since 1991 to sign the agreement but has yet to do it. The Albanian government´s own State Committee on Minorities has repeatedly urged Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to sign the agreement, to know avail. Interestingly enough, Berisha was president of Albania in 1994 when he ordered the arrest of five leaders of Omonia, the Greek political party, on false charges of espionage. They were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms but were released after 10 months as a result of an international outcry against this injustice. Berisha´s relentless efforts to persecute the Omonia leaders on patently false charges ultimately undermined his international standing, especially in Washington, and he fell from power in 1997. He moderated his stance, declaring that Albania´s minorities were an asset for the country, and his party won the 2005 elections, returning him to power.
Vasilis Bolanos´ brave gesture of defiance was interpreted by an unrepentant and hypocritical Sali Berisha government for what it is: a proclamation that Cheimarra is not the homogenous Albanian town that the authorities would have you believe it is and that it is the repository of 3,000 years of Greek history. These things take a while to sink in. For though the road signs were removed in December last year, Vasilis Bolanos was only indicted on 28 May 2008. The fact that he was indicted just AFTER his elderly relative was stabbed to death probably indicates that the said indictment was specifically timed so as to intimidate him not to protest too loudly about the continued abuse of the Greek minority by the Albanian authorities.
Read the whole thing here .
Why do Greeks always feel the need to attack each other? Why would a Greek living in Australia feel the need to criticize others living in far off America for not living up to his standards of Hellenic purity? Just "pitas and Kalamatiano." I always get a kick out of the so-called arbiters of Greekness expounding on the greatness of ancient Hellenism while they amble aimlessly through their imaginary agora. For them, the "illiterate peasants" who don't carry a copy of Marcus Aurelius or Plato in their pocket are always found wanting. These peasants with their fawning acceptance of the teachings of a Jewish carpenter, their dirty hands, their lack of appropriate education and refinement while clinging to outmoded traditions. These people don't quite live up to the idealized view that their superiors have created for themselves.
When I was in Greece last summer I was watching a talk show on television. An imported Greek version of corrupt American culture, as some would point out. The subject was mother-in-laws. Interestingly a young Athenian woman called and started complaining about her husband's parents. They were farming folk who lived in a small village in Epirus. She confessed she was repelled by them and refused to allow them to touch their grandchild. I was stunned, just thinking how this young woman who claimed to love her husband very much, could look down with such disgust on the very people who helped create the person she fell in love with. This sense of elitism is not, of course, a problem confined to any one country. It is universal. It is being played out this very moment in the current American election battle, where Sarah Palin is held up as an incompetent, small town yokel that couldn't possible govern, since she is not a product of the "intellectual" elites, who reserve the right to inform the lesser mortals, what's good for us.
Contrary to popular opinion we are not all created equal. Each of us is unique, the product of a strange combination of inherited qualities and the experiences of a lifetime. I am not arguing that there is a level playing field. Obviously there is not. What I am suggesting however is that despite our various differences in capacity, we shouldn't underestimate those who don't fit into our pre-conceived notions, As Socrates points out: "a reputation for capacity" does not guarantee wisdom. In fact, Socrates encouraged every citizen to ask how he could live a life of justice and excellence. The far flung vestiges of what remains of Hellenic ideals are to be found, not in the current crop of over wrought middle-aged Neo-Hellenes who prance around in front of curious onlookers dressed up in crisp looking costumes while extending offerings to their Olympian Gods. For me at least they are to be found in the people who exemplify those ideals in the example of their own lives. People like Chrysostomos of Smyrna, Amphilochios Makris, Louis Tikas, George Dilboy and Spyridon Loues.
Italy, a land of distinctive culture, is also full of linguistic diversity. The language officially spoken today is a convention of the 19th century Accademia della Crusca, which emerged after the wars of unification (Risorgimento, circa 1848-1861). At that time, the intent was to forge an Italian people by forcing them to speak one standard language. This effort was only partially successful. Today within Italy's borders one can find pockets of minority languages like Sardinian, Albanian, and Friulan. Furthermore, while many Italians have a strong sense of Italian identity, they hold allegiances to their own towns and local dialects. An example is Griko, a near-extinct variant of Greek and other interspersed elements, spoken in a few villages in Salento (the Salentine plain), in Puglie, and in Calabria. These regions are located in Southern Italy, the ancient Magna Graecia, colonized by many Greek cities from 600 B.C.E. onward.
Speakers of Griko, who live and operate in Italy as fully assimilated Italians, call themselves Griki. This is not a paradox to them: although they are full-fledged Italian citizens, they are acutely aware of their Greek roots and they maintain multiple identities. They easily switch back and forth between Italian and the two local dialects, Romanzo, which is Italian based, and Griko. A key to their identity, and a factor that makes them unique, is their strong defense of Griko.
In the Magna Graecia of antiquity, Greek was the language of preference; it was, however, interchanged with Latin and other languages. There, in busy day-to-day interactions, migrants, merchants, and clerks were familiar with several tongues. The consensus of most linguists is that ancestors of present-day speakers were migrant workers who came to southern Italy from impoverished mainland Greece and surrounding islands to work the rich estates of Roman landowners. Over the centuries, these farmhands were ignored by policy-makers, soldiers, and other invaders who "conquered" Italy. Ironically, the low status of the Griki may, in the long run, have served to "save" their language and culture.
The collapse of the Roman Empire (circa 476 C.E.) put the lower part of the Italian Mediterranean firmly under the influence of Byzantium, and, as cultural and commercial exchange increased, local use of Greek strengthened. Although the rise of the Ottoman Empire (circa 1288 C.E.) brought more change, the area returned to the influence of Christianity during the Counter-Reformation (circa 1545 C.E.), and Rome abolished Greek Orthodox rites. No longer able to worship in their native tongue, Griki went back to their ancient festivals and to their traditional music. From that time onward, as Latin Christian rituals became unintelligible, they sang their Mass in Griko in the streets. Not only did they hold on to their language; they shared much of their culture with speakers of Romanzo.
After the Risorgimento, the new government imposed Italian as the official language. In practice, however, only the wealthy could afford to stay in school to learn it properly. Griko villages remained essentially trilingual, with Italian reserved for higher education and official business; Romanzo used for everyday business; and Griko, the language of family and friendship, continuing to provide identity. There was no social mobility in speaking Griko. The easiest way to preserve Griko would have been to speak it to children; the young, however, were taught "the languages of progress" -- Italian, English, and more recently, Modern Greek. Along with out-marriage and emigration, educational factors substantially reduced the number of Griko speakers.
Starting from the latter part of the 19th century, Griko was actively reconstructed and studied. This effort continues today, thanks to a number of writers, students, and artists. These Griki are continuing their mission to save their language. To increase readership, literary works are being published in Griko, Italian, and sometimes in Romanzo. Group identity is being maintained with rituals that celebrate ancient traditions. Street festivals, which had fallen into disuse after WWII, are revitalizing the community.
In addition, the age of the Internet has given efforts to save Griko new weapons. Most of present-day Griki communicate through "Magna Graecia," a very active Internet forum rendering traditional village boundaries obsolete.
Recently, The European Union granted Griko "endangered language" status, and steps have been taken to introduce it into the school system. However, this legal protection has changed efforts to preserve the language. With children learning Griko in school, and, more importantly, learning the traditional culture, the "need to save Griko" seems less compelling and becomes less important as an aspect of Griki identity.
Perhaps a study of the efforts to revitalize modern Griko can offer valuable lessons which can be applied to other cultures. With typical hospitality, the group welcomes newcomers, even the odd anthropologist. My questions and comments online and my visits to Salento have been received with generosity. I've heard elders who see themselves as linguistic fossils speak Romanzo or Italian to children in order to give them social mobility. I've seen vigorous debates on whether to use the Greek or Latin alphabet, and on whether Italian words should be substituted for Greek ones. Most of all, I have seen Griko read, spoken, and sung with love.
Reading about Japan I came across an author that had Greek roots like myself and shared the same fascination with Japan that I did. His name was Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. Hearn was born on the Ionian island of Lefkada. His mother was a Greek woman named Rosa Cassimatis from a prominent Greek family of the island of Cythera. She fell in love with a British Army surgeon of Irish Protestant stock named Charles Hearn and became pregnant. As a result, he was stabbed by Rosa's brother to avenge the family honor, nearly dying, but was nursed back to health by Rosa herself. Hearn's parents were married in a Greek Orthodox ceremony and Lafacadio was baptized. Eventually at the age of 2, Hearn and his mother moved to Dublin however the marriage failed, and his parents divorced. Rosa remarried and Lafcadio was raised by an aunt. At the age 0f 19 he moved to America where he lived for twenty years working as a journalist until he took a position as a correspondent in Japan.
Hearn arrived in Japan in 1890 and quickly fell in love with the country and its people by virtue of a teaching stint in the provincial town of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture,where he married the daughter of a local samurai. Taking the name Yakumo Koizumi upon assuming citizenship in 1896, Hearn produced several works, including, "Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan" and "Out of the East," which portrayed in time-capsule fashion to the West the romantic and mystical traditions of a rapidly modernizing Japan. In 1903, however, due to an argument that filled him with disappointment, Hearn quit an English literature post he had held since 1896 at Tokyo Imperial University. He felt persecuted by the European community in Japan: "I did the best I could, almost alone, and the result has been well-spoken of by European men of Japanese culture, Hearn lamented, "I have long been a subject of persecution in Japan. For many years, I have been isolated -- unable to meet or to have other friends, other than Japanese."
His biographer, Roger Pulvers writes of Hearn: He came to Japan at a time when virtually all foreigners were there to instruct, pontificate and lord themselves over the Oriental upstart; yet he himself came solely to learn, to discover what his temperament had taught him was beautiful and potent in the human spirit. Fresh off the ship in 1890, he wrote of the Japanese to his friend, Elizabeth Bisland, "I believe that their art is as far in advance of our art as old Greek art was superior to that of the earliest European art. We are barbarians! I do not merely think these things: I am as sure of them as of death. I only wish I could be reincarnated in some little Japanese baby, so that I could see and feel the world as beautifully as a Japanese brain does." It was hard for Japanese to resist such blatant adoration, focused as it was on their sheer uniqueness.
The following are extracts from a book written by Hearn in 104, entitled "Impressions of Japan" (full texts of some oh his books are available here):
My own first impressions of Japan,--Japan as seen in the white sunshine of a perfect spring day,--had doubtless much in common with the average of such experiences. I remember especially the wonder and the delight of the vision. The wonder and the delight have never passed away: they are often revived for me even now, by some chance happening, after fourteen years of sojourn. But the reason of these feelings was difficult to learn,--or at least to guess; for I cannot yet claim to know much about Japan .... Long ago the best and dearest Japanese friend I ever had said to me, a little before his death:"When you find, in four or five years more, that you cannot understand the Japanese at all, then you will begin to know something about them."
Some of us, at least, have often wished that it were possible to live for a season in the beautiful vanished world of Greek culture. Inspired by our first acquaintance with the charm of Greek art and thought, this wish comes to us even before we are capable of imagining the true conditions of the antique civilization. If the wish could be realized, we should certainly find it impossible to accommodate ourselves to those conditions,--not so much because of the difficulty of learning the environment, as because of the much greater difficulty of feeling just as people used to feel some thirty centuries ago. In spite of all that has been done for Greek studies since the Renaissance, we are still unable to understand many aspects of the old Greek life: no modern mind can really feel, for example, those sentiments and emotions to which the great tragedy of Oedipus made appeal. Nevertheless we are much in advance of our forefathers of the eighteenth century, as regards the knowledge of Greek civilization. In the time of the French revolution, it was thought possible to reestablish in France the conditions of a Greek republic, and to educate children according to the system of Sparta. To-day we are well aware that no mind developed by modern civilization could find happiness under any of those socialistic despotisms which existed in all the cities of the ancient world before the Roman conquest. We could no more mingle with the old Greek life, if it were resurrected for us,--no more become a part of it,--than we could change our mental identities. But how much would we not give for the delight of beholding it,--for the joy of attending one festival in Corinth, or of witnessing the Pan-Hellenic games? ... And yet, to witness the revival of some perished Greek civilization,--to walk about the very Crotona of Pythagoras,--to wander through the Syracuse of Theocritus,--were not any more of a privilege than is the opportunity actually afforded us to study Japanese life. Indeed, from the evolutional point of view, it were less of a privilege,--since Japan offers us the living spectacle of conditions older, and psychologically much farther away from us,than those of any Greek period with which art and literature have made us closely acquainted.
Pulvers writes: He created an illusion and lived his days and nights within its confines. That illusion was his Japan. He found in Japan the ideal coupling of the cerebral and the sensual, mingled and indistinguishable, the one constantly recharging the other and affording him the inspiration to write. It was hard for the Japanese to resist such blatant adoration, focused as it was on their sheer uniqueness. One hundred and fifty years have passed since the birth of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. This orphan of Europe — transported at age 19 to the United States and later, aged nearly 40, to Japan — found in this country what he had been seeking everywhere: a sanctuary for his imagination. In the decades following his death in Tokyo in 1904, the Japanese crowned him with their ultimate laurel; he became their "gaijin" laureate, the single greatest interpreter, in their eyes, of their inmost cultural secrets.
My great grandfather, Yiorgo came to Constantinople at the turn of the century to make his fortune as a grocer in a village along the banks of the Bosporus named Neohori or Yenikoy, in Turkish, which means New Village. Later, he handed the business over to his son Panayiotis, my maternal grandfather, who brought his family from our ancestral home in Northern Epirus to join him. My mother and her two siblings have fond memories of growing up in Neohori in the 1920s and 1930s. The few Greeks who are left in the villages along the Bosporus remind us of a multicultural and more tolerant City. Unfortunately, the once vibrant Greek community is only a pale shadow of its former self. On the banks of villages like Neohori Greek fishermen and farmers have eked out a living on the margins of history in Istanbul. There were also pockets of Armenians and Jews here and there. In the 19th century, although located next to the City, villages like Neohori remained distant, accessible only by kaikia (boats) or by horse. The overcrowding, lack of hygiene and epidemics, not to mention the unbreathable atmosphere within the walls of the City in the summer months made these villages attractive to foreign ambassadors, Phanariotes, and Turkish pashas who built grand villas on the shores of the Bosporus emblematic of their luxurious lifestyle and refined tastes. These vacation homes, always constructed of wood, were called "giali." The giali changed not only the appearance but also the social reality of the villages. The Greek fishermen and farmers lived adjacent to members of a multinational aristocracy and bourgeoisie that transformed these villages into affluent resorts. As Greeks from Northern Epirus began to migrate to these villages they were nicknamed Arvanitochori. Mixing with Greeks from Thrace and the Aegean islands, they rekindled the Roman character of the area.
In doing the research for this post I discovered that my favorite Greek poet, Constantine Kavafy lived in Neohori for three years as an adolescent. His mother Harikleia Fotiadou came from a Constantinopolitan family and after the death of Kavafy's father, the family's serious economic straits brought them from Egypt to Constantinople. Kavafy fell in love with the panoramas and the natural beauty that the village was surrounded by. In particular he loved to walk in the green hills and along, the seaside promenades between Neohori and Therapies, which remain the finest the Bosphorus has to offer.
For the current residents of the City, Yenikoy, is synonymous with expensive restaurants, cafes, confectioneries, villas and beaches. The
Greek population began to wither in the 60s replaced by an influx of well to do Turks. Every Easter the small congregations of the two active churches, Panagia Koumariotissa and Agios Nikoloas celebrate the Resurrection service and the mixed congregation of Greek, Russian and other Orthodox faithful wander home with lighted candles to their homes. Young bystanders stare at them, perplexed, with benign curiosity: "Why carry lit candles? Celebrating something? they ask oblivious of the areas former character.
The soul of the community is Lakis Vigkas, chairman of the Association of Graduates of Zografeiou Lyceum (one of the major Greek schools of Constantinople). He looks after a small enclave of elderly men and women and a few Greek entrepreneurs and their families who stubbornly persist in the City. Despite the hectic pace of his work, he is actively involved in renovation projects at the Churches and Greek cemetery, looking after the elderly members of the community, chanting in church on Sundays and organizing cultural events. "I belong to the new generation, but I carry the memories of old," he says. He explains the anguish of rescuing the physical memory of a once vibrant community. "If you lose a cemetery, you've a lost chapter in the history of Romiosini." Father of three children, Lakis looks to the future. "Young people, descendants of former residents, are returning to settle in the City," he says with a tone of optimism. Perhaps this new blood may overcome the stereotypes and wounds of the past and thereby help Romiosini survive in the city of its birth.
Ξένε, σαν δης ένα χωριό όπου γελάει η φύσις,
κ’ εις κάθε πλάτανο κοντά που κρύπτεται μια κόρη
ωραία σαν το τριαντάφυλλο — εκεί να σταματήσης·
έφθασες, ξένε, στο Νιχώρι.
Κι όταν το βράδυ έλθη, αν βγης έξω να περπατήσης
και βρης εμπρός σου καρυδιές, στον δρόμο μη προχώρει
του ταξιδιού σου πια. Aλλού ποιον τόπο θα ζητήσης
καλύτερον απ’ το Νιχώρι.
Τέτοια δροσιά δεν έχουνε αλλού στον κόσμο οι βρύσεις,
των λόφων του την αρχοντιά αλλού δεν έχουν όρη·
και με της γης την μυρωδιά μονάχα θα μεθύσης,
ολίγο αν μείνης στο Νιχώρι.
Την πρασινάδα που θα δης εκεί να μην ελπίσης
που σ’ άλλο μέρος θα την βρης. Aπ’ το βουνό θεώρει
τους κάμπους κάτω και ειπέ πώς να μην αγαπήσης
αυτό μας το μικρό Νιχώρι.
Πως αγαπώ υπερβολές, ω ξένε, μη νομίσης.
Υπάρχουν τόποι εύφοροι πολλοί και καρποφόροι.
Πλην έχουν κάτι χωριστό, και συ θα ομολογήσης,
καρποί και άνθη στο Νιχώρι.
Εάν στης Κουμαριώτισσας της Παναγίας θελήσης
την εκκλησία να μπης μ’ εμέ, φανατικός συγχώρει
αν είμ’ εκεί. Άλλην, θαρρώ, χάριν οι παρακλήσεις
έχουνε στο πιστό Νιχώρι.
Aν δε να μείνης δεν μπορής, πριν, ξένε, αναχωρήσης
πρέπει να πας μια Κυριακή στην σκάλα στου Γρηγόρη·
ειρήνη, νιάτα, και χαρά θα δης, και θα εννοήσης
τι είναι αυτό μας το Νιχώρι.
(Από τα Κρυμμένα Ποιήματα 1877)
Greeks have always been travelers and explorers. Perhaps it was their restive nature, their innate curiosity about the world beyond or maybe it was just their adventuresome spirit. Ancient Greek traders set out to explore the world around them, to find new trade routes and to colonize areas that would expand their military and economic power. Wherever they went, Greeks brought a little bit of Greece with them. These connections in the form of religion, language, and customs, have been maintained with varying degrees of success. What is particularly impressive is that some communities have been able to do so for centuries and are still recognizable as essentially Greek.
Recently, I stumbled upon a blog that features travelogues by a young Greek who wanders throughout the "Greek world." When I refer to the Greek World, I refer, of course,to the many places where "Greek" communities outside of Greece still survive. As the editor points out: "What the people of these Hellenic communities have achieved seems to defy logic. Hellenic culture surviving against a background of a dwindling diaspora and the absence of government assistance and the Hellenic language enduring despite native speakers being a rarity in these regions."
Hellenic Travels to the Past is a blog that will take you to Greek enclaves in the most unlikely of places; places like the Ukraine, Georgia, and southern Italy. Here's a taste:
"It is estimated that there are 260,000 Greeks living in the Ukraine. What makes this figure even more incredible is when you compare how many descendants of ancient and Byzantine Greeks remain in other places such as southern Italy (Magna Graecia), which has approximately 35,000, or Georgia with 50,000. The Greeks of Ukraine have had to deal with the loss of Greek independence when Constantinople was captured in 1453; living in a foreign empire (under Russia and Ukraine); Russian wars with Turkey; famine and poverty; world wars; and communist rule. Perhaps it was communist rule that should have destroyed Hellenism in the Ukraine. Minorities under communist rule were not allowed to learn or speak their respective language, and for many Greeks, it wasn’t until 1991 that they were able to learn to speak their mother tongue. I am amazed at how well many Greeks have learnt modern Greek and how the ancient dialect has somehow survived despite the best efforts of the former communist regime to suppress the cultures of minorities.
One can’t help being inspired by visiting Marioupolis and the towns that surround the city, and the Greek towns. Despite the obstacles in their path, such as lower income rates (compared to the rest of Europe) and the effects of communism, there are many amazing people that I encountered who are a credit to the cause of maintaining Hellenism in their special region. There are 25 Greek towns and villages outside of Marioupolis and I had the pleasure of visiting six of them. From the moment I arrived until the day I departed from this country, I was impressed by the determination of the Greeks and their villages to survive. Many of these villages and towns have sizable populations. Sartana for example has 10,000 with 70% being of Greek origin. A visitor is immediately struck and impressed by how the Greeks paint the houses white with either blue or green windows and doors to signify their ancestry. This is the local Greek way of displaying their determination and willingness to show the whole world where their hearts lie."
Read the whole thing here.
Every year on the Feast Day of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15) the North Epirotan village of Politsani has a panigiri (festival). Politsanites from all over the world return to celebrate and to be with each other. A fellow Maine resident named Mike Dilios, who along with his brother is responsible for a very nice web site about Politsani, recently traveled to our village and took some amazing photos and videos of his trip. I'd like to share a few with you. For those interested in seeing more of the many photos and videos, they are available here and here. BTW, the two videos below depict the road going up to Politsani and some of the local entertainment at the one and only kafenion in town. Bravo Mihalaki. Long live Politsani and her people.
"Almost every ancient culture has this attachment to the land.
What else is there without a place to call home? When I stood on
that land, for the first time in my life I could actually feel my
ancestors, my grandparents. They became real to me for the first
time. They were as much a part of that land as the trees, the rocks,
the grasses. Their blood and sweat is mingled with the earth for
thousands of years. How can one walk away from that without feeling
that a part of oneself is somehow left behind, somehow missing,
like an amputated leg or arm that continues sending out sensations
to the brain, even though it's gone? Just the other day my mother
said to me, "you know, when you are born in a country, there is a
part of you that always feels that that country is your true home."
Thea Halo, author of "Not Even My Name"
"The adventurer-immigrant typically is a male, young,having few if any responsibilities in terms of family, quite frequently a seaman, but definitely a major risk-taker. As a result, a country like Greece, with national symbols and heroes like Odysseus and Jason and the Argonauts, being deep-rooted in its cultural tradition, folklore and literature, could not be without such "adventurers”.
Nicholas Minister was Greek. He was born on the Dodecanesan island of Patmos in 1850, a time when all the islands of this south-east Aegean Sea group were self-governed under the Turkish occupation. Coming from a poor and rather large family, with at least four sons that we know of (Nicholas himself, Peter, Mick and George), the only way to escape the poverty and hard times he and his family were experiencing, but also excited by the desire to make money and to see exotic places and meet different people, like so many other Greek islanders, Nicholas turned his sights and his hopes to the sea. Still a child, he left his rocky island to work on board a ship. Unfortunately, however, the first misfortune would hit him very soon. At the age of eleven he was shipwrecked off the shores of Italy, being the only crew member out of fourteen to survive. After this event, with his spirit undefeated and his physical strength intact, he worked on other ships. His determination to seek new experiences and reach distant and unusual destinations was not deterred. So, late in the 1870s we find him in Australia , ready to begin a new chapter in his adventurous life, full of successes and failures, far from his homeland which he would never see again."
Read the whole thing here. Hat tip to Hermes for bringing my attention to this interesting article.
powered by performancing firefox
Recently, my Uncle Elias pulled out some pictures to show me. They were from an old calender published by the Society of Constantinople, a fraternal organization of Constantinopolitan Greeks. He's been saving these pictures for years, because they depict some of the schools that he and his sister's attended during the 1920s and 30s. Sifting through them I was impressed by the fact that the Greek community in Constantinople was able to build an impressive educational infrastructure completely unsupported by the Turkish government. An educational system that was able to provide a Greek education which included elementary and high schools, in addition to a revered institution of higher learning, the Patriarchal School at Halki. The benefactors of this system were the Ottoman Greek bourgeoisie which included wealthy merchants and bankers such as Giorgios Zarifis, one of the founder's of the Zafiropoulos & Zarifis Bank. This bank played a major role in the management of the Ottoman government's public debt. Zafiris was a close confidant and personal banker to Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876-1908). This immensely influential Greek built the Great School of the Nation depicted below, situated in the Phanar district of Constantinople. Another very rich banker, Christaki Zographos, built one of the best boy's schools in Constantinople which is named after him, the Zografeion.
Wedding in 1905 uniting the two foremost Greek Banking families in Constantinople.
The Greek bourgeoisie class of Constantinople for all its accomplishments was swept aside during the course of the turbulent relationship between Greece and Turkey after the establishment of the modern Greek State. One of the most remarkable aspects of Greek history is that the Greeks of Constantinople were able to recover much of the economic and political power which they lost after the Greek War of Independence, only to lose it again during the twentieth century. The Greek community of Constantinople, and everything it built, was reduced to its present meager state by the premeditated government policies of the Turkish government, even now, as Turkey seeks greater benefits for the Muslim minority living in Greek Thrace, which interestingly has grown exponentially. Although both minorities were protected by the Treaty of Lausanne, only one received the benefits of its protection.
The Great School of the Nation
The Zografeion (L) and various schools located throughout the City of Constantinople and its outlying districts.
The interior entrance of the Central School (Kentriko)
The Ioakeimeion, a prestigious girl's school.
The Zapeion, also a girl's high school (above) and various elementary schools located in surrounding towns and suburbs (below).
Technorati Tags: Greek Schools, Greek Minority in Istanbul, Constantinople, Sultan Abdul Hamid, Christaki Zographos, Giorgios Zarifis, Greek Ottoman Bourgeoisie, Greek Thrace, Muslim Minority in Greece, Turkey, Greece, Treaty of Lausanne, Phanar district, Istanbul
powered by performancing firefox
When I was growing up in New York. people would ask me where my family was from. Deep inside I would wince and think to myself, "Here we go again." The conversation would go something like this: "Where are your parents from? Northern Epirus. Where's that? Albania. Where's that? On the northwestern border of Greece. So you're Albanian? No, we're Greek. Is that where you were born? No, I was born in Turkey. Turkey? I thought the Greeks and Turks didn't get along. They don't but Greeks have been living in what is now Turkey way before the Turks ever got there. How can you be Greek, if your parents were born in Albania? Well actually the southern part of Albania is inhabited by mostly ethnic Greeks who speak Greek and are Greek Orthodox. So you and your family never lived in Greece but you still think you're Greek? No, we don't think we are, we know we are. How could anyone be Greek if nobody in their family ever lived there? Because God has a sense of humor."
My next few posts will deal with the land of my ancestral roots, Northern Epirus. It's history is complex, and little understood. Northern Epirus, along with Cyprus, constitutes the last remaining area where Greeks have lived for thousands of years yet is not part of the Greek state. In 1990, the small isolated country of Albania burst onto the scene when Albanians, taking their cue from the tumult throughout eastern Europe, began a flood of emigration in the wake of the collapse of the Albanian economy and the Stalinist Communist regime. Emigration from the southern Albania by ethnic Greeks was so massive that the British magazine, The Economist, would report that "most northern Epirots no longer live in Albania." This created a great deal of instability between ethnic Greek residents of Albania and their Albanian neighbors. Fields were left uncultivated, villages depopulated and during the general instability of the times, claims to property were left in the hands of old men and women.
With unemployment in Albania at 60%, Albanian workers flooded Greece and provided cheap labor for Greek farms and businesses as well as fueling a crime wave of rural banditry and urban theft. This created a situation where the emerging free market economy in Albania and the expanding Greek economy became dependent to an extent on a reciprocal relationship characterized by Greek investment in Albania and cheap Albanian labor in Greece. As a consequence the relationship is volatile and ambivalent. The two minority issues, that of the status and security of the ethnic Greeks of Northern Epirus and that of Albanian migrants in Greece, have been tightly linked.
My family roots in what is known to Greeks as Northern Epirus run deep. Northern Epirus is geographically part of the northwestern Epirus region of Greece, whose capital is Ioannina. Northern Epirus is described as a belt of land 90 km at its broadest, stretching northeasterly direction from the coast north of Corfu to the lakes of Prespa and Ochrid. It includes the port of Agios Sarande and the important towns of Agirokastro, Koritsa and Himara. My father grew up in a village called Sheperi approximately 9 miles from the border and my mother was born in Politsani, about three miles south, at the foot of a mountain range called Nemertska. These villages are part of a series of villages in one of the most beautiful and wild areas of Epirus known as Pogoni. The thirty or so villages that comprise this area extend from the south northward. Eight were unlucky enough to end up on the wrong side of the border and include the two villages where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born, as well as the villages of Sopiki, Sxoriades, Opsada, Tsiatista, Mavrogero, and Xlomo.
My next post will cover the history of Northern Epirus.
This post was written for Phylax Blog.
Anyone who has spent any time at all reading MGO will have realized by now how much I love everything about being Greek. That love was nurtured by the fact that I grew up around Greeks and my own Greek family. Living in Greece, with all its challenges and then marrying a Greek woman, only further solidified that love. The Greek experience is a part of me. It is indelibly etched in my soul and amazingly, it becomes stronger as I age. My long association with the Greek World has crystallized in my mind the advantages of what so much of Greek culture and my Orthodox Christian faith have to offer.
Greeks love the sea. It courses through our veins. Perhaps that is why I joined the Marines. I have had my share of shipboard life while plying the seas all over the world. Like other Greeks before me, I've met all kinds of people. My travels coupled with growing up in a multi-cultural society have led me to the understanding that men are not exactly created equal, except in the eyes of a loving God. Some are smart, some imbeciles. Some cultured, some illiterate. Some are righteous, some sinful. I have also figured out that Greeks are not supermen or better than others. They are, however, as history teaches us, as a group, exceptional and unique. Most Diasporan Greeks have an idealized picture of Greece that they nurture in their heads. They create a version that is often not quite, shall we say, accurate. Greeks can be frustrating, stubborn, cantankerous and succumb to a debilitating "xenolatria," (love of that which is foreign) interspersed at times with a self-defeating arrogance. Cultures, like people, are not created equally either. Some have contributed more to Mankind than others. During the long expanse of history Greeks, in spite of their numerous faults, have had ample opportunities to make enormous contributions to the World. And so they did.
The recent events in Greece surrounding the teachers strike have made me think long and hard about why Greece, along with the rest of Western World, is teetering on the brink. In 1940, the entire world was also hanging by a thread. Two ideologies were colliding, western democracy, an imperfect system, that was sputtering and crawling along and totalitarianism, which was running by leaps and bounds, with determination, into the future. The Allies were losing, and losing big, until a little country decided to shout a collective "No" and make a stand. The rest is history. Many of the Greeks of 1940 had seen Greece rise to Olympian heights during the Balkan Wars and then fall precipit0usly in ten short years, dashing their hopes and dreams against the realities of the moment. They had dreamed and named their children "Fereniki (Bring Victory)" and "Nikiforos (Carrier of Victory), only to see many of their sons leave their bleached bones on the barren plains of Anatolia. The tumult engendered by the Catastrophe caused Greece to fracture, flirting with Communism and Fascism. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) found fertile ground among the discontented, the downtrodden and the poor. General Ioannis Metaxas, a staunch monarchist and nationalist tried to unite the country by creating a new "Third Hellenic Civilization" that seemed uncomfortably like a shadow of the emerging fascist regimes in Italy and Germany.
All that aside, the choice Ioannis Metaxas made in that dimly lit room in the early morning hours while dressed in his bathrobe and sitting across from the Italian ambassador who carried IL Duce's ultimatum, was not the choice of one solitary man, it was the choice of an entire Nation that answered the call. That generation sits in stark contrast to our own, cowering in the wake of Radical Islam and a resurgent Left that seeks to undermine the very meaning of the civilization handed down to us by the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks of 1940 were a different breed. They were forged in the crucible of war and poverty. They were faithful to their God and his Church, they were faithful to the Ethnos, and most importantly they had that indescribable sense of "Filotimo." Perhaps some were illiterate, uncultured, "country bumpkins," however, all of them answered the call in the face of overwhelming odds because they had something that we, with our all our so-called education and expensive worldly goods lack, they believed in themselves.
Back then, Greeks did not depend on the State to fulfill their every need; they didn't feel entitled. They struggled to send their children to school expecting them to take full advantage of all that education had to offer. More importantly, they expected them to learn how to be responsible citizens of the Ethnos. Back then, Greeks still looked upon children with love, but understood that children were just that, still trying to figure the world out and in no position to teach adults about what they should or should not do. Children were also expected to look and act like the children that they were. There is a saying: "It takes a village to raise a child." The question today all of us need to ask is: "Who exactly is that village?" It is not the television, political parties, the trade unions or even, and I say this with a profound sense of sadness, their teachers. Parents have the primary responsibility to do so and we are failing. When parents fail to fulfill their primary responsibility it is up to the Church, not the secular world to remind and assist them. Until Greeks reacquaint themselves with that Church and the Church reacquaints itself with the true needs of its people, parents are on their own.
Greek society, like other Western societies, is in crisis. Time is short, but it 's not too late. It is possible to rediscover the things that made Greeks unique and exceptional. Greeks can either continue to tear themselves apart or look back to the Generation of 1940 to determine how we can again become a beacon rather than a flickering candle. Faith, Unity, Tradition, Paidea, and Ethnos were the guiding lights of the Generation of 1940. Those lights can show us and others the way, once again.
One of the great poets of the Greek Diaspora was Constantine Cavafy (1860-1933). He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, educated in England, lived in Constantinople and France. His sense of history, commitment to Hellenism, and frugal use of words make him one of my favorite poets.
"The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language
after so many centuries of mingling
with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners.
The only thing surviving from their ancestors
was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites,
with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths.
And it was their habit toward the festival's end
to tell each other about their ancient customs
and once again to speak Greek names
that only few of them still recognized.
And so their festival always had a melancholy ending
because they remembered that they too were Greeks,
they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia;
and how low they'd fallen now, what they'd become,
living and speaking like barbarians,
cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life."
translated by E. Keeley and P. Sherrard
One dreary September day
Emperor Manuel Komninos
felt his death was near.
The court astrologers -bribed, of course- went on babbling
about how many years he still had to live.
But while they were having their say,
he remembered an old religious custom
and ordered ecclesiastical vestments
to be brought from a monastery,
and he put them on, glad to assume
the modest image of a priest or monk.
Happy all those who believe,
and like Emperor Manuel end their lives
dressed modestly in their faith.
C. Cavafy, 1915
Translation by E. Keeley and P. Sherrard
Additional poems in Greek as well as English can be found here.
This post was written for and appeared previously on Phylax Blog
One of the goals of blogs like Phylax Blog has been to bring together Diasporan Greeks with their brothers and sisters in Greece and to facilitate a dialogue about what it means to be Greek and the issues affecting Greeks no matter where they live. Globalization has helped dispersed Diasporan communities to maintain contact between themselves and with the Patrida. It minimizes the physical distance between Greeks, which is the main obstacle to unity and survival.
Dr. George Prevelakis, the Konstantine Karamanlis Professor of Hellenic and Southeastern European Studies at the Fletcher School of International Studies, Tufts University in Boston has written an insightful paper. Professor Prevelakis contends that the future of Hellenism is dependent on how the current conflict between the Greek State and Greek Diasporas plays out. He writes: "For Greeks not satisfied with prosperity in return for geopolitical dependency and denial of Greek values, the present situation is quite humiliating. Spiritual, if not blood children, of the Ancients and of Byzantine and Ottoman elites, are Greeks now to be reduced to servants of second rate European tourists?" According to Prevelakis, the Greek State, organized according to Western criteria, chose the route of nation building and relegated the Greek Diaspora which had played a vital role before and during the establishment of the nation state, to a slow extinction. Unfortunately the collapse of the Megali Idea and the subsequent uprooting of Diasporan Greeks in Asia Minor frustrated any hopes for expanding a State beyond the confines of the Balkans. In its wake a new Greek Diaspora was created. Today about five million Greeks, equivalent to somewhere between 40-50% of the Greek population of Greece and Cyprus combined, is scattered mostly in English speaking countries. The sons and daughters of often illiterate villagers have done well in their new homes and now occupy enviable positions among the intellectual elite, the professions and in business. Despite diversity, the Greek Diaspora is united by the Greek speaking Orthodox Church via the Patriarch of Constantinople, the main institution of the Greek Diaspora for centuries.The Diasporan communities are in a much better position to survive and prosper in a new globalized world with their inherent reliance on informal networks, family, cohesive communities, education, cultural traditions and religion.
Prevelakis contends that "Globalization favors Greeks but, at the same time, the crisis of the territorial Nation State weakens them. The Greek State created according to models foreign to Greek traditions, has never managed to function properly, in spite of the efforts of great political leaders." Initially the Greek State referred to the Diaspora as "Greeks abroad," in other words Greeks who would return eventually. If some of them assimilated and were lost to Hellenism, that was an affordable price to be paid for the benefits incurred. The remittances that these Greeks sent home were an integral part of the Greek economy. Greek immigration was also a safety valve that relieved the pressure of unemployment and the lack of opportunity in Greece. The cash cow assumed another dimension when the Greek American community mobilized to support Greek national interests after the invasion of Cyprus. The emergence of a changing diaspora spearheaded by a third generation which is increasingly trying to redefine themselves by rediscovering previously abandoned roots has been difficult for the Greek State to control. The State can neither understand the current Diaspora and its nature nor control it despite efforts to do so. Professor Prevelakis sees the main factors of Diasporan identity as language, religion and family. These pillars are under attack in Greece itself as it attempts to modernize and adapt to the values of Western European society. The critical question that he poses and ultimately Greeks of the Diaspora and those living in Greece must answer is this: Will the dynamic of the Diaspora impose its logic on the declining Greek State or will the Greek State, in its spasmodic endeavors to keep afloat strangle the perspective of the Diaspora?
Read the whole thing.
Louis Tikas was a Greek immigrant from Crete who worked as a miner in Colorado. He joined thousands of Greeks lured to the Rockies by the promise of earning more money than they ever dreamed of at home. By one estimate about 40,000 Greeks worked in the mines, mills and on the railroads of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico before World War I . Coming to America was a culture shock for these unmarried young men and the Greek kafenions or coffee houses were an oasis. Tikas, who learned English, ran a kafenion and he helped fellow immigrants with complicated English documents and sending money home. Greeks were used as strikebreakers since they had no tradition of unions back home, however, soon they started to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union in droves.
The struggle between labor and the "robber barons" who ran American industry began with the railroad strike of 1877, the first strike in American history when American troops fired on American working men. For decades thereafter, a war was waged for America's soul and the story of Louis Tikas would become only the latest manifestation of that conflict. Tikas became an organizer for the United Mine Workers and eventually lead a walkout of 63 Greek minors at a Frederick Colorado Mine. He was eventually chased by the hired detectives of the company who shot and wounded him as he escaped through the back door of a boarding house. Many of the miners with families resented the Greeks who were unmarried and were more apt to take risks. Nevertheless, after a special convention in Trinidad the UMWA issued its demands and called a strike of the Southern fields of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company owned by mogul John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller thought it was cheaper to replace workers than to buy enough timber to shore up the mines. Nearly all of the miners demands were on the statue books of the State of Colorado but had been ignored by the company. CF&I immediately evicted almost thirteen thousand miners and their families from company housing.
An exodus occurred and moved down into makeshift tent camps set up by the union. The tent city at Ludlow under Tikas' leadership was the largest of these, home for nearly a thousand people, including most of the Greek workers. They would spend the next six months there as Colorado underwent one of its worst winters. The company brought in new workers, hired the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency to break the strike and persuaded the Governor to send the state militia. The massacre at Ludlow, described as one of the most shameful episodes of American history, began as the colony celebrated Greek Easter. Machine gun fire began to rip indiscriminately through the camp. The miners fought back but were eventually overwhelmed. Louis Tikas who throughout the long day had heroically helped women children and the wounded escape the carnage was captured. He was found later shot in the back three times. His body was left unburied for days. Two women and eleven children died in the camp. After Ludlow, the miners fought back savagely and the war came to a halt only with the arrival of Federal troops.
Although the UMWA failed to win recognition by the company, the strike had a lasting impact both on conditions at the Colorado mines and on labor relations nationally. The scorn of the nation was heaped on Rockefeller and his son. John D. Rockefeller, Jr was forced by the resulting furor to accept reforms that included paved roads and recreational facilities as well as worker representation on committees dealing with working conditions, safety, health, and recreation. There was to be no discrimination of workers who had belonged to unions, and the establishment of a company union. The Rockefeller plan was accepted by the miners in a vote. A United States Commission on Industrial Relations, headed by labor lawyer and Democratic activist Frank Walsh, conducted hearings in Washington, collecting information and taking testimony from all the principals, including Rockefeller. The commission's 1,200 page report suggested many reforms sought by the unions, and provided support for bills establishing a national eight-hour work day and a ban on child labor. Tikas was laid to rest on April 27, 1914, in a funeral attended by hundreds of his fellow miners.
The legacy of two Greek immigrants, George Dilboy (Papademetrakis) and Louis Tikas (Spanditakis), one from a village in Asia Minor and one from a village on the island of Crete, true "palikaria" of Greece, lives after them. As Greek-Americans we should remember and honor their sacrifices not just because they represent us but more importantly because they represent the substantial contributions of those that came before us to their adopted country. Lest We Forget.
My friend Demonax, a frequent commenter on this blog and a contributor to Phylax Blog has a knack for making me question and think about things. A recent exchange really got me stirred up. I have always lived in three world's:
1) the immigrant world where the Greek language dominated and where all the activities were concentrated around being Greek and being Greek Orthodox; 2) my adopted land, America, which became familiar and comfortable, especially to my children; and 3) in the old country, the "Patrida," which I am unable and unwilling to forget.
My whole life has been a struggle to make sense of these worlds and achieve a blending of the best parts of each. My younger son, exasperated, once asked me: Are we American or are we Greek? Kids never miss a chance to put parents on the spot and force us to lay our cards on the table. He was really saying put up or shut up Dad. "Well of course we are Americans first and by choice but our genes are 100% Greek, our Greek part lives inside us." That cleared things right up. Originally, Greeks immigrants, were regarded as racially, socially, and religiously different from the mainstream of American society. As the early immigrant community got older, their children and grandchildren became an important factor in assimilation. They went to English language schools; they were able to make contacts outside their own community; and they married persons from other ethnic groups, a factor that had been rare among the first generation of immigrants. In other words, they assimilated rapidly; this fact had a considerable impact in binding and connecting their parents to American society.
Immigrants and their children assimilate if they begin to identify and become an integral part of the country they live in. They do so when they vote and get involved in politics, when they serve in the Armed Forces, when they participate in American cultural and social activities. In other words, when they begin to feel like it is their country, not someone else's. My parents became US citizens after residing in the US for five years. They became "Americans" when they cried watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, when they wrote letters to their son serving on battlefields in Vietnam and Kuwait, when they attended their children's college graduations and their daughter's wedding to the grandson of Italian and German immigrants. Despite all this they never forgot their connection with the Patrida. After the 1974 invasion of Cyprus the two of them traveled by bus to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate publicly their outrage at Turkish barbarism and American policy. Although both were ethnically, linguistically and religiously Greek in every sense, they never lived in Greece. My Dad grew up in Albania and my mother grew up in Turkey. They never thought of themselves as Albanian or Turkish, yet within a few decades they considered themselves proud and lucky to be Greek-Americans.
President Theodore Roosevelt, back in the heyday of European immigration to America, did not approve of the use of the term Greek-American: "... There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native" before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else. " Teddy was a proponent of the "melting pot" theory. He wanted immigrants to forget where they came from and assume an "American identity." For some immigrants it may take a few short years, for others it may take generations.
The melting pot theory eventually gave way to multi-culturalism. It stresses the co-existence of different cultures in one society. For more than a generation, multiculturalism has become the default mode of thinking among too many in the elites in Britain and in this country too. Multi-culturalists believe that all cultures are of equal moral worth, except for Western culture, which is imperialist, racist, oppressive and insufficiently respectful of other cultures. This line of reasoning has been taught relentlessly in our universities and seldom challenged by the mainstream media. By eschewing assimilation for multi-culturalism we create multi-ethnic societies prone to balkanization and condemn them to the same fates as some of the countries from which immigrants have fled. Creating enclaves within society where immigrants live apart, speak their own language, and even attempt to enforce their own laws is a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, societies that adopt, nurture and incorporate worthwhile aspects of immigrant culture into the existing cultural mosaic are better for it. Many immigrants although they may be nostalgic are also realistic about the problems in their native countries that they are trying to escape. Michael Barone a well known political pundit who I consider very astute, has this to say about immigrants: "Consider the reaction of a Mexican I interviewed some years ago in Huntington Park, Calif. I asked him whether he wanted to see the Mexican system of government and politics here in the United States. I have seldom seen anyone laugh so heartily. Most Mexicans know that their government and politics are, alas, seriously dysfunctional. Less so than 20 years ago, certainly, but still dysfunctional. The number of Mexicans who want to re-create the Mexican system in the United States is probably not much higher than the number of professors of Chicano studies at our universities."
America says G.K. Chesterton, is "the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed." The Declaration of Independence starts with this phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Some would have us believe that Jefferson was trying to wipe out human differences, in fact, he is merely stating that in America, all of us should have an equal shot at fundamental rights, at pursuing happiness, not a guarantee of achieving it. America is comprised mostly of rejects, of people who were thrown out or let go or escaped or are just trying to get away from someplace else in order to improve their lives. In spite of such questionable pedigree, it is a land of great patriotic pride. Imbuing patriotism and Americanizing every immigrant who has come here to make a new beginning, was always considered essential. Historian Theodore White wrote: "Americans are not a people like the French, Germans or Japanese whose genes have been mixing with kindred genes for thousands of years. Americans are held together only by ideas insofar as Americans rejected the belief in nationalism of blood and soil, the sense in which nationalism is understood in its European heyday and still is in places like Croatia and Serbia. It made the country receptive to immigrants.... There has been, a minimal accessible qualification to becoming an American: adopt the creed and you are in.This has made it it possible for the United States not only to absorb huge numbers of people, but also to alter the composition of its population radically without major disruption." The question haunting us as we debate the virtues and vices of immigration, illegal or not, does the assimilation process still work? If it doesn't how do we make it work without expunging all the desirable things that immigrants bring to the table.
Loving America is not very fashionable these days. Sometimes I cringe at the things that Americans and their government are accused of. Let's just say that Americans aren't very popular. Everyone was supposedly on our side after 9/11 and we squandered their sympathy with our unilateralism. At least that's the popular thinking. Unfortunately anti-Americanism was well entrenched in the psyche of a great many people well before the fall of the Twin Towers.
Anti-Americanism has become a particular fact of life in Greece, where it has developed into a central tenet of the Greek worldview. This animosity surfaced after the fall of the military junta and the invasion and occupation of Cyprus, both events seen by the great majority of Greeks as the handiwork of the US. The sins of the US are vast according to many of my Greek friends. America shows favoritism to Turkey, refuses to support Greek demands regarding FYROM, bombed innocent Serbs, has a penchant for invading peace loving countries for dubious reasons, etc, etc, etc.
Anti-Americanism serves an important purpose for many segments of Greek society and it cuts across the political spectrum. The Communists, the Church, the Greek mainstream media, the intelligentsia, the Left and increasingly, even the Right. Have I left anyone out? By scapegoating America, these elements deflect Greeks from focusing on the failures of their own institutions. The failure to craft a realistic and credible foreign policy, the failure to weed out corruption and nepotism, the failure to reverse the decline of the fertility rate, the failure to Christianize young Greeks, the failure to re-energize the Church, the failure to free the dormant economic vitality of the average Greek, the failure to stand up to Turkish aggression and provocations, the failure to Hellenize Europe (instead Europeanizing Hellas), the failure to provide opportunity, the failure to build a world class system of higher education that is accessible, the failure to decrease the role of government, the failure to reach out to or support the Greek diaspora and the failure to provide a balanced public discourse.
Blind anti-Americanism is nothing more than an excuse for Greeks to continue playing the "victim" card. It is an excuse for Greeks to disengage from the world, to feel surrounded, to feel impotent and to become more politically isolationist. By scapegoating others for our own faults we create an environment in which it is impossible to take responsibility and thereby begin the first step of emerging into the light. Hellenism and Orthodoxy need to engage the rest of the world, not withdraw from it. The Ancient Greeks were not afraid to sail out and meet the world, they were travelers and they reveled in and sought out new ideas. They were not frightened by the "Varvari (barbarians)" nor their ideas. The Greeks, were in fact, the agents of change and modernity. Today, modernity is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories.
The rot is deep. Kathimerini is a conservative Greek newspaper, considered by many to be the "paper of record." One of its frequent and respected columnists, a professor emeritus at Panteion University in Athens, Christos Yiannaras, recently wrote: "the European Union appears (with dramatic consequences) infected with a syndrome of inferiority in the face of the new/rich primitive culture, economic might, and military superiority of the United States. The E.U. wants to bring the traditionally state controlled universities under the politically uncontrollable demands of the economy, creating institutions of a society that seek to teach its leading cadres itself, and not to entrust them to the so-called "free market."
"The American model that seems to have enchanted the E.U.," he said, "is a society of emigrants, a racial hodgepodge of uprooted people for the sake of survival, with tragically antisocial differences in their way of thinking and in their cultures. They are 'united' by their blind devotion to 'money,' a devotion they inherited from the early emigrants, 'money' being the measure of evaluating every person. Their idea of life is the search for "opportunity," the stubborn effort to show off their riches and their power to the lands of their origin-their childish admiration for their machines and for the size and glitter of their products.
"The overwhelming majority of the American people are in a state of undifferentiated masses, buried deep in their lack of education, with dizzying percentages of illiterate people. An aesthetic barbarism, ridiculous clothing, a torpid state of overweight, with idiotic gullibility and easy submission to any kind of power (even the power of crazy religious preachers). This is the model, the E.U. wants to imitate and sacrifice for its sake the social conquests and its cultural refinements which should have been upheld as its cause of pride."
The part about showing off riches and wealth in the country of their origin will no doubt particularly endear him to Greek Americans. How do you argue with such a distorted view of Americans. The simple answer is: you don't. If some people want to engage in this type of rhetoric so they can absolve themselves of their own sins, there is not much to be done about it.
Faoud Ajami is a professor at John Hopkins University, an immigrant like myself and part of that "racial hodgepodge" known as America. In an article entitled "The Falseness of Anti-Americanism" he writes the following: "Today, the United States carries the disturbance of the modern to older places? to the east and to the intermediate zones in Europe. There is energy in the United States, and there is force. And there is resistance and resentment and emulation, in older places affixed on the delicate balancing act of a younger United States not yet content to make its peace with traditional pains and limitations and tyrannies. That sensitive French interpreter of his country, Dominique Moïsi, recently told of a simple countryman of his who was wistful when Saddam Hussein's statue fell on April 9 in Baghdad's Firdos Square. France opposed this war, but this Frenchman expressed a sense of diminishment that his country had sat out this stirring story of political liberation. A society like France with a revolutionary history should have had a hand in toppling the tyranny in Baghdad, but it didn't. Instead, a cable attached to a U.S. tank had pulled down the statue, to the delirium of the crowd. The new history being made was a distinctly American (and British) creation. It was soldiers from Burlington, Vermont, and Linden, New Jersey, and Bon Aqua, Tennessee ( I single out those towns because they are the hometowns of three soldiers who were killed in the Iraq war) who raced through the desert making this new history and paying for it. " Read the whole article.
I was reading blogs for awhile before I ever thought I had anything to say. I stumbled onto Phylax a few months ago and I discovered within Phylax, a community of people who were actually thinking and debating about things I considered important. For the first time, I started writing comments and eventually I decided to start a blog of my own. Phylax Blog is the brainchild of Ted Laskaris. Ted helped me take my first baby steps as a blogger, and for this I will be ever grateful. Recently two commenters on Phylax (and occasionally on Greek Odyssey), Hermes and Anestis have engaged me in a very interesting discussion that made me think long and hard about the relationship between Hellenism and Orthodoxy.
The dictionary defines Hellenism as the civilization and culture of ancient Greece. Although the contribution of the Ancients is unparalleled, my definition of Hellenism is more expansive. I define Hellenism as the sum total contributions of Greek civilization. This includes Greek contributions during the Byzantine, medieval and modern era. In my opinion Christianity has played a decisive role within Hellenism and has helped it survive. A growing number of Greeks however, are rejecting Orthodox Christianity and looking at Hellenism in a new way; in a religious context. So we must ask are Christianity and Hellenism compatible?
For many Greeks, membership in the Greek Orthodox Church is a determinant of one's Greekness. Others will argue that the determinant of Greekness is not religion, but education and language. How do we distinguish the Greeks from the rest of the herd? Hellenism for me is like Christianity, inclusive. It does not seek to shut out ideas or people that do not fit into some preconceived notion of who or what Hellenism constitutes. Hellenism is a way of thinking and acting based on the sum total Hellenic experience, which is rich and varied. There are values and traits that I consider genuinely Greek, however, they are not the sole property of a particular ethnic group. They belong to us all. Christianity is also universal in nature and available to all who will partake. Hellenism is a legacy of thought and ideas. Orthodox Christianity has become in my mind an integral part of Hellenism. You don't have to "join the club" in order to partake of the rich legacy that each offers.
The spread of Christianity (made possible by Hellenism) is nothing short of miraculous. How was it able to do this? Perhaps it espoused a unique view of man's relationship with God that men and women felt deep in their hearts and psyche. This was especially so of the Greek World which embraced Christianity and has never let go. Some will argue that Greeks did not willingly and fervently take up the Cross and that only a small segment of the Greek population was Christianized during the first 300 years of Christianity. Nevertheless it was Greeks and Hellenized missionaries, in Europe and Asia who played a leading role in the history of Christianity. Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, Smyrna, Phillippi, Thessaloniki, Athens, Corinth, Nikopolis, the islands of Cyprus and Crete were only a few of the many Greek cities that heard the Gospel of Christ. As early as the second century there were flourishing churches in each of these cities as well as in Greek towns and islands such as Megara, Sparta, Patras, Larissa, Milos, Tinos, Paros, Thera and Chios. All the important churches of the first three centuries were Greek or Greek speaking. Many of these Greek cities produced many martyrs and profound thinkers. The Emperor Julian who succeeded Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, tried his best to stamp out the new religion. He died on his death bed uttering "You have won Galilean."
Father Demetrios Constantelos in an essay entitled The Historical Development of Greek Orthodoxy writes the following: "Orthodox and non-Orthodox theologians and scholars believe that the Judaization of Christianity would have been fatal, while its Hellenization determined its universal appeal and its catholic character. Greek Orthodox Christianity is Christocentric and biblical, but at the same time it bears all the characteristics of the Greek genius. Christianity's religious schemes and theological categories reveal the influence of the ancient Greek mind. There is unity, but a unity in diversity. There is canon law, but it is not always enforced. The concept of the Roman "autocritas" has found little fertile ground in the Greek East. The Greek emphasis on inquiry and the continuous quest for personal understanding and interpretation constitute the background of the development of "heresies"or "choices" outside the mainstream of Orthodoxy. Christianity is Greek not only in form but to a great degree in content as well. Greek religious and philosophical thought has penetrated into the mind and thought of later Judaism and Greek thought thoroughly imbued the whole Roman Empire. The fusion of Greek classical and religious material was present not only in theological and philosophical writing but also in mystical and spiritual. Christian thinkers were in constant dialogue with ancient and Greek thought and religious experience. Hellenization affected every aspect of early Christianity including worship."
By arguing that Christianity is not inherently an inalienable part of what we call Hellenism is to ignore and thereby exclude the accomplishments of a huge historical segment of Hellenism, Orthodox Christians. Let's exclude the accomplishments of Byzantium, let's also exclude the accomplishments of millions of Greeks in the last thousand years who managed to preserve their Greekness intact because of two key pillars: Orthodox Christianity and the Greek Language. During the darkest era of Greek history, the Turkokratia, there were diasporan Greeks, Phanariots, and even Westerners who kept the legacy of the ancients alive. The great mass of illiterate peasants scattered throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas however, were not reading Aristotle or Homer. They were trying to survive and maintain their identity. Religion was a key "determinant" of the Hellenic identity then even if it is not now for some Greeks.
With the decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire (324-1453), many Christians of the Greek Orthodox Church came under Ottoman Turkish rule. Islam was the dominant religion of the state and Christians were second-class citizens to say the least. From the beginning of the fifteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century numerous non-Muslims were converted to Islam. Many were either induced or forced, while many more made the change voluntarily. From Father Constantelos in his study entitled: Altruistic suicide or Altruistic Martyrdom? Christian Greek Neomartyrs: "Extensive testimony not only of the contemporary Christian writers, both Eastern and Western, but also of Turkish, corroborates the fact that a considerable number of Christians preferred death.Writing in the middle of the seventeenth century about the state of the Greek and Armenian Churches under Ottoman rule, Paul Ricaut, the British consul in Smyrna, who traveled widely within the Ottoman Empire and became an astute observer of its religious and social scene, made several important observations which can be summarized as follows: first, the Turks expelled Christians from many of their churches, converting them to mosques; second, the "Mysteries of the Altar" were concealed in secret and dark places, vaults, and sepulchers, having their roofs almost leveled with the surface of the ground; third, many Christians turned "Mohametans" and many "flocked daily to the profession of Turkism"; and fourth, Christian priests, in the Eastern parts of Asia Minor especially, were forced to live with caution and officiate in obscurity and privacy, fearing the temper of the Turks. Ricaut adds that considering the oppression and contempt for the Greek Church, as well as the allurements, worldly pleasures, and privileges that Christians would enjoy by becoming Muslims, the stable perseverance of the Greek Church is a confirmation of God's presence "no less convincing than the miracles and power which attended the beginnings of the early church" According to several accounts, from the conquest of Constantinople to the last phase of the Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Turks condemned to death 11 Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople, nearly 100 bishops, and several thousands of priests, deacons and monks.
Some see our Orthodox faith as making us weak. The ramblings of an itinerant Jewish carpenter. I see it as a source of strength. Hellenism and Christianity have been mutually beneficial to each other. Being an Orthodox Christian requires hard work, it is a lifelong work in progress. The Hellenic heritage can help us along the way. I see my Orthodox faith as a legacy passed on by my ancestors who clung to it tenaciously, very often at personal risk. It is based on the revealed word of God and it strengthens those that accept its grace. Many of us Christians fall short of those God given standards we should be living by, however that doesn't mean we need to stop trying to achieve them. By chucking our Christian beliefs aside we weaken the Hellenism we want to preserve. We are falling into the same trap that many in the West have fallen into. Eschewing Christianity for secularism, consumerism, paganism or whatever the flavor the month happens to be. In so doing they have have sown the seeds of their destruction. Let's not do likewise and follow them headlong into the abyss.
The kafenion (coffee shop) was a major congregating point in the life of a Greek village. It was usually located at the village square. Men often retreated to this male sanctuary to socialize and most importantly to talk. Greeks love to talk, discuss, and argue. Sometimes it is hard for outsiders to figure out whether Greeks are having a discussion or getting ready to come to blows. I remember inviting a Marine buddy from Tennessee to join me at a family gathering in New York City. This guy grew up on a farm and he was a little overwhelmed by the noise and vastness of the city. When we arrived home, my mother and aunts were laying out a vast smorgasbord of Greek delicacies and my Dad and Uncles were in the midst of a debate on some aspect of the always turbulent Greek political scene. Children were running around and it was quite noisy. My friend was visibly uncomfortable and turned to me and whispered: "What are they all fighting about?" I told him not to worry unless everything went completely dead silent.
The early Greek immigrants to America, who were mostly young men, did not have a lot of free time for recreation. The little time they did have was spent in a little piece of home known as the kafenion. Yes, they even brought them to America. A few tables and chairs, a Greek flag and a picture of Venizelos or King Constantine on the wall. They drank the dark, thick Turkish coffee in the little demitasse cups, ate confections known as loukoumia ("Turkish delight") or mezzedakia (appetizers) like tomato slices, meatballs, feta cheese, olives, played backgammon or cards, gossiped and argued endlessly about how to fix the world. Put five Greeks together in a room and you'll invariably end up with six different opinions.
The kafenion was traditionally males only, no self respecting Greek woman would be found in such a place. Now women are just as likely to be there as men. Things are certainly changing; the kafenion is giving way to trendy coffee bars, cyber cafes and patisseries. Lately I've been thinking about the birth of the new "kafenion" on the internet. The internet is a modern marvel, capable of generating both evil and good things. One of the good things it has done, in my humble opinion, is it has become an "electronic kafenion." Now I'm not suggesting that we fore sake human contact with others and communicate soley through electronic means. My point is that the kafenion was a place where Greeks congregated with others in their horio (village) and now the electronic kafenion is a place that Greeks from all walks of life, male, female and all over the world can come together and exchange ideas. They can even carry on "Socratic dialogues." For further explanation, go to: http://www.sfcp.org.uk/socratic_dialogue.htm. Now if we can only figure out how to serve mezze with our discussions.
Personally speaking I have learned a great deal from the exchanges I have had with people on this blog and on Phylax Blog. If they're not careful, Greeks can easily find themselves in an echo chamber. They need to be exposed to different points of view and they need to get their point of view across to others. They need to think critically and challenge there preconceived ideas. The electronic kafenion is a way to do this. I am always pleasantly shocked when I go to "Site Meter" on my blog and find out how many different countries my readers hail from. We are just scratching the surface. I truly have come to believe that this is a powerful tool for bringing Greeks and those that aspire to be "Greek" together. I do not say that in a strictly ethnically oriented sense. As I have said before, being Greek as the philosopher Isocrates understood it, was partaking of Greek paidea (education) and thinking and acting in the classically Greek manner. Some of our brothers and sisters in Greece and elsewhere fall short of the mark, whilst some "xeni" (foreigners) aspire to reach it.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ted Laskaris of Phylax Blog and Epithesis Now for leading the way. For bringing Greeks together and for introducing me to blogging. Bravo Ted and to all who take the time to comment and listen. Hope we will continue to have many kavgathes (arguments) in the future and continue to Hellenize the world. Semper Fi, Stavros
This post appears on Phylax Blog
Greek unity has always been elusive. When Greeks are united in a common cause, they work miracles. When they are arguing unceasingly and at loggerheads, disaster is not far behind. This phenomenon is as old as Greek history. To understand what divides us we have to see our divisions through the prism of our common historical experience.
Ancient Greece was a collection of city states that often competed or warred against each other. The two strongest city states Athens and Sparta, diametrically different in orientation, fought a series of conflicts known as the Peloponnesian Wars. The outcome brought both to ruin. The duality of the Greek spirit, that is, unity and disunity, is illustrated by the fact that these feuding Greeks saw "Hellenism" as a universal idea, not necessarily predicated on a racial or ethnic concept. Isocrates, for example, saw the polis spreading to non-Greeks. Internecine squabbles could also be set aside when Greeks were threaten by an external threat.
In 481 B.C., the Persian Emperor Xerxes sent ambassadors demanding earth and water, a sign of submission, from the Greek city states as his vast army marched toward Greece. The Spartans called a conference in Corinth which was attended by the Greek city states thinking of resisting, including Athens. Athens conceded leadership of the effort to Sparta and they made the following resolutions: to end all wars among themselves and to declare war on Persia. A small force under a Spartan King named Leonidas was sent to a strategic pass to block the advance of the Persian Army and buy valuable time. The sacrifice of the Spartans and other Greeks at Thermopylae allowed the Athenian fleet to eventually defeat the numerically superior Persian fleet in the narrow straits off the island of Salamis. Greece and the West was saved. Victor David Hanson, a professor of classics, writes: "Nothing provides a better or more clear illustration of this than Herodotus's description of Thermopylae, where [soldiers] in the royal army of Xerxes were being whipped to fight, whereas Leonidas and the Spartans said they were there because they were following the law that they themselves had created. What kind of army, ancient or modern, would name their triremes "Free Speech" or "Freedom" like the Athenians did at Salamis, or have a play by Aeschylus that says, "We rowed into battle saying 'freedom, freedom, freedom.'" It is very strange in comparison to what motivated other armies of the era."
Greek Byzantium was the bulwark again against the advance of eastern invaders for over a thousand years. Unfortunately, the empire was often wracked by internal dissension and infighting, which weakened it, along with the destruction wrought by the Crusaders, who sacked Constantinople. In the seventh and eighth centuries, in particular, first the Persians and then the Arabs launched major offensives into the region. Yet these invaders ultimately failed to establish themselves on Byzantine territory. However, a period of civil war in the late eleventh century enabled the Turks to make huge inroads into Byzantine territory. In many places, usurpers used mercenary Turkish troops to occupy strategic towns, only for those mercenaries to take the towns for themselves when the usurpers had departed. By 1095, virtually the whole of Asia Minor, comprising about 70% of the Byzantine Empire, had been lost.
The substantial efforts of Greeks in the Greek War of Independence to throw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire was also marred by a surprising inability at critical junctures to establish a united front, both during the war and after independence. Internal rivalries, however, prevented the Greeks from extending their control and from firmly consolidating their position in the Peloponnese. In 1823, civil war broke out between the guerrilla leader Theodoros Kolokotronis and Georgios Kountouriotis, who was head of the government that had been formed in January 1822 but that was forced to flee to the island of Hydra in December, 1822. After a second civil war, Kountouriotis was firmly established as leader, but his government and the entire revolution were gravely threatened by the arrival of Egyptian forces, led by Ibrahim Pasha, which had been sent to aid the Turks. With the support of Egyptian sea power, the Ottoman forces successfully invaded the Peloponnese; they furthermore captured Messolonghi, the town of Athens, and the Athenian acropolis. The Greek cause, however, was saved by the intervention of the European Powers.
The Greek state that emerged in 1830 was dominated by the factionalism left over the Ottoman period. In addition, there was a sudden influx of diasporan Greeks and this created much suspicion among the insular residents of the small Greek state. Political factions were not organized along party lines but around one's support to one of the Great Powers. The "Great Idea," a doctrine of manifest destiny to bring all unredeemed Greeks together into one state was a unifying and non-partisan theme which developed after independence. This theme, the driving force behind Greek foreign policy of the era, drove Greece into two Balkan Wars and finally the debacle of 1922. It was the stunning Greek defeat in Asia Minor by Kemal Attaturk, aided and abetted by some of the Allied Powers and the Soviet Union, which brought Greek irredentist dreams to a halt. The broad divide between monarchists supporting the Greek King and republicans who supported Eleftherios Venizelos, the prime minister who had engineered Greek Occupation of Asia Minor under the Treaty of Versailles, was in large part responsible for that defeat. In October 1920, the Greek army advanced further east into Anatolia, with the encouragement of Lloyd George, the British prime minister, who intended to increase the pressure on the Turkish and Ottoman governments to sign the Treaty of Sevres. This advance began under the Liberal government of Venizelos, but soon after the it started, Venizelos fell from power and was replaced by Dimitrios Gounaris, who appointed inexperienced monarchist officers to senior commands. The result was a military and human disaster.
In the wake of 1922, Greece was saddled with enormous debt, over a million refugees and along with the Depression, this created a situation in Greece that eventually lead to the rise of a disaffected portion of the Greek population, easily organized by the Communists. The 30s were plagued by constant coups, military governments and the systematic purge of communists from the body politic. The Italian Invasion of Greece swept all of that aside, at least temporarily. It brought Greeks together as few other events in their history, and it pitted them against a common foe instead of each other. Patriotism and martial spirit swept Greece as the Greek Army repelled the invader and advanced into Albanian territory. Defeated subsequently by Germany and suffering under a cruel occupation Greeks were to revert to business as usual, fighting among themselves almost as often as they did against the enemy. The internecine warfare that followed liberation between monarchists and communists culminated in one the worst bloodbaths of Greek history known as the Greek Civil War. The Right emerged victorious and consolidated its hold on Greece under the military dictatorship of the Colonels. After the fall of the military junta, Greece has gone back and forth between two main political parties that increasingly have divided Greeks along parochial personal interests and are finding it more difficult to differentiate themselves from each other ideologically.
Greeks have a tendency to find all kinds of things to argue about and break ranks with their fellow Greeks. Greek immigrants in America even brought their homegrown political disputes to America. These rifts stunted the development of the growing Greek American community and did irreparable harm to its efforts to establish itself. Then there is the divide that has always existed between "Hellenistic Greeks," those that live outside of Greece, and "Helladic Greeks," those that live in Greece. The cosmopolitan views of the Hellenists rarely coincided with the more insular views of their Helladic cousins. Hellenistic Greeks live in the real world, buffeted by the current storms of globalization, assimilation, and dechristianization. Often they have an idealized version of Greece. Helladic Greeks live in a completely different world with problems of their own. Often they have a distorted view of their overseas brethren. Greece is the center of their world and rightly so. The Hellenistic Greek on the other hand has to straddle two very different worlds.
Then there is the notion of "Greekness" and who or who does not fit our preconceived notions of who is Greek. Greeks throughout the world are dealing with change and upheaval. Some Greek reactions are dysfunctional. Xenophobia, fear of the foreigner and his ideas versus Xenolatria, the penchant for idolizing all that is foreign. There is an element of self hate at work here. Some reject Greekness because they find some Greeks fall far short of an idealized version of it. They want to excise that part of them that is Greek and replace it with anything else. In so doing they throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Others are afraid of everything that is not Greek, of being exposed to new ideas. Perhaps they are too comfortable in their own skin.
Unity does not necessarily mean that Greeks agree on everything. Divisions in societies or groups are normal and usually healthy. The problem arises when Greeks become too entrenched in their thinking and approach to the world or each other. When they fail to heed their own history and forget the rich legacy passed down to them. The question is can Greeks bridge the divides, and come together long enough to learn from each other in the face of serious threats to their cultural and national survival or will they revert to past practices?
This post written for www.phylaxblog.com
MY LANGUAGE by Titos Patrikios
It wasn't easy to preserve my language
amid languages that tried to devour it.
I strove not to lose even a word of it,
for in this language the dead spoke to me.
Recently while trading comments with Hermes regarding my post on Orthodoxy, I was floored by a statement he made to the effect that if the Orthodox Church adopts English as its primary language in America, then Hellenism there is dead. We have often disagreed in the past on a variety of issues. This time he struck a nerve. As usual our dialogue made me really sit down and think. Greek Americans, perhaps more than any other diasporan Greeks are often accused, rightly or wrongly, of not being Greek enough; of forgetting their mother tongue and of assimilating to the extent of losing all contact with their Greek roots. Is it possible that we are about to lose a pillar of Hellenism in America: the Greek Language?
The survival of those who consider themselves Greek throughout the last two thousand years of history has always entailed preservation of two things: the Greek Language and the Orthodox Faith. The reestablishment of the Greek nation state owes much to the educated and wealthy Greeks both within the Ottoman Empire and in the Greek Diaspora throughout Europe at the time. These people were well aware of Greece's classical heritage and its contributions to civilization. It was the illiterate peasants and seafarers however, who did the actual fighting and dying against a vicious enemy. The peasants who grazed their sheep in the shadow of the Acropolis had little idea of what their fore bearers did or said. What sustained them and brought them together as one nation? What was it that imbued in them a spirit capable of defying a mighty empire against all odds in a manner reminiscent of their ancient ancestors. Messolonghi was to take its place alongside Thermopolyae in the saga of Greek history. These peasants spoke a language that although altered over thousands of years still retained much of its original character and meaning. They were also devout Christians who lived their faith every day of their lives and found solace in the body of the Church that Jesus had established.
The story of the Greek American experience is complex. The early Greek immigrants were primarily young men who had no intention of staying permanently in the US. Eventually many married and brought brides to America and established families. Greek was spoken in the home. It was the connection with their ancestral homeland, along with the local Greek Orthodox church. First generation Greek Americans were often sent to afternoon Greek schools to learn the Greek language as well as Greek history and culture. Most of these schools were focused on the primary school grades and seldom offered secondary school level classes. The knowledge that they imparted was in a sense rudimentary. Immigrant parents also insisted their children learn English because they understood that it was essential for success in the New World. Greek immigrants placed a great deal of emphasis on education and the overall advancement of Greek Americans as an ethnic group is only rivaled by the Japanese and American Jews. Unfortunately, they did not create an Greek-based educational system that could compete with the public education that they received gratis. Greek Americans, although rightfully proud of their Greek heritage wanted to be considered Americans and did not feel threatened in a country that put no restrictions on their ability to celebrate their ethnic heritage.
The way I grew up was in stark contrast to my mother's upbringing in Constantinople during the 20s and 30s. Although she spoke fluent Turkish, she attended Greek schools and lived in a world that in many ways was very much segregated from the rest of Turkish society. My own experience was very different growing up in New York City. My parents spoke exclusively Greek at home, sent us to afternoon Greek school and we were very active in the local Greek Orthodox church. The difference was we did not separate ourselves from our neighbors or the rest of American society. In fact, Greek Americans have been active contributors to American society as authors, academics, actors and have excelled in very facet of life here. Greek Americans were not hostages in their own home and as such we embraced America as few other diasporan communities have done. By way of contrast, a second generation Greek in Germany for example will never be considered German and he will never consider himself German, just a temporary visitor. The early Greek immigrants were also subjected to a good deal of racism and discrimination by nativist elements. They wanted to prove they were good Americans, so they worked hard to excel at being American patriots.
First Generation Greeks have done a good job of clinging to the Church and passing on the Orthodox faith and a sense of ethnic pride. They have failed miserably at perpetuating the Greek language. As far as I can tell they have had precious little assistance from their brothers and sisters in the Patrida. In 1999, a commission headed by John Rassias, a noted educator, examined the state of Greek Language education in the US. The commission not only detailed the reasons for decline but also made recommendations for structural reforms. Go to this site for a synopsis of their findings. The report was buried along with the efforts of Archbishop Spyridon to revive the Greek language. In all honesty, some Greek Americans have been less than enthusiastic about fixing the problem.
Unfortunately, I cannot claim that today the Greek Omogeneia in the US remains culturally and intellectually steadfast in relation to its Greek origins. The first generation has NOT been effective in passing on the language we received from our parents. The second generation might understand some aspects of the Greek language, and third and now fourth generation Greeks might have some cultural Greek ties, mainly through the Church. Only a few have managed to learn the language and history of Greece. Despite that fact, it is often surprisingly apparent to me that many young people thirst for a knowledge of their Greek roots and language. Greek Paideia under the auspices of trained and knowledgeable teachers must be made a priority. This requires a concerted effort by the entire community. Does our community have the requisite unity or leadership to carry it out? In Germany and Australia, Greek is being taught in many public schools, and the Greek Education Ministry shares the expenses of providing Greek educators to teach the Greek language. Why is the Greek American community exempt from such efforts? Is it self inflicted or merely a lack of leadership on the part of community leaders? More importantly, Greek Americans need to contribute their own sizable financial resources to build an educational system that will address the educational needs of our young people in the context of Greek paedeia. We have the money, the people and the technological know how to solve the problem.
For a long time Greek ethnicity was part and parcel of the Greek Orthodox experience in the US. Now as the Church expands and seeks to bring its word to all Americans, this presents an opportunity for exponential growth and a danger of losing the Hellenic underpinnings of our Orthodox faith. In fact Greek paideia is inextricably woven throughout the Orthodox faith and its importance was recognized by the Church Fathers, as Father Demetrios Constantelos affirms: "The Church Fathers set an example and teach us how to approach and what to do concerning Hellenic paideia and its relationship to religious and theological paideia. A kerygmatic proclamation of the Gospel through the fathers, the doctrines and teachings of ecumenical and local synods, requires that we enter the mind of the Fathers and comprehend the decisions of the Councils.
Thus, the need for our theologians, including priests and teachers, to have a thorough knowledge of historical culture and the intellectual climate in which the Gospel was proclaimed. "Culture is the form of religion and religion is the heart of culture; that is, the two are inseparable," as Paul Tillich, a Protestant theologian and philosopher, has put it. And Christopher Dawson, a Roman Catholic philosopher of history, adds: "The cultural function of religion is both conservative and dynamic; it consecrates the tradition of a culture and it also provides the common aim which unites the different social elements in a culture." Concerning the relationship between Hellenism and Christianity, the Russian Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky writes: "…The cultural process…which has been variously described as a Hellenization of Christianity can be construed rather as a Christianization of Hellenism. Hellenism was…polarized and divided, and a Christian Hellenism was created." The success of early Christianity is attributed not only to the presence of the Holy Spirit and to divine inspiration and religious zeal, but also to Christianity's ability to integrate many Hellenic philosophical and religious ideas, ethical principles, and spiritual elements."
As the Greek Orthodox Church adapts in order to spread His word and unite with other ethnic Orthodox Churches, it is particularly important that it seek to preserve and enhance its Greek origins and language. It is also time for Greek American organizations to band together to put their best efforts into the very noble task of "Hellenizing" the progeny of the original immigrants and as many non-Greeks as possible.
Thea Halo, author of "Not Even My Name"
The Turkish Government reacted sharply to the recent dedication of the Pontic Hellenism Genocide monument which was opened recently in Thessaloniki to mark the genocide's anniversary. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Namik Tan said that " so-called Pontic genocide" lacks historical and scientific evidence. “We suggest that Greek authorities and scholars evaluate the historical events objectively instead of using such expressions that can damage relations between our two countries,” said Tan. “We want to again reiterate that this step, which became a fodder for feeble arguments, isn’t in line with the spirit of the cooperation and dialogue we’re trying to develop.”
May 19th marked the 87th anniversary of the Pontian genocide that occurred in present day Turkey. Between 1916 and 1923 over 300,000 Pontic Greeks living in along the Black Sea coast and Asia Minor were systematically exiled or killed along with one and a half million Armenians and 700,000 Assyrians Christians. The Pontic people lived in Turkey from ancient times for over 3000 years and are descendants of Greek colonists who arrived there long before the ancestors of present day Turks. The Turks, under the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, pursued a deliberate policy of "Turkey for the Turks." It was adopted against the backdrop of the Greek occupation of parts of Asia Minor as spelled out in the Treaty of Versailles. Its purpose was to rid Turkey of its Greek, Armenian and Assyrian Christians. The resulting Greek-Turkish War of 1919-1922 and the defeat of the Greek Army sounded the death knell for Christian minorities in Turkey. The process began with Christian owned businesses being boycotted, leading to bankruptcies and confiscation of property. Eventually intellectuals and community leaders were rounded up and executed. One of the methods used in the elimination of the Greek population was the "labor battalions." In them, mostly young and stronger people were captured and forced to do exhausting slave labor by the Turkish State, in order to reconstruct areas destroyed during the war. Some were sent to concentration camps and amongst the survivors was the well known writer, Elias Venezis, who later described his experiences in his book "Number 31328." Thousands died of exhaustion, starvation and dehydration on forced marches. This effective method was used by the Turks to force the weaker population, including women and children, to walk for hundreds of kilometers until they died. This was known as the "Light Death."
These tragic events were recorded by American, as well as the German and Austrian diplomats of the time. Unlike Germany which has taken responsibility for its sins committed in World War II, Turkey still refuses to even admit that these events occurred, let alone apologize for the genocide and ethnic cleansing it inflicted on a helpless population. Not only were the people expunged from Turkey, so too were any traces of their existence. Admitting guilt would entail casting a shadow on Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk is revered and represents the heart and soul of the modern Turkish ethos of who they are as a nation. The present Turkish government has gone to extraordinary lengths to quash any attempt to publicize these events throughout the world, including keeping their own people ignorant of their history. To do so would require a reexamination of the very foundation on which the modern Turkish State is built. As a Friend of mine was fond of saying: "Folks it ain't gonna happen." Interestingly, the Kurds, fellow Muslims were active participants and abetted this genocide but now find themselves in a reversal of roles. They have become the target of draconian assimilationist policies designed to suppress their identity and language.
This post was written for WWW. PHYLAXBLOG.COM
Peter Diamandis is chairman of the X Prize Foundation, an organization dedicated to opening the space frontier to average people. Diamandis, however, is far from average. He was born in New York City, the son of Greek immigrants from Mytilene. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, he is the impresario behind the creation of the $10 million prize to encourage the development of private spaceflight.
The X Prize was won in 2004 by the creators of Space Ship One, the first non-governmental piloted and produced spacecraft. Now Diamandis has won a prize of his own, the Heinlein Prize, worth $500,000. It was established by the estate of science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein, to reward individuals who make practical contributions to the commercialization of space. Diamandis has also created the first US based weightless flight airline, the world’s most successful space tourism company, and the International Space University.
So what’s he planning to do with the money? “It’s what I’ve been doing with the money.” he said, “focusing on creating what I consider to be the critical parts of a commercial space industry.” Another Greek success story in the United States, one of many throughout the Diaspora. A friend of mine used to say: “The chief Greek export is talent.” How true. After all, Greek immigrants are the risk takers of the Patrida. They have a fire in the belly which cannot be satisfied in the land of their birth, no matter how much they love it or how nostalgic they are for it. Greece is no longer a desperately poor country; exporting its excess population and living on the receipts sent home. It has taken its place in the European Union and developed its economy and infrastructure. Immigration has slowed, but hasn’t stopped. With so much human talent that Greeks have demonstrated throughout their history, why isn’t Greece poised to take advantage of it? Could Peter Diamandis have replicated his meteoric success if his parents had stayed in Greece?
For the answer, one only has to look at the sorry state of tertiary education in Greece. It is a system that is run by the state, a recipe for disaster in the best of times. Its employees are trade unionists who are more interested in job security than educating young Greeks to compete in the 21st century. Greek youth are prisoners in a system designed to cull the test takers from the rest of the herd of secondary school students and thereby bestow on the select few, slots in areas of study that many do not aspire to or are ill suited for.
Many capable and talented Greek young people, unable to gain entry to state universities, are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, efforts to introduce non-profit institutions of higher learning to meet the rising demand for more university slots and foster competition, are being opposed by professors and students alike. No one wants to rock the boat. The system has been reduced to the lowest common denominator, and neither student nor teacher receive praise or negative feedback for work they do. Mediocrity is enshrined and perpetuated, producing large numbers of good little government employees who fit right in to the existing culture of non-work in the Greek public sector. Everyone is happy. As a result, Greek education emphasizes rote learning, avoiding the development of critical thinking skills in the tradition of Greek Paidea. The bottom line is that unless Greek educators make radical changes, Greek youth will not be able to make the kind of contributions to civilization that Greeks have made in the past and sadly, Greece wll continue to bleed its best and brightest.
Americans of Greek descent are not always looked upon very favorably by our brothers and sisters in the Patrida (ancestral homeland). We are often viewed as too rich, naive, brainwashed, unable to speak Greek properly, out of touch with our Greek heritage and basically unable to rein in our out of control government. Many have a bleak view of the future of Hellenism in America. Greek immigration to the United States which started in earnest around the beginning of the twentieth century, is a complicated story. Many of the immigrants who came in the early years were young men who came to escape the grinding poverty of their rural villages. Sons in Greek families were not allowed to marry until their sisters were properly married off and that could only happen with an appropriate dowry. The lure of America back then is hard to imagine. An account in 1909 describes it thus: "In every village the farmer deserts his plow, the shepherd sells his sheep, the artisan throws away his tools, and all set aside the passage money so that they can take the first possible ship to America and gather up dollars on the street before they are all gone." These early immigrants suffered discrimination, violence and onerous working conditions similar to that experienced by other immigrant groups. As often happened with immigrants however, although their sojurn was always considered temporary, many ended up staying in America and later importing brides from home, in order to raise families in the New World.
Public education in the United States was built around the "melting pot" concept. Many immigrants sought to Americanize their names and blend in to the larger predominantly Anglo-Saxon society. If they were second class citizens in the Patrida because they were poor, they were determined to do whatever it took to succeed in their new home.
In many respects Greeks in America began to over emphasize a shallow view of their ethnicity that was built around Greek festivals, folk dancing, parades, and Greek food. Lost in all of this was the ability of immigrants to pass on many of the important aspects of their culture and heritage. Despite the efforts of many in the community, with each passing generation, more and more of the language, history, literature and the connection to Greece is being lost.
The unifying element in maintaining a sense of Greekness, even a substitute for it, was the Greek Orthodox Church in America. It is central to the community and a very important part of their lives, much more than it is for modern Greeks in the Patrida. In fact, the Church is as vital to the survival of Greek Americans as it was to Greeks that lived under Ottoman domination. Greek immigrants helped establish Orthodoxy in America and they clung fast to their faith and passed it down to succeeding generations. Despite its huge importance, it is currently undergoing a subtle transformation towards a more Americanized version due to the influx of other ethnicity's to Orthodoxy through intermarriage and conversion from other faiths. The Orthodox Church in America is poised to expand exponentially with more and more Evangelicals, Catholics and Episcopalians discovering the rich traditions of Hellenized Christianity. The more the Church reaches out the more it ensures its mission and the survival of some form of Greek ethnicity.
For Hellenism to survive in America and help America itself, it must feed the spiritually hungry and expose them to Greek Christian values. The other side of the coin is that Americans of Greek descent must rediscover their Hellenic heritage in order to help other Americans experience the benefits of Greek paidea as practiced by our Ancient Greek fore bearers. Many Americans do not realize that our country was founded on the principles of Greek democracy and the founding fathers were philhellenes. They were the beneficiaries of and proponents of Greek Paidea. Paidea means education. It was an important Hellenic concept embraced by the Ancients. It embodies all the processes involved in creating a citizen that is able to think, dialog with others, and inquire constantly. More than technology today, we need highly civilized human beings. As the moral philosopher,Isocrates said "Anyone is a Hellene who partakes of our education." In order to do so we first have to find and understand our common Greek roots, no matter who we are. After all, if we study Greek history over the millenia, we invariably come to the conclusion that anyone who feels, thinks and considers himself Greek is Greek. Diasporan Greeks can spearhead a return to the fundamental Western values that were forged by the Ancient Greeks by reacquainting themselves with those values and ideas through paidea. In so doing, Diasporan Greeks may even help their kin in the Patrida reinvigorate not only Greek Orthodoxy in Greece but also the very things that constitute our common Greekness.