By Aphrodite Kotrotsios
Special to the Hellenic News of America
Philadelphia, PA- Philadelphia’s Greek-American community is gearing up for its annual Greek Independence Day Parade, which will take place on Sunday, March 22, 2015. It is hosted by the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley. This will be a two-day celebration, as festivities begin the night before with the Federation Parade Dinner, honoring distinguished guests of the community. On Sunday, March 22, there will be a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Official Great Doxology celebrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Philadelphia, PA, starting at 10 a.m. Following the Doxology, the Greek Independence Day Parade will begin at 2 p.m. on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and culminate with a reception at St. Demetrios Church, in Upper Darby, PA.
HNA sat down with Nikolaos Spiliotis, Vice President of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley to talk about the upcoming historical celebration. The retired Hellenic Navy Captain Nikolaos Spiliotis informed HNA that this year, the recipient of the Eleftheria Medal, to be presented at the Federation Dinner, is Dr. Spiro Spireas, CEO & Chairman of Sigmapharm Laboratories and President of the AHI Foundation. The Eleftheria Medal is awarded annually to a member of the community in recognition of their contributions and preservation of Hellenism across the nation; furthermore, the Kousoulis family will also be honored in memory of their daughter, Danielle Kousoulis, who they lost tragically to the terrorist attacks in NYC back in 2011. They will be inducted as distinguished members of our Omogenia. This honor also serves to recognize all of the efforts of the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas National Shrine in New York. Grand Marshals of this year’s parade are the Honorable Robert Brady, 1st Congressional District of PA and Honorable Mike Fitzpatrick, 8th Congressional District of PA.
HNA: Mr. Spiliotis, please share with HNA’s audience why it is important in preserving and participating in Greek Independence Day Parades across America.
NS: The significance of honoring this special day goes beyond a simple commemoration. It touches our hearts, our most inner selves. It shows us the way and it promotes our ideals. My origin and military background has instilled in me the Hellenic values which I am trying to follow in my life and pass them on over to my children. Our culture gave birth to everything that the Western Civilization is now proud of. Democracy, Philosophy, Sciences, Arts, you name it. Preserving our heritage makes us stronger and wiser. It cultivates our soul and spirit; however, we mustn’t stop there. Preserving is one thing, enhancing is another. We must try to reinforce our attachments with our Hellenic Culture and Language. The next generations of Greek Americans need that and we owe it to them. This is what this celebration is all about. On March 25, 1821, the heroism of a handful of poor and oppressed Greeks showed to mankind that freedom is a supreme good. They didn’t hesitate to stand up against an empire in order to get what every decent man deserves, “Eleftheria.” Being free is being alive. Being Hellene is a way of life that we all should pursue in our everyday lives, remembering the deeds of our ancestors, letting them guide us to even better achievements.
HNA: What’s your message to the Omogenia?
NS: Just be there! Be proud and support all of the events taking place on both days. Celebrate with us the Great Revolution that our nation celebrates on March 25th. It is a dual holiday for the Greeks. Not only do we celebrate Greek Independence, but also the Evangelismos of Theotokos.
Retired Hellenic Navy Captain, Nikolaos Spiliotis