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Greek CommunityEventsRemembrance of Our Ancestors” Sacrifice for Freedom: GOA Greek Education Department Celebration

Remembrance of Our Ancestors” Sacrifice for Freedom: GOA Greek Education Department Celebration

Hellenic News of America
Hellenic News of Americahttps://www.hellenicnews.com
The copyrights for these articles are owned by HNA. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HNA and its representatives.

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By Catherine Tsounis

“On This Day I complete my 36th Year” poem by Lord Byron is one of the masterpieces of English literature. It George Gordon, a.k.a. Lord Byron, composed privately in his journal when he was preparing to join the Greek war of independence in 1824. He renounced his youth, choosing self-sacrifice of the Greek cause of Independence.

These gems of literature were remembered on Wednesday, March 29th, 2023, at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Greek Education Department Celebration Program for the Annunciation of the Theotokos and Greek Independence Day. The event was held Wednesday, Match 29th, 2023 evening at the Hellenic Cultural Center at 27-09 Crescent Street, Astoria.

Alexander, the Theater Manager is commended for an outstanding job of reviving the Hellenic Cultural Center. His management and excellent security measures provided a safe atmosphere in the days following the Christian School Massacre in Nashville, Tennessee. Over two hundred plus persons attended with standing room only. A moving event organized by the Greek Education Department is transforming its administration to meet the needs of Greek American families of this century.

Students presentations. Photo by Catherine Tsounis
Students presentations. Photo by Catherine Tsounis

The program included the following: Prayer, Protopresbyter Anargyros Stavropoulos, Cathedral Dean, St. Demetrios Cathedral, Rev. Fr. Dr. Gregoy Stamkopoulos, Dept. of Greek Education, Protopresbyter George Kasapoglou; Mistress of Ceremonies, Mrs. Athena Kromidas, President, High Council for Greek Education; Welcome, Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis Director, Greek Education Department; Greetings, Mr. Dimitris Papageorgiou, Consul of Greece in New York; Mr. Michalis Firillas, General Consul of the Republic of Cyprus; Keynote Address, “Greek Identity and Education during the Ottoman Turkish Empire; Rev. Fr. Dr. Gregory Stamkopoulos, Dept. of Greek Education; Presentation on the Annunciation of the Theotokos, & Greek Independence Day Direct Archdiocesan Parochial School Students, Traditional Songs from the Greek Islands, Anastasios Sifounios, Violin Konstantinos Albanis, Guitar, Voice, Closing Remarks and Benediction.

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The Parochial Schools Presentations of patriotic songs, dances, and poetry were the following: Cathedral and A. Fantis School Archdiocesan Choir singing patriotic songs; William Spyropoulos Day School, Flushing; A Fantis School ‘Missolonghi, Jan. 22, 1824’, ‘On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year’ poem of Lord Byron is 36th birthday,”; St. Demetrios Day School, Demetrios Afternoon School, Astoria; Transfiguration of Christ School, Corona, “The Secret School”, by Ioannis Polemis; St. Paraskevi Afternoon School, Greenlawn, NY.

“I am happy to see Greek communities hold Hellenism alive,” said Greek Consul Papageorgiou. “The Greek community perpetuates their heritage. Greece in 2021 has a prominent world internationally. The Greek diaspora plays a significant role in Greece’s success. We live in America with Freedom. Liberty and Patriotism: concepts that are part of Greece and Cyprus. What does it mean to have Greek roots? Freedom, Liberty, and Patriotism is Greece’s contribution to Western Civilization. I feel closer to Greece when I attend children’s programs where they speak Greek. “The consul, who is fluent in English and computer multimedia, with a down-to-earth personality, represents the new wave of Greek international diplomacy.

“The Greek Independence Day, which also is a public holiday in Cyprus marks the anniversary of March 25, 1821, the start of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman rule,” said Mr. Michalis Firillas, General Consul of the Republic of Cyprus. “ Greek Independence Day is a public holiday in Cyprus, Schools take part in parades all over Cyprus. The March 25th 182 Greek Revolution of the Greeks who revolted against the 400-year-old Turkish oppression is similar to the continuing occupation of part of Cyprus by Turkey, which invaded the island back in 1974.”

An exceptional person, with a heart, who bent rules, considering each child’s needs, shaped all from the mid 1980’s to our present time. Today, they are educated individuals, the backbone of American society, always acting with a heart. This is part of the legacy of Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas, Greek American educator/administrator/professor/radio personality. Since her retirement in 2018, Mrs. Tsokou Kromidas has donated her services (FREE) as President of the High Council of Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Protopresbyter Anargyros Stavropoulos, Cathedral Dean, St. Demetrios Cathedral, Rev. Fr. Dr. Gregory Stamkopoulos, Dept. of Greek Education, Mistress of Ceremonies, Mrs. Athena Kromidas, President, High Council for Greek Education; Welcome, Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis Director, Greek Education Department and Protopresbyter George Kasapoglou, St. Demetrios Cathedral, Astoria. Photo by Catherine Tsounis

Rev. Protopresbyter Gregory Stamkopoulos Assistant Director, Department of Greek Education Database Administrator, Department of Information was keynote speaker. He painted a scholarly view of Greek education that tries to be in the middle regarding Greek education during the four hundred years of enslavement. Basically, the point he tried to get across in his own diplomatic style is the following: The origins of the Greek nation took place in the horrors of Frankish rule (1204) and Turkish occupation (1453 to 1912 when Balkan Wars freed rest of Modern Greece). A sense of Greekness, remembering ancient Greek heritage, and a national church free of Latin domination kept the enslaved Greek alive for four hundred years. Greek heritage and the Orthodox church created the Greek nation that we know in 2023. Steven Runciman points out that Turkish atrocities aroused horror in Europe. Europe and Russia worked to save the Greeks, resulting in a Free Greek nation.

Wikipedia states “In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Muslim dhimmi system, Greek Christians were guaranteed limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were treated as second-class citizens. Christians and Jews were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law. They were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses, their houses could not overlook those of Muslims, and their religious practices would have to defer to those of Muslims, in addition to various other legal limitations. Violation of these statutes could result in punishments ranging from the levying of fines to execution.1

Rev. Stamkopoulos believes this policy was flexible. It depended on regional Ottoman rulers who were lenient, such as Ali Pasha of Ioannina of Epirus. The speaker believes there is a middle ground. For more information, visit Rev Fr. Stamkopoulos on Instagram and Facebook.

“I don’t think we fully appreciate how hard it was for the Greeks to establish independence from the Turks,” explained Despina Siolas, MD./Ph.D., a graduate of William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Flushing. “For example, the Americans had an advantage over the British, because the British were fighting in an unknown land, North America. The Greeks were fighting the Turks who were currently occupying Greece.2

Director Anastasios Koularmanis emphasized “February 9th is Greek language Day. Greek language and heritage should be taken in college and university. The Greek departments are closing, because of a lack of interest. I thank the parents and grandparents to support our language schools. Language and religion altogether. When language is lost, we lose our culture’s stories, music, and dance. We must perpetuate our schools that keep culture and language alive.”

Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis, Director of the Office of Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is a highly qualified, student-focused administrator. He is known to be a promoter of the Greek language internationally. The Director has implemented state-mandated needs with the help of program implementation and design, developing school conditions, etc. His only aim is to provide the best learning experience to all his students.

Political and economic upheavals until stability was established under Archbishop Elpidophoros. Dr. Koularmanis believes the communities must fund the parochial schools so they do not close. Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas and director Anastasios Koularmanis have transformed the Greek Education Department in an international center, uniting Greek educators internationally. A total change! They are working with communities nationally to make sure every church has a school. Their work with the help of dedicated, underpaid educators and Greek American families will determine the future of Greek education and the Greek Orthodox Church of America.

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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