By Catherine Tsounis
“The heroic struggle of the Greek people to defend their liberties and their homes against the aggression of Germany after they had so signally defeated the Italian attempt at invasion has stirred the hearts and aroused the sympathy of the whole American people,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the second greatest president in USA history. “Roosevelt’s statement came just months after the Italian invasion of October 28, 1940, when Benito Mussolini’s fascist forces attempted to invade Greece through Albania. Early that morning, Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas had faced a grim ultimatum from the Italian dictator — surrender, or face war. Metaxas defiant response — “no” — subsequently marked one of the most defining moments in WWII history.”1 The Greek nation was the only victorious nation in WWII against the unbeatable Fascist machine. Every Greek in America was elevated to a higher perception as unique.
In 2023 New York City, The Cathedral School of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese remembers the sacrifice of Greece, who refused to surrender to aggression. The program was entitled “The Sovereign Sun” poems and songs by Nobel Prize winner Odysseus Elytis. The event was held Friday, October 27th in the school auditorium. Honored guest was NY Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Konstantinou. V. Rev Archimandrite Chrysostomos Gilbert is Archdiocesan Cathedra Dean. The Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, at 319–337 East 74th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, serves as the national cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and episcopal seat of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. Mrs. Merope Kyriacou is the Principal.
The program consisted of the following: US National Anthem, and Greek National Anthem School Choir, 2-6th grades; Greek National Anthem; Opening Remarks, Principal, Mrs. Meropi Kyriacou; Remarks, V. Rev. Archimandrite Chrysostomos Gilbert; The OXI (October 28th) Day Celebration speech, Mrs. Athanasia Filios and Mrs. Eli Itsanta; Remarks, School Board Chairman, Will Sakellaris, “The Sovereign Sun” songs, the Cathedral School Choir, 1-6 grades, Artistic Director, Theodore Alvanos; songs of The Sun, The Sovereign Sun, O Come you shores and come you seas, Plains of Thessaloniki, Menexis (Sweet Violet), I’ve never seen so strange or beautiful a land, There is nothing more a man may want and The Crazy Boat; Women’s Chorus, 4th grade, Narrator George Vergetis, 5th grade; The Sun, 5th and 6th grades; The Wind, 1st Grade; chorus, 2nd grade; The Winds, kindergarten; Sailors, preschooler; Closing remarks, NY Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Konstantinou.
“Performances like these 6,000 miles away from Greece are more meaningful and way more emotional than the ones that take place in Greece, “ said Consul General Konstantinou. “ For this we have to congratulate the teachers, the principal, the students, and the staff. I would like to direct a message to the parents who are not of Greek descent. Why should you send your children to a school where Greek is spoken? This is a unique combination of two great nations between the most ancient democracy, the Greek Democracy, the cradle of civilization and the biggest democracy in the world, which is the USA. We should be all proud and very happy to send our kids here to the Cathedral School.”
With the passing of the WWII generation and baby boomers, Greece’s heroism in WWII is not remembered by many, except in our Greek American schools. A Field Marshal said “Regardless of what future historians shall say, what we can say now is that Greece gave Mussolini an unforgettable lesson, they were the motive for the revolution in Yugoslavia, they held the Germans in the mainland and Crete for six weeks, they upset the chronological order of all German High Command’s plans and thus brought a general reversal of the entire course of the war, and we won.”2 For this reason, the WEST must remember the courage, unity and resistance of the Greek nation on October 28, 1940 that saved all. The Cathedral School’s program is an inspiration during this time of upheaval in Europe and the Middle East.
All photos by Despina Siolas, MD/Ph.D.