By Dimitri Soultogiannis
Special to the Hellenic News of America
Garfield, NJ—Tuesday November 1st, 2011 was a night full of surprises. The Pan-Gregorian Association of New Jersey and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey hosted a farewell dinner at the Venitian Hall in Garfield, honoring the Consul General of Greece in New York Agi Balta whose term is coming to an end. Mrs. Balta will soon become the Ambassador of Greece in Santiago, Chile.
Mrs. Balta who was not aware of this surprise-farewell dinner was accompanied by her son Menelaos. She thanked the Pan-Gregorians and their President Mr. Yiannis Sakelaris, as well as the Metropolitan of New Jersey Evangelos for the dinner. She also thanked the Greek-American community of New York and New Jersey for their help and support throughout the her 4 years of service in the United States, who as she said was her family away from home.
«While training at the Foreign Ministry in Greece they always tell you to never lose your train of thought, it is a big ‘con’ for a diplomat, however, today I am truly speechless to see all of your here, gathered together to say goodbye,» Balta said. «My four years here in the United States have showed me how strong Hellenism is in this great country and that without the help of the Greek-American community my assignment would have been much harder. You are all Ambassadors of Greece to the United States, I will never forget the unconditional love, help and support that you provided me with all these years,» she said.The President of the Pan-Gregorian Association, Yiannis Sakelaris, spoke about the «gap» that Mrs. Balta’s departure from New York will create. «Agi Balta is a great representative of Greece abroad,» he said. «Today we are happy and sad at the same time, happy because we are proud of her hard work in New York and the fact that she will become an Ambassador in Chile, she truly deserves the position, and sad because we are losing a diplomat and a friend that truly loves our Hellenic community and was always by our side,» he said.His Eminence Metropolitan of New Jersey Evangelos praised Agi Balta and thanked her for her services to the community, the church and Hellenism.
«The Greek community and the Church are losing a great Greek diplomat. We wish her luck for her future endeavors and her new position as the Greek Ambassador to Chile. We are also happy that now she will be a little closer to her beloved husband Dimitris Alexandrakis, Ambassador of Greece to Brazil,» Evangelos said. The metropolis of New Jersey gave two souvenir gifts to Mrs. Balta and her son as a small token of appreciation of her great work as the General Consul of Greece to New York.The most touching speech of the night was that of the General Consul of Cyprus to New York, Ms. Koula Sofianou. «Agi is for me a colleague, a friend, a sister and a mentor. Ever since I started my assignment here in the United States, Agi has been very helpful. I owe her a lot. I also want to thank Agi’s parents for raising a true Hellene, who loves her country and proudly serves it abroad. I will also never forget her true love for Cyprus and the Cypriot Hellenism and like she said Cyprus might not have an Embassy in Chile but Agi will also be our Ambassador there. I wish her the best of luck,» Sofianou concluded.