By: Stavroula Kotrotsios, Esq.
UPPER DARBY, PA – This past Valentine’s day, the Epirotan Society of Philadelphia hosted their annual TSIPOURO NIGHT at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby, PA in celebration of the culture and endurance of the Epirotic traditions.
As a daughter of Epirus, whose roots go back to Ioannina Greece, specifically the village of Parakalamos, I enjoyed the traditional Klarina music and the regionally distilled spirit produced from pomace, the “Tsipouro”. I felt as though I was transported to a time where things were more simple; where the panegyric celebrations of song, food, and merriment were the central meeting point of the towns and villages. In America, the Epirotic culture and traditions are held on to and passed down from generation to generation. This has been the organic development of the Greek American community. This event, and similar dances held in the community, boasted over 300 Greek speaking people who are knowledgeable of the dances, music, food and traditions of Epirus. Attending these unique events in our society is a lesson in history that can only be enjoyed.
As a child, my parents would send me to our rustic village every summer where I would be immersed in the agrarian life of modern Greeks. I would learn their songs, dances, and even their dialect. Time was somewhat frozen in this village. I would talk to my grandparents and the villagers who would tell me their tales of a war torn Epirus. Along with these tales, I would learn the songs and anthems sung in battle. Whether the Epirotes I spoke to fought Communist or Ottoman imperial forces, they were a proud people. Proud for their struggle and for the principles they believe in.
My great grandfather was born under Turkish Occupation, and was orphaned as a young child by the war. He was raised in the local monastery Sosinou, where he was trained in Ancient Greek and the Classics. Although he never had an opportunity to develop his education, he always imparted to me the importance of the immutable character of Epirotic culture and the Hellenic pedagogy.
When the Epirotes sing they sing with their heart, when they dance they dance with their soul, and when they believe, its with the sincerest of convictions. This is why the Epirotic and Greek culture remains flagrant and alive in the America today. We carry the hardships and struggles of our ancestors and we celebrate and commemorate them whenever we come together as a community. Through the unique forum of these Greek dances, hosted by our local churches, we reignite the Hellenic Spirit and pay tribute to the legends and ancestors who gave us our beautiful culture that formed the foundations for Western civilization. In America, the leader of the Free World, we are able to revel in our expression as a community and organize. I feel as though it is the duty and honor of the Greek communities in America to maintain their identity.
It is my hope that the next generation to come will continue this commemoration of our Hellenic identity. We must however recognize the importance of our community leaders in fostering this public forum for our culture. I would like to recognize the efforts of Vasilis Keisoglou, President and all the Board Members, especially Philip Nicolaidis, Kostas Kravaris, Kostas Zidros, Antonis Dalangelis, George Agatsiotis, Lefteris Kravaris, Esq., Kostas Bezanis, Rea Stamoulis, Thaleia Nikolaidis, Jenny Kravaris and others for their efforts, dedication and patriotism.
Photo: (L-R) Paul Kotrotsios, Bezanis, Lefteri Kravaris and Kostas Kravaris