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On Wednesday, I had the honor to attend a webinar that I will remember for a long, long time. Organized by Hellenic Initiative Canada, this was projected to be a conversation with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece. Even though he could not make it to the event, since he had a meeting with the President of the Hellenic Republic, the webinar was in no way less exciting or important. Nikos Dendias, the former Minister of National Defence and current Foreign Minister of Greece, ‘stood up’ for the challenge and was the Greek government representative for the webinar.
The webinar started with the Co-President of the Organisation, John Sotos, and the introduction of the former Canadian Ambassador in Greece and current Honorary Director of the organization, Robert Peck. The first segment started with the role of Greece in the European and International political stage. The former Ambassador started analyzing the Greek Canadian and the Canadian firms that have invested in the ‘booming’ industries of Greece and the future of the new infrastructure and the seaplanes model.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs started with a statement for the first ‘seaplanes’ and the Canadian contribution to tourism development in Greece. The comments that followed were about the difficulty of providing a Canadian financial investment to creating opportunities and jobs in Greece, regardless of the financial crisis.
It is significant to state that the bond created between the two countries and the multifaceted cultural points were the aspects that will push the economy of the European country out of the socio-economic issues. The next part was about diplomacy and the multilateral friendship with all the Mediterranean countries and moving towards a peaceful and international stage of politics.
“We cannot change the world but we can try”
After the question of diplomacy, there is a mild discussion and relations between Greece and Turkey. It is significant to state that the government of PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not expect such a hostile environment between the neighboring countries along with the refugee crisis. Turkey’s reasonable behavior is coming back, and there is an effort to ‘sit at the table’ and continue the bilateral discussions for cooperation.
The strategy and the principles of the UN Security Council, the Biden Administration, and the global powers’ approach as a whole has helped Greece. Nonetheless, it is too early to talk about the Turkish people in Cyprus practicing peace and the Turkish government ending the aggressive tactics in the Mediterranean altogether. The agreement of negotiation in the European Union has been facing all types of obstacles after the pandemic, the financial world’s problems, and the answer to today’s health issues. The government’s position in Greece is covered by the statement “Vaccination is a Human Right.” Although Greece is not a big country and cannot take leadership, it can significantly change and contribute to a better beginning of the decade.
The second segment started with the Greek Canadians’ topic and the citizens of the diaspora, introduced by Katerina Sokou, the communications director of the Canadian organization. The topic started with the question of the measures about strengthening the relations and the well-being of the Greek diaspora communities abroad.
The government’s long-term strategy is based on promoting the Greek culture, and various events, including the new network of interactive learning of raising awareness for the European country’s aspects, are of enormous importance. More than 500,000 young citizens left Greece due to the financial crisis and followed their studies abroad, which is not a pleasant change since, according to the Minister, it was not their choice, but they were obliged.
The answer to the question of embracing all Greek communities outside Greece is one: digitalization. The current government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is working to communicate and help all people use technology to cover all civil and bureaucratic issues. The segment moved on for the board of trade and the question of supporting the Greek exporters and the trading scheme’s operation. In the past, the imports that were coming in were handled by the Minister of development. Now, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has created a new direction for the preparation of trade growth. The government is also trying to support all contributions to the Greek economy while simultaneously increasing the number of investments.
The country of Greece will not survive if the imports continue to outweigh the exports, which is why the government of Mitsotakis is working to help the enterprise find a home abroad and, more importantly, in Canada. The Greek government provides the funds and the know-how, and it’s part of an ongoing process to create a financial aid scheme, which still has a long way to go.
The minister understands that the economy needs a scheme of modernization, and the problems of Greek bureaucracy are working as an obstacle of the Greeks being abroad and thinking about expanding their business in their home country.
The answer to this issue is, once again, modernization. Additionally, the creation of a sustainable and environmentally friendly plan is also of equal importance.
The human capital is what makes the difference in the 21st century, and the government believes in the new generation of Greece; the experience of the Greeks in diaspora and their return to the home country would provide immense value to the people who want a smooth transition in the previously financially harmed country.
The next question was based on tourism problems and the COVID-19 obstacle to the revenues generated from the summer’s Greek seasonal economy. The government’s first principle is to regulate travel through the green certificate and the registration of welcoming safe and vaccinated tourists. The government expects the opening of the industry only if the human life of the visitors is protected.
During the efforts of protecting the population, the Greek government hopes to understand the Israel and Cyprus government’s efforts and apply a similar kind of model. Then, the focus shifted on parliamentary diplomacy and the connection between the Greeks and the Canadians; it would be a handy tool to correlate the two sides’ interest and the generation of opportunities for the Ministers between the two countries.
“The ocean may divide the countries, but the values between the countries may build a bridge.”
The challenges of COVID-19 affected the diplomatic relations and the contacts between the countries that negotiated with Greece. Regardless of the risk, the Minister of Affairs had to keep up the level of human contact and meet under acrimonious restrictions. Teleconferences are a great way to make contact possible between the two sides but the actual ‘conference meetings’ help more diplomats connect.
After the pandemic ends, the government will capitalize on the close contacts of the greeks in the home country and the people abroad, especially in Canada. The universities’ use will also be valuable for the future of bilateral relations and the projects of participating in great projects for all Greeks throughout the world.
The concluding remarks from Dendias started with discussing all these essential issues and stressed the importance of the Greeks abroad and the friends of Greece expressing their ideas and engaging for the better bond of the two countries. Better connections would benefit both countries, and the possibilities for political, legal, and economic growth are endless.
Saturday, July 25th, 2020
Time: 2:00 pm EST
This year for the first time ever the Athens and Epidaurus Festival will be broadcasting live on the internet, free of charge, the play “PERSIANS” by Aeschylus, staged at the ancient theater of Epidaurus.
On the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Salamis The National Theater with the support of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports will present to the international public the tragedy Perseus of Aeschylus.
The live streaming of the show will take place with English subtitles and will last about 90 minutes. It will be available at www.livefromepidaurus.gr as well as through the websites of the National Theater, the Athens and Epidaurus Festival and the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and directly from the National Theater’s YouTube channel.
The Persians (472 BC) is the oldest complete drama surviving today and at the same time a historical document about the most important conflict of the second Persian invasion of Greece, the naval battle of Salamis. One of the most decisive battles in the history of mankind is the issue of the tragedy of Aeschylus, who took part in it.
In Susa, the capital of Persia, the elders who have remained in the rear, faithful guardians of the glorious palaces of Xerxes, are worried about their army attempting to campaign against Greece, as no news has arrived about the outcome of the military mission.
The impressively numerous forces that make up the Persian army with the resounding names of its leaders and the god-given power of their king, are not enough to allay the anxiety of the elders, who know that the impenetrable web of Deception deceives people and leads them to doom.
The anxiety culminates when Queen Atossa, Xerxes’ mother, the leader of the campaign, and the wife of the dead Darius, recounts her ominous dream: Xerxes tried to snatch a Greek woman and an Asian woman in his chariot, but the Greek woman broke his bond and king. The arrival of the panting messenger confirms the bad feelings: the whole Persian army was annihilated. The Greeks won.
The detailed account of the defeat of the Persians ends with the extensive description of the naval battle of Salamis, the flight of Xerxes and the bad luck of the rest of the army, which tried to return by land.
The symbol of the glorious past, King Darius, appears from Hades in response to the invocations of the chthonic powers and the lamentations of the Persians. The deceased king’s interpretation of destruction attributes the responsibilities to Xerxes’ arrogance and his insult to nature and the gods. The arrival of the ragged defeated king, in stark contrast to Darius’ previous glorious presence, completes the image of doom. Praise for the achievements of the past turns into lamentations and sorrows for the present, and culminates in suffering in the once glorious Persian palace.
The Hellenic Initiative Canada and the Greek Community of Calgary welcomes Four-time Olympic medallist legend Pyrros Dimas and raise funds to support SOS Children’s Villages Greece.
Greek Olympic champion and legend in weightlifting Pyrros Dimas, was welcomed with enthusiasm and emotion at the first event in Western Canada co-hosted by The Hellenic Initiative Canada and the Greek Community of Calgary on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
The event featured the screening of a documentary by Greek-Canadian director Panagiotis Yannitsos titled “Freedom Besieged: Unshackling the Youth of Greece” about the impact of the financial crisis on Greek youth and the search for creative ways out. In an effort to build the new generation’s lost communication bridge in Greece with the world around them, the documentary captures individual and collective initiatives that create hope for the future. At the same time, it is targeting experts, scientists and politicians to document the solutions they offer – from intellectual Noam Chomsky to communications expert Peter Economides.
The post-crisis debate on film and Greece that followed the screening, with the rising filmmaker stressing that his intention was to allow all voices to be heard, whether that was the voice of 15 year-old boy or Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. A special role in the film was played by Greek-Canadian volunteer coach Kiveri Basketball Camp, John Karkalatos and athletes such as George Karagounis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Pyrros Dimas, who have successfully sparked national pride and inspired young Greeks of the diaspora.
Pyrros Dimas received the admiration of the young students of the Calgary Greek Community School, whose evening classes he attended before the event. In a thrilling atmosphere, he watched the children sing the national anthem and visited them in their classrooms. During the discussion, he also talked about how he sees Greece from Chicago, where he currently is Technical Director for the US weightlifting team. His answer was: “More beautiful but with problems”. Mr. Dimas was involved in politics and commented that he “never regretted taking a stand” as in 2012 he felt compelled to join the then government’s effort to help the country, adopting a non-negotiable stance against racism and a bold position in favor of Greece’s European future in the 2015 referendum.
A special highlight of the event was when he was awarded a white cowboy hat at the famous White Hat Ceremony by Calgary City authorities for its distinguished visitors, as an indication of the famous Western hospitality. Mr. Dimas was awarded a gold wreath from THI Canada. The president of the organization, Alexander Georgiadis, stressed that Greece may have turned a page, but the social and economic problems created by the crisis remain intense, and invited attendees to be inspired by the example of their compatriot John Karkalatos, to do what they can to help Greece’s recovery.
It is noted that all the proceeds of the event will be donated to the SOS Children’s Villages Babies Home in Greece. Thomas Bauer, President and CEO of SOS Children’s Villages of Canada, expressed his gratitude and talked about the important social work of the charity in Greece, Canada and worldwide. Mr. Dimas noted that he has been a supporter of SOS Children’s Villages Greece since the beginning of his athletic career in Greece and as their ambassador knows firsthand the importance of the social service they offer, especially in times of crisis, when many families no longer have the financial means to provide even the necessary things to their children.
THI Canada is the latest addition to The Hellenic Initiative’s global network. It was founded in the summer of 2016 to add the contribution of Canada and its historic Greek community to the worldwide effort of the diaspora and the philhellenes to assist Greece to recover from the unprecedented financial crisis.
The Greek Community of Calgary was founded 62 years ago, and this year it is celebrating its 60th anniversary since the founding of the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Dimitrios. The community serves the cultural and religious needs of approximately 7,000 Greek-speaking residents.
Contact the discussion moderator and board member for more details regarding THI Canada, Katerina Sokou at Email: [email protected]
The Hellenic Initiative Canada (THI Canada) through a generous donation from the Eleni and Vasileios Ifandis Charitable Foundation supports the work of the Giannitsa Soup Kitchen providing daily meals to children in need with a grant of $25,000 CAD. Giannitsa, a city of 40,000 in Northern Greece is proud of its community of volunteers inspired by Fr. Spyridis, the tireless champion of those in need.
Volunteers prepare meals and deliver them daily; they run the “community supermarket”, providing goods and food for 150 families. They provide lessons in music, dance, photography, first aid, hold classes to prepare students to gain acceptance at the university; and offer consultations and medications for free.
The Giannitsa Soup kitchen is a special caring facility efficiently run by Fr. Spyridis and his team of volunteers. Maria Petala, has been volunteering at the soup kitchen for more than 10 years and she feels blessed for being able to help in this way.
People with children that have no income or an income of less than 5,000 euros can register to receive daily meals. The community centre has classrooms and facilities to accommodate learning for 400 children supported by 80 volunteer teachers.
People that cannot afford healthcare or medicine can register at the medical and pharmaceutical centre to receive medical care from volunteer doctors. Currently there are 200 people registered for free healthcare.
The “community supermarket” operates twice a week in order to assist 150 families that have registered to receive help. People donate goods and food to the “market” and then everything is redistributed to those in need. The need of each family is assessed separately, according to their income and the number of family members, and a monthly voucher is provided.
Volunteer English teacher, Ms. Dorcas Kirigo, who moved to Giannitsa in 2004, originally from Kenya stated: “People here are very good. They helped me and welcomed me with so much love and when you receive this love, you also want to give it back, so this is why I decided to volunteer here. The work that is being done here is extremely important because the people need it. The classes for the students help change their futures. ….the crisis has brought the community together. People opened their hearts and they are giving whatever they have.”
Ms. Eleni Ifandis, THI Canada’s benefactor, living most of her adult life in Toronto, has never forgotten the people back in Greece, the children that have nothing for Christmas, and the people now living in poverty. “I only wish more people would care to do more to help feed children in Greece” said Ms. Ifandis.
Fr. Spyridis and his team of volunteers, through their charitable work enable people in need to care for their families and cover their essential needs while maintaining their dignity.
The Hellenic Initiative Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to alleviate poverty in Greece by providing funds to trusted organizations to deliver food, health care and other related services to those in need.