By Andriana Simos and Argyro Vourdoumpa.
Greek communities in New South Wales and South Australia commemorated the Greek Pontian Genocide and its 353,000 victims over the weekend with a number of solemn wreath laying ceremonies and events.
Here is The Greek Herald preview of what took place to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the historic event.
New South Wales:
Commemorations began in New South Wales with an event at Marana Hall in Hurstville, Sydney on May 19, organized by Pontoxeniteas NSW, Panagia Soumela Sydney and Diogenes Wollongong, and attended by over 200 people.
Participants included the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras; the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Archimandrite Christophoros Krikelis; The Honorable Courtney Houssos MLC, representing NSW Labor leader Chris Minns; and the Honorable Reverend Fred Nile MLC.
READ MORE: Sydney’s Greek community gathers to remember the victims of the Greek Pontian Genocide.
The event consisted of a number of speeches, as well as poems and dances by young Pontians dressed in traditional Greek costumes. Dr Theophanis Malkiidis was the keynote speaker and he urged the Greek-Australian community to continue to press for the federal government to recognize the Ottoman atrocities against Pontians, Assyrians and Armenians as genocide.
On Sunday, May 22, the Pontic Societies also held a wreath laying ceremony and divine liturgy in memory of the 353,000 Pontic Greeks who lost their lives in the genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks between 1914 and 1922.
The service was presided over by His Grace Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis and was attended by a number of people including but not limited to the MP for Canterbury, MP Sophie Cotsis; press adviser at the Consulate General of Greece in Sydney, Costas Giannakodimos; representing the High Commissioner of Cyprus Martha Mavrommatis, Michael Kyriacou; the vice-president of the Federation of Pontic Associations of Australia, Esta Paschalidis Chilas; the president of Panagia Soumela Sydney, Peter Papoulidis; President of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Maria Anthony; and Sydney Hellenic High School President Liana Vertzayias.
With a church service at St Dimitrios Parish in Salisbury followed by a wreath laying ceremony to the tunes of the lyre played by Efthimios Avgetidis and lunch at Pontian House, the Pontian community in South Australia s met on Sunday May 22 to commemorate the Pontian Greek Genocide.
“This day is extremely important and moving for all Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians, and we continue to thank all those who helped commemorate and remember our ancestors who suffered in these horrible times,” said the president of the Pontic Brotherhood of SA, Nazareth Chisholm, said in his speech.
“The Greek Genocide was one of the darkest chapters in the entire history of Greece and was a plan to eliminate the Greek population from Asia Minor; 350,000 Pontians were eliminated; 350,000 stories will go unheard. We will never forget.”
Ms Chisholm said ‘it is important that our ancestors remember us through dance, music, language and religion in order to continue our culture’.
The event was moderated by Pontian Youth member Renae O’Donnell while Aris Chisholm read an essay on his feelings about the Genocide and shared his perspective on his Pontian heritage.
A number of guests and dignitaries attended the commemorative events among them: Consul General of Greece in South Africa George Psiachas, Minister for Small Family Businesses, Minister for Consumer Affairs and Business and Minister for the Arts Andrea Michaels representing the Prime Minister of South Africa, Minister for Multicultural Affairs Zoe Bettison, State Member of Morialta John Gardner representing Leader of the Opposition, Connie Bonaros MLC, Chair of the Multicultural Commission of Australia du South, Adriana and President of the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia, Elena Gasparyan.