The Oinoussian Ball 2019
On Saturday 16th November, after the sunset brought on a crispy chill in the air, around 350 guests arrived at The Nine Kings Suite at The Royal Lancaster London, W2, to attend the Oinoussian Ball 2019 to celebrate the 77th Anniversary of Oinoussai Benevolent Fund.
Dressed suitably in black tie, both English and Greeks mixed effortlessly together during the reception where drinks were offered and caricature artists followed people around the room drawing humorous sketches of the guests.
At around 8pm, the Master of Ceremonies announced dinner was served. Suddenly, the large wall and doors began to disappear into the ceiling and the ballroom slowly became visible. This drew gasps of surprise and delight from all watching. The ballroom was beautifully lit and the tables were adorned with exotic orchid centrepieces along with individual gifts of Greek delicacies.
The OBF President, John M. Hadjipateras, welcomed everyone in his heartfelt speech*.
He spoke of the fund’s achievements over the past year and emphasised the difficulties on the island not only from the continuing plight of the immigrants who risk their lives to reach the welcoming Oinoussian shores but also of the almost daily provocation from the Turkish air force who fly menacingly low over the island creating anxiety and discomfort for the inhabitants.
He praised the initiative of a group of islanders who constructed a giant Greek flag made out of stones, painted white and blue, covering 1.5 acres, visible from Chios and of course to any passing airplane, that sends a clear message. This has officially been recognised as the country’s biggest flag. He concluded by thanking everyone in the room for their continued beneficence and support and also welcomed the younger London Oinoussians who had organised three full tables.
The dinner consisted of a starter of smoked salmon and prawn fish cake, with a main course of grilled noisette of lamb and for dessert, a flaming crème brulee that arrived at the tables, literally flaming, to the gasps of the diners.
His Excellency the Ambassador of Greece, Mr Dimitrios Caramitsos-Tziras**, was invited to say a few words and he spoke briefly but passionately, thanking OBF for its longevity, its patriotism and its continuing achievements in social, educational and cultural matters. He stated his admiration for the fund and praised the tireless efforts of the committee.
This was followed by the recently enthroned Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, Nikitas, who took to the stage and began by apologising for his belated entrance due to previous engagements and then went on to speak movingly and eloquently about the significance of the fund’s traditions of paying homage to its founders and how it is a beacon of light in today’s current uncertain social environment. He encouraged the fund to strive to achieve even greater heights in the future. He concluded by forgiving the guests were they not to attend church on Sunday after enjoying the evening!
Both respective speeches were enthusiastically received by the audience with warm and generous applause.
Now it was time for the dancing to begin. The resident and incomparable DJ Avgoustinos Galiassos invited everyone to the floor with an eclectic mix of international and Greek music. The guests danced away for over two hours without any intermission. Meanwhile, in the reception area, there was an open bar, the two caricature artists and a photo booth that attracted long queues.
As usual, the OBF’s unique masticha shot girls made their appearance, in gold lame dresses and feathered headdresses and wandered around the rooms offering shots to all the guests who were happy to receive this complimentary thirst quencher.
At 11.45pm, the music stopped and it was time for the much anticipated raffle draw. The Vice-President, George T. Lemos conducted the draw with his customary dry wit and he was ably assisted by the events chairwoman, Maria P. Hadjipateras. There was much merriment as people shouted out their desire to win the impressive list of prizes.
Eventually, there were sixteen very satisfied winners. The prizes were diverse and included hotel stays in Greece, a winter/summer cruise, jewellery, a spa day and much more.
The music resumed after the raffle draw and the dance floor was full again. Everyone was enjoying themselves and few people had left. Such was the demand for dancing that the hotel was persuaded to keep the music going for an extra half an hour much to the cheers and delight of all in the room.
Eventually, at around 2am, most of the guests had departed carrying with them their souvenir programmes, the delicacies of the mastihopittes and newly formed memories of another wonderful evening.
Congratulations to the OBF President and the executive committee and to the Ladies events committee members for organising another memorable event with style and panache and for creating an atmosphere that was bursting with conviviality and liveliness. We applaud the longevity and history of this fund that consistently manages to bring together family, friends and business associates for this triumphant and congenial annual occasion.
Shipowners, shipmanagers, bankers, insurance brokers, salvage specialists, class society executives, industrialists, lawyers, financiers, government officials, flag state administrators, media consultants and journalists, shipping analysts, marine engineers and naval architects, master mariners, maritime arbitrators, shipbrokers, heads of associations and organisations, IT and communication specialists, maritime educational and academia specialists, charity faithful, marine surveyors, medical doctors and vets, gallerists, you name it were there:
Maria Yiassa, Ioanna Vita with her daughter, Alexandros G.Tsavliris, Alexandros A. Tsavliris with Amalia Alberini, Lora Galitzine, Spiros N. Apostolopoulos and his wife, Eleni Sideratou from the Greek Embassy’s Consulate office and her husband Nikitas Karayiannis, Tina Sapountzaki – also from the Greek Embassy, with her daughter Maria Thomas, Marina Antoniou, Yianni Ev.Angelakos, Michael J. Monios and his wife Irene, her brother John M. Lyras always present, Eleni Bistis and her husband Yiannis, George Kountouris and his wife, Angelika Kavouni, Diamantis Lemos and his wife, Ms Maro Limnios, Takis N.Pappas, his wife Christina, daughter Grace and son Nikos, George Ad. Skinitis, Antonis Virgiotis and his girlfriend Sylvia, Takis Roupas with his daughter Alexandra and husband Ashley Goldstein, Trevor Smith, Rhys Clift, Pantelis and Meta Hadjipateras, Maria M. Hadjipateras, Stavros Haidemenos and his wife, Valia Pateras and her husband Spyros Skordos, Stavroula Gavrides, Varvara Roza with her mother Fani and sister Aegli, Dr. Johnny Irish with Dr. Eleni Kavouridi, Dr. Anastasia Therianou and many many others.
Apart from the above shipowners and solicitors, P&I brokers and insurance brokers, the other ‘named’ guests were: The Mayor of Oinousses and his wife, Mr George Daniil and Mrs Maria Patera, The President of Syllogos Filoi Oinousson and his wife, Mr & Mrs John G. Lygnos and the main sponsor which was the Idryma Foundation Georges Katingo Lemos, Lausanne, Switzerland, represented by its President, George T. Lemos.
*John M. Hadjipateras’ speech:
Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends and family,
A very warm welcome to this year’s Oinoussian Ball.
This is the evening of the year when we come together to have fun, to catch up with old friends and, I hope, to also strike some new friendships – barring any differences about Brexit and next month’s General Election.
On behalf of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund, I thank you all for joining us this evening and for your continued support.
We especially thank The George and Katingo Lemos Foundation and Dorian Hellas for their generous sponsorship donations.
This year we are very happy to welcome several newly-appointed members of our community.
Firstly, Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain. Your Eminence, we are grateful that you have honoured us with your presence this evening, and we look forward to continuing our long and loyal relationship with the Archdiocese. As you may know, one of the main benefactors of our charity is the church of St Nicholas on our island, which is dedicated to our patron saint. This autumn, the Fund has arranged for some minor external repairs to be carried out, so that the church can reflect the pride and heritage of our seafaring homeland. Furthermore, on the 6th of December, the feast day of Saint Nicholas, our Committee Members will be distributing the traditional Holy Bread loaves to the Oinoussian households and member offices in London, collecting donations for our church on the island.
We also welcome our new Mayor, all the way from Oinousses, Mr George Daniil and his wife, Maria. Mr Mayor, we are looking forward to working closely with you and your team, to support your programme to improve the medical and educational facilities, and also the sports and cultural activities on the island.
We also welcome the new President of the Society of Friends of Oinoussai, Mr Yiannis Lygnos and his wife, Nini, who have also travelled from Greece to be with us this evening. Our thanks go to him and his committee for their support and good co-operation. Together, by focussing on the important needs of the permanent population, we are together able to help to keep a strong sense of community alive on the island.
This year, the Society of Friends of Oinoussai has been celebrating its 90th Anniversary, having been established in Oinousses in 1929 by our wise forefathers, and has been serving the Oinoussian community faithfully for the past 9 decades. We congratulate them on this milestone occasion, and wish them every success for the future.
Next year, in 2020, a Pan-Oinoussian Symposium is being organised, to be held on the island – one might call it ‘The 2020 Vision for Oinousses’. We are proud to be supporting this important event and to be part of the organising committee. All generations are encouraged to participate, as it will provide an ideal opportunity for our vision for the future of our island to be put forward and discussed, whilst also listening to the counsel of the elder generation, who were instrumental in bringing us to where we are today.
Whilst the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund has no political affiliations, we do have an interest in the geopolitical situation around the vicinity of our island, and especially in the events across the sea in Turkey. The increasing threat of another influx of migrants and refugees is very worrying for our small community. Apart from the casualties, (sadly only 2 months ago, two women, four small children and an infant drowned during the short crossing from Turkey), our village cannot cope with large numbers of hungry and homeless people who make the dangerous and desperate journeys into Europe, having fled their countries.
On top of this, there is constant provocation from our neighbours to the East, who frequently violate Hellenic air space by sending fighter jets over our small island, which is so close to the Greek and European border with Turkey.
In case there is ever any doubt as to the sovereignty of Oinousses, volunteers on the island have, this year, created Greece’s largest flag, by placing hundreds of stones on a hill side and then painting them blue and white to create the national flag of Greece. The flag covers one and half acres and took almost 2 months to complete. This flag is visible from the island of Chios opposite, but more importantly it is clearly visible from the air, sending a strong message to the fighter jet pilots who illegally fly over our small island, almost on a daily basis, that Oinousses and the neighbouring islets of Panayia and Vatos belong to Greece.
Whilst some may choose to dispute the terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which documented the national boundaries in the Eastern Aegean, I learnt this summer from a well-read former Mayor of Oinousses that the islands of Oenoussae, appear in a kind of historical tour guide, or ancient Lonely Planet Guide, as being firmly part of Europe. An early travel writer and one of Greece’s first historians, who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Geography’, lived between 550 and 476 BC. Hecataeus of Miletus (which was opposite Samos island) carried out his World Survey called ‘Περίοδος Γης’ or ‘Journey around the Earth’, starting his tour from Gibraltar (known then as the Pillars of Heracles), travelling clockwise around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, all the way around the North African coast to Morocco. He created two books, the first was about Europe and the second was about Asia, which also included a sub-section on Libya, being the name for North Africa at that time. As you can guess, the reference to the islands and people of Oenoussae appears in the first book, the Europe book and not in the second book on Asia. It’s clear therefore that our small island has been regarded as being part of Europe for over two and half thousand years.
Our message is clear, all of the Oinoussian islands are part of Greece and of Europe.
Let’s return to the present and to the recent activities of our Fund.
We have now completed our first year as a UK-registered charity and last month launched our website www.obfcharity.com. Please take a look and sign-up to our mailing list online.
Amongst the recipients of our financial support are all the teaching staff on the island, who receive an annual Christmas gift, as well as all the young children in the Junior School and Nursery, who each receive individual Christmas presents.
We are glad to be able to provide a significant annual contribution to the ‘Fund for the Needy’, as well as giving direct help to several poor and sick Oinoussians. Earlier this year we purchased computer equipment for the island’s school, which has provided the IT teaching staff with modern hardware to enable the pupils to learn IT skills, whilst also opening their horizons by learning about the wider world through the internet. Also this year, we partially funded an accessibility ramp for the Junior School. We have supported many of the excursions arranged by the Society of Friends of Oinoussai, which enable the local schoolchildren to visit other parts of Greece and Europe. In fact, only yesterday, we were planning a trip to London for early next year.
Furthermore, recognising the importance of the prestigious Naval Academy for Merchant Mariners to life on the island, the Fund has continued to proudly support the Subsistence Fund, which provides subsidised meals for the cadets of the Naval Academy.
We are very supportive of the state’s initiative to inaugurate a school for life-saving and fire-fighting on the island. This will work well alongside the Naval Academy, enhancing its appeal to cadets, whilst also attracting many students from other parts of Greece. We continue to pledge our moral and financial support for this important project.
These significant lifelines keep our remote island alive and relevant, especially in the prying eyes of our closest neighbours.
All the funding assistance which we are able to offer, enables us to give something back to the community which created us. The Oinoussian diaspora in London, by creating a social and business community, has been able to retain the customs and traditions of their homeland. The Oinoussian member offices still contribute to the Fund annually by making a voluntary donation, usually based on the net registered tonnage of the ships they represent, as they have done since 1942. In your programmes is a list of the member offices, many of which have been supporting the Fund for several decades.
Similarly, we thank all of you here this evening for supporting the Fund. We especially value our business relationships within the maritime community, whether in the UK or worldwide, as can be evidenced by all the companies represented here this evening. Many of the companies here, plus those who have advertised in the programme, have been staunch supporters of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund for many years.
With annual events like this evening’s, the Fund has kept the Oinoussian community in London together, and continues to be able to act as a bridge between London and our remote homeland in Greece.
Our predecessors provided us with the foundation and inspiration to continue their work. We sincerely hope that the younger Oinoussians here this evening will be similarly inspired, so that in the future they can take the Fund forward, to face the challenges ahead in our ever-changing world. As always, we welcome any ideas and thoughts from the next generation, which is well-represented here this evening.
I’d like to express my personal thanks to all the members of the Executive Committee for their assistance in the smooth running of the Fund throughout the year, and to all the Ladies of the Fund-Raising Committee, who deserve all of our great thanks for their tireless efforts in putting together this wonderful evening.
It is worth noting that the voluntary nature of both of our Committees, and of the entire Membership, acts as a vote of confidence and confirms the Fund’s purpose.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our members, fellow-Oinoussians and you all, who by being here tonight are showing your support and faith in our cause.
On behalf of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund, once again I thank you all for joining us tonight.
Please now have a wonderful evening and enjoy the food, wine and entertainment, especially the music from our resident DJ Avgoustinos Galliassos, who is supporting our event for the eighth consecutive year.
** The Greek Ambassador’s speech:.
Margarita and I are so pleased to join you tonight, as we celebrate 77 years of social responsibility, good will and friendship that your organization has so exemplary and generously displaying towards our society.
And as your benevolent work is an excellent reflection of Greek history and traditions, we all rejoice with you! Tonight’s amazing turnout of the Fund’s members and friends, and the presence of our Church and society leadership, are a clear testament to your organisation’s success.
On behalf of the Hellenic Government and personally, I wish to acknowledge the work and commitment of your organization to support and inspire the community since 1942, at a critical time in our history when Greece was under German occupation, deprived of much of its human and material capital.
Our acknowledgment is directed first to the current and past leadership of the Oinousses Benevolent Fund but equally to all your members, present and absent, of the current and past generations, who have kept alive the love of motherland and the spirit of helping and sharing.
To your Organisation’s credit, your support to Greek society causes is not contained in the Oinousses and the near-by islands, which were anyway somewhat disadvantaged in size and resources, but also in other areas of Greece, in need of support, as well as in support of needy causes here in the UK.
Yours is a commitment to help without preconditions, help to alleviate suffering and pain of people, promote traditions and culture, in protecting the environment and, primarily, in attending to the sea, the source of diverse wealth, which you have been supporting for many generations.
Yours is a case of few people doing great things for many people!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Greece is about to enter a new phase after the long and painful economic crisis that impacted severely on the economy and the society, this is the time to continue to stand in support of our country, by remaining involved and by investing in the country and its people.
New and decisive steps in the economy and the social reconstruction of the country and society are under way and have led to a positive reversal of the economic and social outlook of Greece. Greece is open again for business but also extrovert for more exchanges in education, culture and human contacts. Our valuable human capital and resources that were underdeveloped and suppressed for several years, due to the crisis, need the key to open the doors of creation and achievement. Let’s help them, let’s unlock the doors and share the revenue of success.
The crisis has been another turning point for Hellenism. But we can work together to benefit from the new day that arises and as our country approaches. Next year, the milestone of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution and the creation of the modern Greek State.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tonight as we recognize and celebrate the fruitful, creative and effective work by the Oinousses Benevolent Fund, we are paying tribute to individuals who made the common concern their own, who united in the pursuit of a great cause and who contributed in re-branding the image of Hellenism.
Let me close by repeating how proud I feel for being among you today and how much we appreciate your actions.
I thank you for your attention and I wish you an enjoyable evening.
Uploaded: 22:30 GMT
Updated: 23:50 GMT