History has a Face
by John Faraclas
What an event that was a few hours ago at Greece’s Embassy in Holland Park! On all counts the cornerstone event for the Bicentennial of the Greek Independence War 1821 -2021 celebrations in the United Kingdom.
Sixty or so attendees, due to Covid-19 protocol restrictions, from all parts of the United Kingdom had the last glimpse of this celebratory universal event which changed not just the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans but all over Planet Ocean teaching all how slaves gain their freedom – πως οι δουλοι γινονται λεφτεροι.
A warm welcome message by Iphigenia Kanara, Deputy Head of the Mission – spot on time, was followed by an interesting video sawing 18 important places of Greece which participated in the Revolution, titled: Desire for Freedom – Επιθυμία Ελευθερίας in Greek. I felt honoured seeing, amongst these 18 places, Chios – my motherland, as well as Hydra and Spetses, where I graduated from the Anargyrios and Corgialenios College – three islands whose naval contribution played possibly the most important part… Korais, Adamantios Korais a Chiot was amongst the leaders and heroes sawn on the video… Needless to say my feelings on Eugène Delacroix’s painting on the Massacre and Martyrdom of Chios… Did I hear you say Admiral Konstantinos Kanaris? or Radm Laskarina Bouboulina? All where there from all over the Greek lands; all first among equals! Many Congratulations and Thanks to the Committee Greece 2021.
The new Consul of Greece, the very eloquent Christos Goulas introduced the event as well as the speakers; first come to the podium Gonda Van Steen, Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College. She delivered a memorable sort speech on Benjamin Mary*: The Face of a Belgian Philhellene; what an account!
She was followed by Dr. Alasdair Grant, Curatorial (Postdoctoral) Fellow, School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. He delivered a slides paper on Mix’d Celtic Memories with the Phrygian Mount’: George Finlay, Historian and Philhellene.
Dr. Jennifer Wallaces’ presentation was also very intriguing on Poets and Philhellenes. Dr. Wallace is a Harris Fellow and Director of Studies in English at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge
The last presentation was an excellent finale by Angeliki Petropetsioti, an Actress – theatre and artistic director of Mirror Theater in London. She read in Greek Narration passages from Memoires of Makrygiannis and Kolokotronis with simultaneous slides in English! The text was provided by Io Manolessou, director of the Research Centre for Modern Greek Dialects of the Athens Academy.
All speakers where warmly applauded!
Due to technical reasons we missed the music part – a Santouri repertoire with Stella Valasi, Sholi Music Foundation of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens.
We all stood-by the paintings / portraits** of the Greek Independence Heroes and joined in a dips and drinks reception were we exchanged views with old and new friends from the UK’s Greek Diaspora as well as British Philhellenes, Scholars and Supporters.
Good to see the ever present John Kittmer, former Ambassador to Greece who recently was bestowed with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix by the Greek Ambassador Ioannis Raptakis, for his contribution in enhancing knowledge about Greece in the United Kingdom and reinforcing ties between the two countries.
We spotted the Cypriot General Consul Theodoros Gotsis, Nicholas Skinitis and his wife Pighi – president of the Greek Lycee, Mrs Sophie Kydoniefs, chairman of the executive board of London’s Hellenic Centre together with its director Agatha Kalisperas, Irene Veroni from the Educational office at the Greek Embassy, Natassa Sventzouri, the president of the Macedonian Society in Great Britain, Lefki Papacharalambous, Eleni Papagianopoulou, Ioannis Anagnostopoulos, bunker expert Lina Molfetas – member also of HESGB, Dr. Maria Kaparou from the Univerity of Southampton, Elissavet Georgiadou, Fashion designer Matina Ouzouni, Dr. Angelica Kavouni, Greek TV’s (ERT) Evdoxia Limberis, Michalis Ellinas from London Greek Radio and TV, many academics, students and members of the Greek Embassy and Consulate.
The new Greek Press Attaché Marianna Varvarigou and her team greatly contributed to the event. Unfortunately the heart, mind and organiser of this and all previous Bicentennial and other events, Press Attaché – now Press Attaché for Cultural events, Elena Soupiana due to unforeseen circumstances wasn’t present, but all Congrats goes to her!
Long Live Greece!
*Benjamin Mary’s 125 unpublished drawings of 320 exceptional individuals from the album of the Belgian diplomat and artist Benjamin Mary (1792-1846). This volume constitutes a landmark in the portrayal of combatants, politicians, members of the clergy and everyday people, bringing to light previously unknown images that enrich Greek history.
** The portraits were courtesy of Sylvia Ioannou Foundation