Saturday, December 24, 2016


«Καλά δε νιώθς; Μη μ’ βανς ομελέττα, αφού δεν αρταίνουμι».
My grandmother placed the pan on the table and stared at me in horror. If looks were capable of parakinesis, then that stare would have had me lifted from the kitchen table, packed, despatched to the airport and bundled onto the next available flight back to Melbourne. This was due to the fact that since my arrival in the motherland, there to spend my Christmas on Mount Penteli with my maternal grandmother, she had been continuously lecturing me about my hideous (according to her) Samian accent.
“You are supposed to have been educated,” she would ponder. “How is it possible that you are still speaking in that horribly perverted way? How did they let you graduate high school?”
According to my grandmother, given the right factors, accents were transmutable. Thus, once one had completed high school, any rural accent they may have had the misfortune to have inherited by birth and geography would immediately and seamlessly transform into Athenian. My defence, which was that we all spoke Samian at home and didn’t know any Athenians was thus deemed invalid, since there was no doubt that I had finished high school, the fact that I had done so in Melbourne, rather than Athens, apparently having no appreciable effect upon the expected dialectic transformation.
“We have a certain standing in this neighbourhood,” my grandmother informed me, almost immediately after I had settled in. “You will NOT walk these streets speaking that vulgar tongue. I will not have our named shamed. If you must indulge your perversions, at least do so discreetly only within these four walls.”
Speaking Athenian was tough. Samian is economical, methodically removing all unnecessary and probably most necessary vowels. The cluster of ensuing consonants that the tongue must hurdle gives one time to pause and consider exactly what it is they are communicating. Not so with Athenian, which spurts from the mouths of its native speakers with the exuberance of a water fountain, spraying all those in the vicinity with an unrelenting lexical word jet.
Then there was the matter of vocabulary. Try as I might, I could not get the local fruiterer to understand what I meant when I spoke learnedly and enthusiastically about the cultivation of μπουρνέλλες back home, because δαμάσκηνα, the word Athenians employ to denote the plum, was unknown to me at the time. By that stage, I had lost any credibility I may have had with the fruiterer anyway, as, in fulfilment of my grandmother’s wishes that I complete her Christmas shopping, I made my debut in the shop by dutifully asking for κρεμμυδάκια, expressing incredulity when the fruiterer produced what I knew back home to be σπρινγκάνια. In my mind, and to this day I maintain that it makes logical sense, κρεμμυδάκια should be that which they proclaim: small onions.
The look of horror my grandmother gave me that fateful Christmas Eve was thus motivated by sheer exasperation. Not only was her antipodean grandson a Samian-speaking yokel, untouched by the benefits of education and western civilisation as a whole, now he was proving that there truly are no limits to the depths of his depravity, by uttering aphorisms in the manner and style of her own native and long-suppressed patois: the dialect of Ioannina.
“How quaint, he’s trying to speak Greek” my grandmother’s neighbour remarked, as she angled her aquiline nose into her coffee cup. “What is he saying?”
At that time, the film “Basic Instinct” had just been released in Greece. I had not seen it, but had been told that it involved a particularly murderous icepick. As I observed the camber of the neighbour’s nose, it assumed the sheen of steel in the gloom of the Pentelic kitchen. I had visions of detaching it from her face and using it to crush some ice of my own.
I despised her for two reasons, for the first of which she bore no blame. For in a manner deeply disquieting, she looked exactly like Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, with the same furrowed brow and cheeks, even down to the stiff wiry hairstyle and the slightly slanted, yellow flecked, Stalinesque eyes.
Indeed it was those eyes that caught my eye and my ire earlier that day. After spending days ensconced in my grandmother’s kitchen mulling over times past, receiving sage advice and preparing for Christmas, I was bored. So bored in fact, that I offered to weed, prune and cultivate my grandmother’s garden, which was displaying signs of advanced rebellion from her authoritarian rule, this having been a particularly mild winter on the mountain. My grandmother too, Ι supposed, must have been bored, for she consented, even though this meant that I would be exposed to the linguistic scrutiny of the entire neighbourhood. Not having anticipated that a spot of gardening would be on my itinerary, I had neglected to pack suitable clothing, which is how I found myself in my grandmother’s front garden dressed in my grandmother’s lilac tracksuit, with matching lilac and white tiger print fleecy top and a pair of her wooden τσόκαρα, wielding a hoe with the determination of a boy who knows that he is so extremely comfortable with his sexuality, that he hath no need to protest too much. I proceeded to pull, heave, hoe and plough with gusto.
When Jeff Kennett spoke, she did so in the same rasping, reedy tones of her Melburnian doppelganger: «Μέσα είναι η κυρά σου;» I realised at once that I had been weighed and found to have been the help. Furthermore, from her superior tone, I deduced that I was considered to be the help of Albanian extraction and resolved to play the part, if anything, to enhance the standing of my maternal progenitor’s progenitor among her peers, as a lady who could and would, command help, when the need for such help arose.
“Është brenda,” I gestured towards the front door, adding in lisping broken Greek to add verisimilitude: «Κυρά μέσα είναι.»
As I completed my pruning, I wondered whether a Greek Jeff Kennett would nationalise Albanian domestic servants, just so that he could have the pleasure of privatising them. With that, having showered and adorned myself in garments of a less offensive hue, I hastened to the kitchen for the selamlik.
“This is my grandson, Kostas,” my grandmother announced with the poise of a dowager Sultan.
“But isn’t that the Αλβανάκι you’ve got digging for you outside?” Jeff Kennett asked.
“Please say that the Αλβανάκι is a different person, so I can go out and pretend to be him and thus confuse and confound Jeff Kennett,” I prayed, looking at my grandmother pleadingly.
My grandmother caught my eye and I saw the corner of her spirit levelled mouth fight to suppress a smile. Yet such indulgences as those I craved were not to be entertained.
“No, this is my grandson. He is over from Australia, to spend Christmas with me.”
“Oh, maybe that’s why I couldn’t understand what he said. I could have sworn he was Albanian. Mind you, these Albanians….Oh get off me Kari, stop being a Christmas pest,” Jeff Kennett shouted angrily as she attempted to shoo my eponymously named grandmother’s dog who was snuffling her feet.
I burst out laughing.
“What’s funny,” Jeff Kennett snarled.
“Well," I said, "It’s just that Kar is Albanian for penis,” I informed her.
“I don’t get it,” she frowned. “Are you an Αλβανάκι, or are you the grandson from Australia?”
It was at this point, that my grandmother attempted to interpose an omelette between myself and my interlocutor, eliciting the blast of Ioannite phraseology that so incensed her.
«Δεν αρταίνομαι,» means that I’m fasting,” I explained to Jeff Kennett. “It means the same thing as «νηστεύω.» I’m fasting for Christmas.”
“Really?” Jeff Kennett marvelled. “In Albanian? Do you Albanians fast too? But of course, it makes sense. Only Albanians go to church nowadays anyway.” My grandmother rolled her eyes, albeit with grace and dignity.
When Jeff Kennett finally withdrew her presence, my grandmother treated me to the longest and most impassioned stream of Epirotic pejoratives, uttered in the heaviest of accents I had ever heard. “Stupid old toad,” she finally concluded. “With her superior airs. Do you know her son has been supposedly studying dentistry in London for the past ten years?”
“Well, I came all the way to Athens to escape Jeff Kennett,” I replied. “A ten year sojourn in London to escape the same Jeff Kennett seems perfectly reasonable to me.”
That Pentelic Christmas formed a watershed in our relationship. Notably because it was the first of many Christmases spent with one of the most linguistically complex, fascinating and loving people I have ever known. But even more so because from that time, until the day she died, some two decades later, every single one of our Christmas greetings was prefaced by the following: «Φύγε από πάνω μου Κάρυ, μη μ’ενοχλείς Χριστουγεννιάτικα.» And it is in that expansive spirit that I extend to all, the greetings of the Season.
Saturday 24 December 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016


 drive past the Nisyrian Society club building on Sydney Road, Brunswick at least once a week. On its be-curtained door, a sign proclaims forbiddingly, “Members Only.” This, I find interesting, because in the two decades that I have been driving past this imposing edifice, not once have I seen droves of aroused non-members lining up before this mysterious portal, in an attempt to penetrate the Nisyrians’ inner sanctum. Indeed, come to think of it, I have never actually seen the door actually open.

Nonetheless, it is interesting how we Greek-Australians identify or self-identify our own sub-cultural groups with reference to their buildings. Quite simply, in the common consciousness, if one does not have a building, one does not manifest themselves in any meaningful way within the broader Greek community, hence the resistance, especially of the older generations to any change in the real asset base of any given organization. Thus, much more focus is expended in maintaining or paying off unproductive assets, than in actually doing that which our regional brotherhoods were founded to achieve in the first place, which is to link people of the same background together and create cohesive micro-communities.

My own club, the Pansamian Brotherhood of Melbourne, has recently found this out of itself. Despite the Iphigenias of doom and destruction prophesying oblivion ensuing the sale of our clubhouse in Brunswick, we still meet and hold the same functions as we did before, as the exploration of the connections between people, is the main aim, realizing that a clubhouse, though admirable in many respects, is not the organization itself. When it becomes a carapace, excluding others and ossifying practices that are no longer relevant to the change face of the community, the clubhouse can actually become, an agent of a club’s destruction.

In the municipalities of Darebin and Moreland alone, there exist over twenty Greek regional clubs, most of whom own a clubhouse but none of whom until now have ever co-ordinated their efforts. Yet when one drives past or enters these structures, one thing becomes striking: Though these clubhouses and the clubs themselves are in their municipalities, they are not of their municipalities. That is, though rate-paying, that have little if no involvement in their broader communities, contributing nothing substantial to them. Rather than being an expression or reflection of the Greeks residing in those municipalities, their doors serve as portals to an isolation chamber, whose sole purpose is to hermetically seal its members from anything taking place “outside,” even when they are operating as social centres for the local elderly, as many of these clubs now are.

The reason for this is simple. When we Greek-Australians refer to our “regional” clubs, the word here does not denote the regions of the city in which we live, but rather, the regions in Greece from which we derive our ancestry. Consequently, “local” or “regional” clubs are anything but what they imply, purporting to serve instead, the needs of a geographically widespread population of Greeks with the same region, many of whom have little or no emotional, economical or social concerns or attachment to the area in which their club building is situated.

This is of concern because it is the area in which we live, the people who we see in our everyday social interactions that play a large part in the formulation of our personal identity. Where there exists no structure or forum within which a native Australian Greek local community can arise, one in which the Greek identity of emerging generations can be explored with the context of their everyday life, their relationship to their local environment and most importantly their relationship to other Greek-Australians in the course of their daily life, then such paltry networks as the topicistic brotherhoods provide become stale, rarefied and irrelevant to the point where the descendants of their members no longer identify with them and cease to attend them.

A corollary to this, is the fact that our community is primarily organized around such insular brotherhoods and not having as a criterion, the local areas in which Greek-Australians reside, contributes to language and identity loss. For if we live in our local communities disparate and unable to co-ordinate social activities with the Greeks of our own area, then our involvement in our brotherhood has and will continue to take on a tokenistic flavor, where the Greek language and the Greek identity, rather than being integrated into the warp and weft of mainstream society as a community language and a constituent identity of the broader Australian social fabric, is relegated to the margins as an isolated and irrelevant ancestral idiom, that has nothing to contribute to our daily endeavours as Australians and is thus taken out for a time and aired sparingly, after which time, it is generally discarded.

What is astounding is the fact that after a sojourn of a little more than a century in Victoria, we are yet to articulate a viable Australian Greek identity, one that is pertinent and germane to our experience in this country and which could provide a unique perspective and point of reference, in a truly multicultural society. By enclosing ourselves almost exclusively within the carapace of our brotherhoods, we have not only lost an opportunity to engage and add value to the mainstream: we have, by refusing to integrate our identity within the broader discourse, ensured the irrelevancy and ultimate failure of Hellenism as a discourse within Australia, altogether.

It is for this reason, that Hellenism Victoria, an initiative primarily of brotherhoods and clubs of the Darebin and Moreland municipalities must succeed. Its proponents simply cannot fathom how such a large agglomeration of with a few notable exceptions, stagnating and insular, Greek organizations has had little or no impact not only on the local municipality but also upon the Greeks living within it. They point to second generation, generally time-poor parents who cannot make the trip to Oakleigh on a regular basis “to get their [ersatz] Greek on” and lament the fact that their children are growing up disconnected to the Greek families in the neighbourhoods and streets around them, without access to Greek language childcare or even local non-Greek-place of-origin activities, which could instill a sense an intrinsic sense of belonging to something other than a mere institution – a community and a way of life. They comment that the existing clubs are cold, forbidding and irrelevant to those who do not derive from the area in Greece they represent, or whose parents are not on the committee of management and their sphere of action is, at any rate, quite limited. They also point out that the centralization of Greek endeavor within the CBD, while valuable, is not a panacea and can in no way replace pursuing organized Hellenism on the suburban, daily level.

Hellenism Victoria is therefore an endeavor to transmute the raw elements of Hellenism into something relevant to the place in which we all live. It is an attempt to provide some sort of cohesion in the face of the alarming unravelling of the structures of mutual obligation and recognition that have hitherto characterized our community, dispensing with a tribal framework which is fast becoming obsolete.

The manner in which Hellenism Victoria seeks to achieve the localization and revitalization of the Greek identity in the municipalities in which its constituents exist, is by co-ordinating a joint approach to issues of integration, socialization and manifestation of one’s identity via interested pre-existing clubs, in a spirit of mutual co-operation. Rather than being a “club for clubs” as some have commented, it represents the commencement of a concerted effort to rethink the parameters and structures of Australian Hellenism, without discarding, excluding or disparaging existing community stakeholders, but rather by including them in and making them responsible  a bold and exciting new initiative where their own histories and tribal affiliations are left intact, but liberating them sufficiently to allow them to cater to the needs of the broader, local and tribally unaffiliated Greek community, through competitions, joint events and most importantly, festivals that will see local Greeks who live close to each other being able to relate to each other as Australian Greeks, and not as members of an obscure tribe whose arcane rites have been discarded even in its place of origin.

This remarkable attempt at rebooting our community by Hellenism Victoria deserves our support and is historically significant as it represents the first time in our age that hitherto hidebound structures are attempting in concert, to radically reposition themselves in order to address the huge demographic and sociological issues that will challenge the existence of a coherent Greek community in Melbourne in the future. Whether or not, as an experiment, Hellenism Victoria will succeed depends, largely on the breadth and clarity of its proponents’ vision, the ability of existing community groups to work together but ultimately, on us.

First published in NKEE on Saturday, 17 December 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016


The last time I saw the august leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, I was just tucking into a feast of roast lamb at the glorious Philhellene restaurant in Moonee Ponds. In he walked, and a barely concealed gasp was emitted from the mouths of most of the patrons. “Hey that’s Bill Shorten,” one elderly lady seated a few tables away from me gushed. “Let’s go and say hello.” “Leave the poor bugger alone,” her husband said. “He has enough on his plate without having to deal with the likes of us, interrupting his tea. Still, good of him to support businesses in his electorate.” Quite part from the fact that I appreciated immensely the husband’s subtle play on the word plate, I was quite taken aback by what next ensued. Bill Shorten sat down with his companions and ate, unmolested and uninterrupted by journalists, patrons, autograph hunters or client’s seeking favours, as would have been the case in our ancestral homeland. This made be proud to be Australian.
Try as you might, you can’t ignore the Greek presence in the Federal Seat of Maribyrnong. Though not in one’s face, and not prone to congregate in large, noticeable numbers, except around the local shopping centres, (notably, the coffee and cake shops purporting to be Greek are awful, though the restaurants, Philhellene, Meltemi, Lindos and Nobel, a novel name for a Greek restaurant if there ever was one, are local landmarks)nevertheless the Greeks are there, their existence denoted often by the presence of olive trees in the front yard, or a brief whiff off incense emanating from a given home, as one drives past. In the summer, nine out of ten leather-tanned, white singleted, blue-shorted and leather sandaled elderly men driving around the streets of the electorate with a multitude of salvaged timbers in their trailer, tend also to be Greek. Our own family legend holds that we were the second Greek family to settle in Essendon, the heartland of the electorate, in 1954, though I have no way of proving this.
What having deep roots in one’s local area does do, however, is give you an enhanced sense of community, and of history. As I traverse the streets of my homeland, a myriad of family and village connections assume the form of an interconnected web in my mind. There on the right, my cousin’s house. Further down the street, the homes of people from either my mother, or father’s villages, continuing a social network of support and mutual assistance that transcends both time and borders. Here, the home of a friend from Greek school. There, the home of our local priest. On the main road, the local branch of the Delphi Bank. In the new estates now currently being built up with hideous box like constructions, lay the paddocks from which I would help by grandfather gather χόρτα. Up the road, the Child and Maternal Health Centre, which as built by the Greek community of East Keilor as a local club, until internecine squabbles caused the council to confiscate the building and put it to better use. Furthermore, in our electorate, there are four significant Greek Orthodox parishes: Panagia Soumela East Keilor, Saint Dimitrios Ascot Vale, Agia Paraskevi St Albans and Apostolos Andreas Sunshine. The City of Moonee Valley, in which the first two aforementioned churches are situated, where my grandparents settled, my parents grew up and into which I was born and introduced into a Greek speaking community, is without a doubt my πατρίδα. Without it, my sense of my own identity, both as a Greek and as an Australian would be markedly different to what it is today.
It is for this reason, more than any other, the almost total identification that the electorate of Maribyrnong Greeks have with their local community, that Bill Shorten’s failure to include Greek among the languages in which he expressed his Season’s Greetings in a card sent to his constituents, appears to have incensed the Greek community so much, as well as mystified it, for by all accounts, Bill Shorten has established a close relationship with the local Greek community of his electorate and has consulted widely and often with its leadership.
Granted, considering that we have been present in the electorate for over sixty years, one could argue that Bill Shorten, in omitting Greek from the other languages appearing in his card, these being Vietnamese, Maltese, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Spanish, French, Croatian, Arabic and Turkish, is paying us a backhand compliment, in that he is considering us so part of the fabric of the electorate, that no further effort is required to ‘accommodate’ us. The presence of an Italian greeting on that card would contradict such an assertion. The Italian community’s arrival to the electorate precedes our own and given the rate of language loss within its community, it is arguable that Greek is more widespread as a spoken language. Certainly, the Greek language is taught in over ten schools within the electorate, suggesting it is a major language within the electorate. Visiting the local cemetery, one notices that approximately a quarter of the gravestones are inscribed in Greek. Our ethnolinguistic roots within the electorate are thus more than merely superficial and its Greeks have not been able to understand why their elected representative would take the trouble to offer greetings in French or Korean, languages that few speak within the electorate and not the language of a major ethnic group that has contributed so much to the evolution of the electorate of Maribyrnong, and which for a matter of fact has been a constant en masse supporter of that elected representative’s party.
As the Greek language declines in use, (and certainly within the electorate of Maribyrnong, the Greek inscriptions or public signs that were once placed in the shop fronts of old Greek business, giving the area a cosmopolitan atmosphere are almost extinct, as the latter generations explore other employment opportunities), it is logical for the Greek community to become defensive, or possibly even hysterical about each perceived slight or insult, that is seen to diminish its importance or impugn its existence. Bill Shorten’s paralepsis however, does not give rise to hysteria. Instead, the Greeks, both of Greece and Cyprus, in his electorate are well justified in feeling affronted because after the passage of so many decades, it should have been axiomatic that Greek was a language to be included in any multilingual communication emanating from any member for Maribyrnong’s office, simply because the Greek people feel and they are right to do so, thatthey are inextricably interwoven within the history and social make-up of the area. For them, Greek is one of the native languages of the electorate.
When confronted with complaints by local Greeks at the omission of such an important electorate language from the card, myself among them, Bill Shorten’s staff seemed genuinely distressed at what they stated to be an ‘oversight’ and were extremely apologetic. What this episode teaches us however, is that we cannot and should not rely upon or assume as a given, any validation of our ethno-linguistic identity by a mainstream whose interests in this regard are not always the same as our own. The fact that omissions of this nature can take place, omissions that the Greeks of the electorate broadly felt, served to efface their existence as a social entity, even after more than half a century of active involvement within the local community, teach us that we must look inward, strengthening our own community institutions, engaging more with each other and finding meaningful ways to articulate a Greek-Australian identity not as prescribed by policy makers or by grant-givers, but rather for and of ourselves, if we are to persist as a viable, cogent and relevant entity to multicultural Australia, whether or not, we are the recipient of Season’s Greetings.

In this, Bill Shorten, who in a follow up letter to the parish priest of Saint Dimitrios in Ascot Vale commented,  "The Greek Community has had an integral role in shaping the identity of our country and the electorate of Maribyrnong, and we are richer for this experience," before wishing him: "Καλά Χριστούγεννα και Καλή Χρονιά," has the final word.

First published in NKEE on 10 December 2016

Saturday, December 03, 2016


The inscription goes further to say that the purpose of the Zosimas brothers’ sponsorship is to ensure that the book, which is a philosophical treatise summarizing the major currents of thought prevailing in Europe at that time, is distributed among Greek youth free of charge, for the purpose of their edification and the cultivation of their souls.
The breadth of the Zosimas brothers’ vision is breathtaking. Having made vast fortunes in Italy and Russia, they and many other Greek pre and post-revolution merchants and businessmen living abroad, most of whom came from Epirus, arguably the most impoverished region of the Greek world at that time, set about securing the necessary infrastructure that would ensure the viability of an emerging Greek state.
Thus, Evangelos Zappas, from Lambovo in Northern Epirus, provided the necessary funds of the revival of the modern Olympic Games. He also founded Greek schools in several Greek-populated villages and towns, all over Northern Epirus. In Constantinople, which until 1955 had a large Greek population, he also founded a complex of nurseries, primary and secondary schools, which were collectively known as the Zappeion Institute. Quite apart from funding the modern day Zappeion building in Athens, he also was deposited a large amount of money in the National Bank of Greece to provide scholarships for Greek agricultural students in order to conduct postgraduate studies in Western Europe.
George Sinas, from Moschopolis in Northern Epirus, who became chief director of the bank of Austria in turn, financed the construction of the university of Athens, a number of medical and archaeological institutions, as well as the Athens National Observatory.
Apostolos Arsakis, from Hotahova in Nothern Epirus, who at one time served as interim Prime Minister of Romania, provided large sums of money for the establishment of a female educational institution in Athens, housed in a luxurious mansions at the city center and known as the Arskeion School.
George Averoff, from Metsovo, Epirus, founded of the School of Agriculture in Larisa, funded the construction of the Evelpidon Military Academy, donated to the Athens Conservatory, and provided for the refurbishment of the Panathenian Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held. He also funded the completion of the National Technical University of Athens and provided a donation for building the Averoff flagship of the Greek Navy.
Christakis Zografos, from Kestorati in Northern Epirus, donated an enormous amount of money for the erection of middle level schools in Constantinople, one (the Zographeion Lyceum) in the district of Pera in Constantinople and another, a girl’s school in Yeniköy on the Bosporus, as well as sponsoring the rebuilding of a Greek library in the city. At the Universities of Munich and Paris he made an 1,000 Franc endowment for awards in the fields of Greek literature and history. He also founded a teachers college, known as the Zographeion School in Epirus.
Similarly, George Stavros, from Ioannina in Epirus, founded the National Bank of Greece and served as its first director. At the same time, he, like most of the other great Greek benefactors, provided ample funds for the construction of institutions to serve the Greek communities abroad in which they lived and thrived.
Ioannis Pangas, from Korytsa, Northern Epirus, provided the most extreme form of philanthropy yet. Not content with building schools in his hometown, on 16 August 1889, he donated his entire fortune to the Greek state and all of his possessions, as an act of philanthropy to aid the rebuilding of Athens and the growth of the panfully emerging Greek state. He retained only 1,000 drachmas per month in order to lead a decent life.
A common thread can be perceived in all the above-mentioned benefactor’s activities. They all believed that it was vital, if the Greek nation was to be liberated and stand upon its feet in the modern world, that the Greek people were educated, understood the context and zeitgeist of the region in which they lived and able to play a significant role in the broader global community, as they had done, in the countries to which they migrated, George Sinas for one, being responsible for the founding of many of Vienna’s beautiful buildings. This then is the reason why the Zosimas brothers felt it necessary to distribute philosophical treatises to the book-starved youth of Greece, for free. True emancipation, in their view, had its starting in the mind and soul and not in the physical. True liberation would be achieved only when the book worked in concert with the sword and of course the moneymen. In order to achieve this lofty goal, the book would have to be given precedence, something which along the way, the feuding hoplarchs, oligarchs and politicians of modern Greece seem to have forgotten.
For it is trite to mention that without commerce and industry and without the active involvement of its practitioners in the founding of Modern Greece, it is unlikely that the said state would have been able to get up off the ground, let alone endure as a going concern. Their example that of planned, ideologically driven but methodical benefaction, is one we here in the Antipodes could emulate and it is for this reason that community groups that have been founded and exist to celebrate Greek involvement in commerce and industry provide exciting scope, not only for organized involvement with the current cultural, social and welfare activities of the broader Greek community, but also in setting the foundations for a future.
Henry Ford was prescient when he opined: “If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” However, undoubtedly, being able to target and fund endeavours that fulfill perceived needs without having to constantly go cap in hand to various government agencies and navigate the ever changing swirl of policies and priorities that dictate grants does offer a modicum of independence to a community whose current community institutions are, in their majority, outmoded, and failing their members.
Though the Greek communities of Constantinople and Alexandria have been decimated by the vicissitudes of politics and fate, their welfare is still being provided for to the present day by the generous and far-sighted donations of the Epirote benefactors over a century ago. That in itself speaks volumes as to how a Greek community, could, in partnership with commerce and industry conduct its affairs so as to independently plan its future as a coherent and cohesive whole, where as many people as possible are provided for.
Discarding the already well-worn ethos of pat on the back social clubs for wealthy Greeks that have made it, let us all embrace Greek commerce and industry community institutions that a) can provide or facilitate vocational training for young Greeks within the businesses of the community b) can mentor promising or needy young Greeks throughout their schooling or early professional life c) can identify key areas of communal need such as aged care, child care, kindergartens and Greek schools and set up coherent funding strategies, via peer funding and d) identify key areas of expansion to meet the needs of the future such as credit co-operatives, programs facilitating enhanced contact with Greece, and e) fund those engaging with and assisting newly arrived members of the Greek community. The fact that our current commerce and industry community institutions appear willing to engage in this way, with a community in transition, is as invigorating as it is inspiring. For time is of the essence…
I have in my collection, an 1805 book by the great scholar of the Greek enlightenment and bishop Evgenios Voulgaris, entitled “What Philosophers Prefer.” On the cover page, there exists an inscription informing readers that the costs for publishing this book were borne by the Zosimas brothers, wealthy businessmen from Ioannina in Epirus, who among other things, financed the construction of the Monetary Museum of Athens, the National Library, of Adamantios Korais, one of the major contributors of the Greek Enlightenment movement, the Zosimaia college in Ioannina, and an orphanage in Patmos, as well as donating significant sums to the Philiki Etaireia for the purposes of carrying out the revolution.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 3 December 2016