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Candlelight vigil held in Victoria to mark centenary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe

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A candlelight vigil at the steps of Parliament House of Victoria was held on Sunday, November 4 to commemorate 100 years since the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

The cataclysmic events that were sealed with the burning of the Greek quarter of Smyrna in 1922 are considered the most tragic and significant events of modern Greek history. Greece definitively lost an ancient portion of Hellenism, leaving a historical trauma in the memory of Hellenes.

On Sunday morning, a memorial service was held by Father Jordan Krikelis at the Holy Church “Panagia Soumela” in East Keilor.

At 7.30pm young and old gathered on the steps of Parliament to honour their ancestors in an act of remembrance, unity and appreciation. Among them were many representatives of Melbourne’s community organisations.

In her welcome speech, the outgoing president of the Australian Federation of Pontian Associations, Simela Stamatopoulos, emphasised the significance of effective collaboration between Greek community organisations for important events such as this.

The event was graced by the presence of His Grace Metropolitan Ezekiel of Dervis, the President of the Victorian Council for Greek National Day and the Intercommunity of Parishes and Communities, Tony Tsourdalakis, and the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, Bill Papastergiadis, who delivered a greeting and referred to the significance of the centenary.

Yiota Stavridou, educator and coordinator of the Educational Institute “Hellenism of Anatolia – from the Aegean Sea to Pontos,” made a brief reference to the events that led to the uprooting of the Greeks of Asia Minor.

Historical reports from representatives of the associations linked to Asia Minor followed.

Among them were Elena Vassiliadou, representative of the Pontian Association “Panagia Soumela”; George Xinos, Board Member of the Imbrians’ Association of Melbourne; Sofia Arvanitou, representative of the Tenedos Brotherhood Aid Society Victoira – Australia; Kris Stamboulidis, President of the Krithia Association of Australia; Christos Vlasakakis, President of the Panthracian Association of Melbourne and Victoria; Iakovos Garivaldis, Vice-President of the Thessaloniki Association “The White Tower”; Konnie Kouremenos, member of Merimna Pontion Kyrion Oceania; Yiannis Pilalidis, Vice-President of “Pontiaki Estia” and the Australian Federation of Pontian Associations; and Anna Kiriakidis, youth representative and Board Member of “Panagia Soumela.”

Those present heard stories of displacement and the effect the forced uprooting had on families, as well as the resilience and progress made by those who survived. The poem “The Martyed City” was recited, written and published in 1926 by George Horton who was the US Consul in Smyrna and an eyewitness to the destruction of the Hellenic presence in Asia Minor.

This was followed by the lighting of the candles, accompanied by the sound of the lyre, played by Stefanos Levoyiannis and the voices of the members of “Pontiac KI Estia,” under the direction of Desi Levoyiannis, sang “Tin Patrida’m Ehasa.”

After observing a minute silence, the members of the dance ensembles of “Pontiaki Estia” and “Panagia Soumela” sang and danced to the steps of the song “E Romania Parthen.”

The event closed with the dynamic presence of young people and the wish that the candlelight will continue to bring hope, unity and peace to everyone’s lives.

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