Generations of Pontians remember their roots at genocide commemoration in Melbourne

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Melbourne’s Pontian community commemorated the Greek Genocide on Sunday, May 19, as part of a series of events honouring the memory of those massacred, tortured and displaced. A church service on Sunday was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Axion Esti Monastery in Northcote, presided by Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta.

Speakers included the Greek Consul General of Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, who provided a historical account of the Greek Genocide.

Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Greek Consul General to Melbourne, gives a historical account of the Greek Genocide.
Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Greek Consul General to Melbourne, gives a historical account of the Greek Genocide. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis,
Solemnity ahead of the Pontian wreath-laying
Solemnity ahead of the Pontian wreath-laying

The wreath-laying ceremony wasn’t just about remembering the past, but also about the enduring spirit of the Pontian people. Three generations of Pontian women – Roma Siachos, her daughter Sophia Siachos, and granddaughter Olympia – stood together as a powerful symbol of this resilience.

Roma Siachos, President of the Hellenic Writers Association of Australia, has in the past shared her personal connection with the tragedy. Her grandfather’s stories of forced exile to Russia and the loss of his father in Pontus resonate deeply within her to this day.

Both Roma and her daughter Sophia, new Chair of the Victorian Council for Greek National Day, took little Olympia with them when laying their wreathes.

“I wanted Olympia to be involved today so that I can begin to educate her about the past atrocities faced by our ancestors,” Sophia said. “By attending such memorial services and speaking with our children about the tragic loss of life during the genocide we continue to honour and remember those who endured unimaginable loss or suffering.”

Students from St John's college wearing their Pontian traditional garments.
Students from St John’s college wearing their Pontian traditional garments.
Young Pontians
Young Pontians

Prior to the wreath-laying she spoke to her daughter about the significance of May 19th for their ancestors. She hopes that her daughter will carry the memories of attending the commemorative event with her mother and grandmother.

“It was a very special occasion for us as a family to have three generations of Pontian women honouring the memory of those who lost their lives in such tragic circumstances,” she said.

Simela Stamatopoulos, representing the Australian Federation of Pontians, read a speech by Yiannis Pilalidis to highlight the ongoing pain felt by Pontian refugees and their descendants. She told The Greek Herald that remembering the genocide is not just about dwelling on the negative, but also about honouring the traditions and cultural identity passed down through generations.

The day’s events served as a poignant reminder of the enduring strength of the Pontian community. Through their shared history and unwavering spirit, these families continue to preserve their heritage and ensure that the memory of their ancestors lives on.

Women and girls at the wreath-laying held roses offered to them by Bishop Evmenios to honour the Sunday of the Myrrh bearing Woman. The religious holiday falls on the second Sunday following Orthodox Easter to honour women who brought funeral spices and ointments to Christ’s body, and were the first to see Christ’s empty tomb.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.

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