After postponing its 70th anniversary event three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hellenic Lyceum of Sydney wasn’t letting anything stop its celebrations this time around.
Proud members of the Hellenic Lyceum, their family, friends and representatives of numerous Greek communities across Sydney all showed up to The Grand Roxy in Brighton-Le-Sands on Sunday afternoon to support the women’s organisation and its hard work over 70 years.
Among the special VIP guests were the wife of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Jenny Morrison; the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras; His Grace Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia; the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP; Member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis MP; Member for Rockdale, Steve Kamper; the President of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW, Harry Danalis; the Chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris; and the President of the Lyceum, Liana Vertzayias; among many others.
These guests, as well as the over 150 other people in attendance, were treated to a beautiful three course meal as they mingled and took in all the formal proceedings.
The proceedings began with the singing of the Australian and Greek National Anthems by Jim Tsolakis and Despina Lucas.
This was followed by the Hellenic Lyceum dancers, under the guidance of Dimitri and Stavroula Papapetrou, performing a number of traditional Greek dances related to Asia Minor and the Greek Revolution.
They were accompanied by Olga Mytika-Kremisis on vocals, Michael Platyrrahos on the violi and lyra, Vassilis Tsatsagos on the laouto and ode, and Tassos Tsagaris on the toubeleki.
Afterwards, a number of small speeches were given by Bishop Christodoulos, Mrs Vertzayias, Mr Karras, Mr Coure, Ms Cotsis and Mrs Morrison.
In her speech, Mrs Vertzayias thanked everyone for attending the anniversary celebrations and gave a brief history of how the Lyceum is well-known for “pioneering women’s rights and promoting Greek culture and traditions.”
“Our objectives have changed from the early days of the 50s and 60s when we were assisting newly-arrived migrant women, as we now reach out to the third and fourth generation Greek Australians to imbued them with our Hellenic values and promote Hellenism in the broader Australian community,” the President of the Hellenic Lyceum said.
“To reach this stage of the Lyceum’s development, hundreds of women have given their time and energy. We salute and acknowledge all those women.”
The Greek Consul General then approached the stage and congratulated the Hellenic Lyceum on “successfully maintaining and promoting Greek culture, traditions and heritage in Australia.”
Next up was Mr Coure who stressed that the Hellenic Lyceum has provided “more than 70 years of service to women of Greek origin in NSW, making it one of the oldest organisations servicing women of Greek origin in Australia.”
“Congratulations,” the NSW Multicultural Minister said. “This is a dynamic organisation always ready to change with the times and needs of the community.”
This was followed by Ms Cotsis who spoke passionately about the Hellenic Lyceum and her strong connection to the organisation since she first entered politics.
“We stand on the shoulders of all of you. You have done all the hard work and we are here today to celebrate and to say thank you,” Ms Cotsis said.
Last up to the podium was Mrs Morrison, who shared the tragic migration story of one of her Greek friends and stressed how it highlights the resilience of the Greek community and women.
“I think that’s the spirit of Greek people,” Mrs Morrison said.
“They came and they knew what they came from and they wanted to make a better place for their children and their children’s children, meanwhile sharing a wonderful culture and amazing stories and dances.”
After a round of applause by all those in attendance, two awards were then handed out to Marina Efthimiou for being the longest-serving President of the Hellenic Lyceum, and to Dimitri and Stavroula Papapetrou for their 30 years of service as dance instructors.
Official proceedings were concluded with the cutting of a special cake by the committee and members of the Hellenic Lyceum, followed by Greek dancing.
*All photos copyright: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.