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Honorary distinction in memory of Jack Dardalis

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It was one year ago that Zissis (Jack) Dardalis passed away; an ardent friend, a close collaborator, and a Great Benefactor of the Hellenic Diaspora; a man of nobility and affection towards Australian Greeks, Greece, Australia and Hellenism. His body is now in the cemetery of Siatista, his birthplace, an arid place that gave birth to some of Greece’s greatest benefactors. There he rests, leaving in Melbourne, Australia, his history, his memories, and the legends of a life that has known tempests and triumphs, poverty and wealth, disdain and recognition and final recognition as an authentic, pure, true and honest fighter and patriot.

Perhaps no other Greek immigrant can stand by him, without attempting some comparison, for his spontaneous character, his cynicism, his generous affection for man, children, orphans, letters, and sports.

The members of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS) in a special meeting, upon the recommendation of their President, Professor Anastasios M. Tamis, unanimously decided to honour Zissis Dardalis as their Honorary President and to establish a special Honorary Distinction which will be offered to Universities and Research Institutions under the designation JACK DARDALIS GRANT.

The first grant in memory of Zissis Dardalis, amounting to AU$5,000.00, is expected to be given to the Research and Publications Department of the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle of Thessaloniki. The museum under the direction of curator Dr. Athena Pavlidis has for several years a research department on the history and culture of Macedonia, where postgraduate scholars work under the guidance of a team of University Historians of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The Museum’s Centre for Macedonian Research and Documentation leads the research and documentation of Macedonian archives and publishes books that shed light on the history of Macedonia and Greece in the Balkans and internationally.

The Centre operates specifically under the supervision of the Professors Ioannis Chasiotis, Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Vasilios Gounaris, Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Ioannis Stefanidis, Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Vlassi Vlasidis, Associate Professor, University of Thessaloniki, Eleftheria Mantas, Assistant Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Dr Evangelos Hekimoglou,  Economic History. It is under the direction of Stavroula Mavrogeni, Associate Professor at the University of Macedonia.

The Zissis Dardalis Grant will be officially offered to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Director of the Museum in July 2024, in the presence of students and academics, and will be preceded by a speech on the life and contribution of this Great Macedonian Man to Greece and Hellenism in Australia. AIMS closely collaborates with the Society for Macedonian Studies in Thessaloniki and the Australian Institute for Hellenic Research for the organisation and success of the event.

“With this honorary distinction in memory of the authentic Zissis Dardalis, we honour his insurmountable contribution to Hellenism, literature, research and arts and we simply fulfil to a minimum the debt we feel we owe to Zissis Dardalis and his family,” Mr Tamis said in his presentation to the members of the AIMS Board of Directors.

Some people are born to mark human debt with their unique path in this life. They remain authentic, unique, and perhaps alone, special but also well-known, heretical, and incompatible, quirky and honest, besalides. Persons with unrestricting anger and inexhaustible strength, bottomless courage. Rage that stifles even the rational, and love that is inexhaustibly given.Crying of a small child,  smile of hope. “I offer to others what I was deprived of as a child” was his motto. This was Zissis Dardalis. A unique and highly supreme human phenomenon, incomparable and unparalleled.

Zissis Dardalis came alone as an orphan and leaved as a unique form of man who belongs to all of us. He belongs to his family, to the thousands of students he benefited, to the hundreds of athletes who accepted his generosity, to the dozens of charitable institutions that accepted his grace, to the hundreds of friends of his heart and visitors who tasted his generous hospitality, to the community and ecclesiastical bodies that benefited, to the distant homeland he had within him and to the nation of Greeks he served in Australia and Greece.

Zissis Dardalis did not have a broad education, he did not have a systemic education. “I am illiterate and a peasant!” he used to mock himself. He grew up without parents, with his aunt and uncle. He was authoritarian, he was irritable. He was compassionate, extremely merciful, with a child’s heart writing his anger on the ice. He had his hooeys, like all of us. His own hooyas, his own habits. He was so unique and authentic that his copy, his replica, his effigy cannot stand next to him. There is no other person to whom one could copy Zissis Dardalis. He spent his life innovating, designing, and creating. From shepherd and slaughterer, he was able to know riches, power and esteem.

Through his actions and now mythical fame, he managed to set up around him hundreds of incidents and unique episodes with prime ministers, ministers, mayors, politicians, and academics. His witty and instinctive comments forced television cameras to stop at the behest of journalists out of surprise and admiration. The inconceivable and peculiar character of his initiatives resulted in the organisation in Greece of an association of “Greek Pilots Friends of Z. Dardalis”.

This inventive Zorbas of the Antipodes innovated by enrolling his daughters in Arsakeio in Athens, in order to acquire a Greek education.  He chartered a plane to Greece to celebrate the triumph of Greek football and buses for his daughters’ weddings. As a benefactor Sponsor, he decided to pay a dividend from the proceeds of his company “Marathon Food”, in order to enhance and germinate the attainment of Greek in the universities of Melbourne, to demonstrate absolute trust in the now demised National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research, University of La Trobe, having as his partner the most prestigious today worldwide Hellenistic scholar of Greek Epigraphy, Professor Michael John Osborne, to collaborate blindly with our eloquent and prudent diplomats Georgios Veis and Georgios Konstantis, and to invest his absolute trust in this writer and his associates since 1992, when the Archives of the Greek Diaspora were founded, to which he was named, at the suggestion of the Director of the NCHSR.

Everyone who had the good fortune to know him, each has his own story and adventure with the inimitable Jack Dardalis. Restaurant waiters, shopkeepers, bosses, parking lot employees, shop owners, people of night and entertainment, high-ranking merchants and famous Australian industrialists, lords and lords of wealth, Australians, and other Europeans, all had and still have to say, to tell a story, a snapshot of their lives with Zissis Dardalis, his hooyas, his incredible proposals that shocked others,  others were dismissed. Apsis, straightforward, cynical. He caught the lamoyas with his eyes, with his nose he arrested the cunning. He had his own “dardalian” evaluation. He almost never fell out. We all said “Dardalis said it”, “Dardalis smelled it”. His word was law and his promise a contract.

Zissis Dardalis lived in a competitive business environment. The inner sense that guided him not to fall out with the people he worked with was his main compass. He knew the enemy before he lived it. He identified the vicious, the fake. However, he decently drove them away. He did not bring them to him. He adored his birthplace, the heroic and noble Siatista. He decorated it, beneficialized it, established cultural struggles and contributed to its economic upgrade. He restored his mansion, created special stables for his horses, endowed the local Cathedral. On Sundays, when he lived in his village, he begged the newcomers to have the loudspeakers “so that the chants can caress my ears”. He liked to go out on the floor of his mansion, take care of his pots, listen to Sunday mass. He avoided churches, but always stood generous to them, with lavish donations.

Above all, Zisis loved Greece. He was the genuine nobleman. It couldn’t have been otherwise. On her altar his father was sacrificed. He and his sisters grew up in her orphanages. His ancestors had lived and were buried there. Greece as a way of life was the umbilical cord that kept him alive. He was breathing her. He rebelled, moaned, shouted if the rulers of the place did wrong things. He often telephoned ministers and officials of the state to express his praise or displeasure. The Fatherland honored him. He presented him with a glorious medal of honour and brilliant ceremonies were held at the consular residence in Melbourne under Consul Vei and Australian leaders came to congratulate him and great Australian businessmen. During his many “service” trips to Greece, he visited their offices, confessed to them practically and completely “commercially”, as he said, what they did not do, what they defaulted, what they avoided. Zisis had a cynicism that frightened, but also healed.

Since he was a child, Zisis had within him the vital flame, the sense of revelry, the filter of human affection. For hours on end, he listened to the sound of wind instruments, the clarinet near the ear, until the instrumentalist fainted from the intensity and effort. Endless days he organized horseback races at the monastery of Panagia in his village. Endless nights were recognized by the instrumentalists in bouzouki and taverns, restaurants, and nightclubs, dragging the dance first, silvering “orders”, spinning flying, breezy on the dance floor, generously rewarding the musicians, dressing the entire dance floor with his money. What value money can have. “Money should not be loved. You only have to respect it!!” he proclaimed to all the tight-knitters, who “even turn them upside down, not a cent will fall out of their pockets”!! “Do not be distressed by any damage, as long as it is corrected by money!! he advised. Just work and get up in the morning. “Whoever gets up in the morning finds a florin,” he sang, sipping his coffee, sipping on his tsipouro. Vital strength and flame were given to him by the traditional instruments of the place, the Leventian dances of Macedonia, he wept when he heard our national anthem and the rhythm of Kozani “My red apple”. He was undoubtedly Zorba Antipodus. He liked drinks, ouzo, tsipouro, hard drinks, but always with ice. He wanted to enjoy his life. He wouldn’t let his life feast on him. “I could buy half of Melbourne with the money I spent on bouzouki” he said and said again, without any remorse. On the contrary, he felt proud that he did not fall into the trap of greed, the “still little more” that the avaricious miserly shouts just before the end of his life.

He started his day early. At 5.00 in the morning, he was in the factory. He slept a few hours. Three, four at most. His negotiations with the industrialists who supplied him with raw materials, meat and flour, were inconceivably intelligent, almost masterful, impeccably surgical. The child of the orphan, the immigrant with little English, set up documented proposals, organized terms and his successes were almost always successful. He went so far as to export his products of Chinese origin to China.

He was the citizen of Greece, Cyprus, Australia. The priceless patriot, the man inside whom Greece was bleeding.

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