University students in NSW honour the 49th anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising

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The Combined Universities Greek Association (CUGA) commemorated the 49th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising, hosting an event dedicated to the protest for the first time in three years.

The four Greek student societies of Sydney’s major universities came together on the evening of Thursday, November 17 to remember the sacrifices of those who fell at the hands of the military junta in 1973.

In a statement issued by the Combined Universities Greek Association (CUGA), the Greek Australian students declared that they “feel an obligation to observe this moment in history, and raise awareness among the diaspora youth of important events in modern Greek history.”

After a COVID-induced hiatus, CUGA noted they were once more in a position to run a student-led event dedicated to the Uprising, after having continued their contribution at the community-led commemorations organised by the Greek Community of NSW (GOCNSW) during the pandemic.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Associate Professor Anthony Dracopoulos from the University of Sydney’s Department of Modern Greek Studies. He presented a talk which explored both the historical context leading up to the Uprising, as well as provided a personal account of how he experienced it as a child.  

The evening was hosted by emcees Dimitri Kallos, President of UTS Hellenic, and Zoë Re, President of Macquarie University Greek Association (MUGA). 

Kosta Plegas, President of Sydney University Greek Society, read out the chronicle of events that took place in the days leading up to 17 November 1973.

Three poems were also read out by students: 

  • “Ο Λαός” by Γιάννης Ρίτσος – Anastasia Toumasatos, General Committee Member of MUGA. 
  • “1050 Χιλιόκυκλοι” by Κωστούλα Μητροπούλου – Antonia Moulos, Secretary of UTS Hellenic.
  • “Φοβάμαι” by Μανώλης Αναγνωστάκης – Valentina Saroukos, President of Hellsoc UNSW.

The commemoration was attended by many of Sydney’s Greek Australian community including, but not limited to, Konstantinos Giannakodimos from the Consulate of Greece in Sydney, and the Vice President of GOCNSW, Nia Karteris.

Full Statement:

On Thursday, 17 November 2022, the Combined Universities Greek Association (CUGA) came together to mark the 49th Anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising.

This CUGA initiative was agreed upon by the committees of the Greek societies of Sydney’s four main universities to remember the sacrifices made by those university students of the past in the name of freedom, dignity, democracy and social justice. As the students of today we feel an obligation to observe this moment in history, and raise awareness among the diaspora youth of important events in modern Greek history.

The military junta impinged on many civil liberties: outlawing political parties, imprisoning citizens for their political beliefs and interfering with student politics, imposing non-elected leaders in student unions.

After a COVID-induced hiatus, CUGA is once more in a position to run a student-led event dedicated to the Uprising again after the inaugural event in 2019. For the previous two years, CUGA has continued to attend the Polytechneio Commemoration hosted by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOC NSW), fulfilling our responsibility to remember the sacrifices of those who lost their lives during the protest. 

As we have proudly done for many years, we will continue our cooperation with the GOC NSW to mark this historical event, and note their ongoing support in our initiative.

While we celebrate national days such as the 25th of March and the 28th of October as victories against oppression from foreign powers, the 17th of November is a solemn reminder of how the junta regime, the dictators of Greece at the time, turned on their own youth. They spilled Greek blood on a university campus when tanks were sent to tear down the gates, upon which many students were perched.

With the 50th Anniversary coming up in 2023, we make clear we will always remember the sacrifices of the youth who were brave enough to stand against oppression and lead the popular anti-dictatorship revolt.

CUGA will always stand by the struggle for freedom, dignity, democracy and social justice. After a near half century, we do not forget those three words that summarised the fighting spirit of Polytechneio: ΨΩΜΙ-ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑ-ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ

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