Pontoxeniteas NSW celebrates ‘warrior women’ at first International Women’s Day event

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Three generations of Pontian women and their proud families filled the Pontian House in Sydney on Sunday afternoon for an inaugural International Women’s Day afternoon tea by Pontoxeniteas NSW.

There was standing room only at the event as members and VIP guests gathered to celebrate past female Presidents and Secretaries of the Association who were integral to its survival.

Three generations of Pontian women. All photos copyright: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.
Pontian youth with their grandparents.

Among the VIP guests were Member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis; the First Secretary for Public Diplomacy at the Consulate General of Greece in Sydney, Anastasia Christofilopoulou; Vice President of the Federation of Pontian Association of Australia, Esta Paschalidis-Chilas; President of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Maria Anthony; President of Panagia Soumela Sydney, Peter Papoulidis; President of AHEPA NSW, Bill Skandalakis; Nena Lambousis representing the Pan-Macedonian Association of NSW; and historian Dr Panayiotis Diamadis; among many others.

Sophie Cotsis MP (left) with event attendees.
(L-R) Nena Lambousis, Peter Papoulidis and Maria Anthony.

Ms Paschalidis-Chilas was emcee on the day and started the official proceedings with a traditional Acknowledgment of Country.

Female dancers from Pontoxeniteas’ senior dance group then performed a number of traditional Pontian dances to music by Kosta Papoulidis and Prodromos Moysiadis. The dancers were under instruction by dance teachers Christina Iwannidou, Alexandra Papoulidis and Kosta.

Pontian females dancing.
(L-R) Kosta Papoulidis and Prodromos Moysiadis.

Ms Iwannidou took to the stage next and spoke in Pontian dialect about her family story including her grandmother’s life in Pontos, her mother in Greece and her move to Australia.

Ms Iwannidou brought the audience to tears with her impassioned speech encouraging everyone to keep speaking Greek to the next generation to ensure the survival of the language.

Dance teacher Christina Iwannidou (centre).

The Pontoxeniteas Inaugural International Women’s Day Awards for 2023 were then presented by Ms Cotsis and Ms Christofilopoulou to Helen Macris (first female President of the Association), Calliope Gelastopoulos (Past Secretary), Dorothea Papadopoulos (leader in the culture and arts of Pontoxeniteas), and the late Fotini Rodintsis (first female Secretary).

Award recipients.

To conclude these formal proceedings, Dr Diamadis gave a presentation on Australian heroines in Greece during 1915 – 1930. The afternoon ended with afternoon tea and an opportunity for members to mingle.

Dr Diamidis giving his lecture.

During afternoon tea, The Greek Herald had an opportunity to speak with the first-ever female President of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Ms Macris, who said it was an honour to be recognised at the event.

“When I was younger, I didn’t want to be part of all of this. I was busy working and looking after my family. But I was told by an older member here, ‘do it for the soul of your ancestors,’ and once I got involved, that was it,” Ms Macris said with a smile.

Youth at the event.

“I don’t know how much I succeeded as a President but it was a good experience for me. I think it gave the go-ahead to other women that it’s something they can do even better.

“I mean we Pontian women are very strong. Historically, we were the ones that were left after the genocide and I think it’s inherent in every Pontian women to have that strength. We’ve made it into something that’s part of our DNA.”

Female committee members of Pontoxeniteas NSW.
More youth.

Maria Rodintsis-Kouvalakis, daughter of the Association’s first female Secretary the late Ms Rodintsis, also spoke to The Greek Herald and said she attended the event to “honour” her mother’s memory.

Maria Rodintsis-Kouvalakis and her family.

“Today was a chance to connect with who I am and who was before me,” Maria said.

A perfect summary of the inaugural International Women’s Day event by Pontoxeniteas NSW.

*All photos copyright: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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