Preserving Pontian passion: A night at Pontiaki Estia in Melbourne


By Mary Sinanidis

While Melbourne was caught up in the grand spectacle of Taylor Swift concerts at the MCG, Pontian families gathered at another sold-out event in the heart of Brunswick.

All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.
There was plenty of dancing at the event.

Pontiaki Estia’s intergenerational celebration was marked by culinary delights, dance and music by Nikos Kokkinidis, Giannis Katotikidis and Sotiris Theodoridis from Greece, and Melbourne’s own Yiannis Pilalidis on percussion. 

Singer Giannis Katotikidis.
Singer Giannis Katotikidis.

Singer Katotikidis says, “It is a huge honour to be here, and crazy to know that people grew up here and still keep their Pontian interests alive.”

There are Pontians present from Sydney, Canberra, and even as far as Munich, Germany. Then there are the local brother organisations, such as Pontiaki Kinotita, Panagia Soumela and the Kalamata Association showing their support. 

Roma Siachos
Roma Siachos.

Litsa Athanasiadis, Public Relations/Secretary of the Pontiaki Estia, is overjoyed by the turnout. 

“It’s hard putting in words the fantastic vibe, full of youth,” she tells The Greek Herald.  

For international studies student Eleftheria Tachmatzidou, aged 20, attending Pontian events has been a cherished tradition since childhood. 

She reflects on the significance of these gatherings, stating, “My parents are sitting at the next table, and I’m here with my partner, his sister and friends.

“I am proud to be a Pontian. Listening to the music ignites a fire in me that only other Pontians can understand.” 

Litsa Athanasiadis of Pontiaki Estia.
Eleftheria Tachmatzidou
Eleftheria Tachmatzidou.
Penny Tsombanopoulos and Litsa Athanasiadis President of Pontiaki Estia
Penny Tsombanopoulos and Litsa Athanasiadis.
All ages enjoyed themselves at the event.
Litsa Athanasiadis Roma Siachos Katy Karabatsos and their table.
Litsa Athanasiadis, Roma Siachos, Katy Karabatsos and their table.

Her sentiments echo those of many who find solace and connection in the rich tapestry of Pontian culture. 

Simela Stamatopoulos, a member deeply entrenched in the Pontian community, says, “The sense of loss of the homelands creates a nostalgia within the older generation that is also passed down to the younger generation, who, in turn, feel a subconscious desire to hold onto the traditions of their ancestors.” 

She articulates the factors that ensure the continued engagement of Pontian heritage, including leaders’ “progressive outlook and the capability and knowledge to engage with different authorities” as essential, but also points to leaders who “genuinely care about Pontian traditions and are not simply motivated by self-promotion.” 

“They can confidently and effectively organise and promote events which help grow the organisation and keep it in a healthy economic position,” she says, adding that the keeping of traditions in the club has ensured authenticity of traditions.

“This means that what is passed down is authentic. It is a hub, a place where traditions can be experienced and embraced.” 

Simela Stamatopoulos
Simela Stamatopoulos.
Pontiaki Estia
Pontiaki Estia members.
Pontiaki Estias event was intergenerational.
Pontiaki Estias event was intergenerational.
Pontiaki Estias committe
Pontiaki Estia’s committee.

Simela says the music, lyrics, food, cultural traditions and dialect are still relevant and loved by Pontians worldwide. Rather than diminishing, it has grown stronger. 

Behind the scenes, there’s a frenzy as volunteers on kitchen duties churn out seven different dishes for almost 250 guests.

Rather than turn into an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, there’s a playful mood with laughter and dancing amid the hard work. 

There was plenty of dancing at the event.
Gesthimani Tsaousidou
Gesthimani Tsaousidou.

Gesthimani Tsaousidou rattles off the menu: saganaki, grilled garlic peppers, calamari, different types of dips, gyros… I ask her if there’s anything typically Pontian on the menu. 

“Gyros,” she says. 

“How does Pontian gyros differ from any other gyros?” I ask.

“It’s made with Pontian pleasure,” she says. “Everyone can make a gyros, but we make it not just to feed people, but with love. That’s why it’s Pontian.” 

“Is this a Pontian joke?” I ask. 

We laugh. 

I leave Pontiaki Estia with a deeper appreciation for the timeless allure of Pontian culture.

It doesn't take a lot to get Pontians to dance.
It doesn’t take a lot to get Pontians to dance.

In a world of constant flux with stars like Taylor Swift who enjoy their heyday only to be surpassed by the next best thing, I feel glad to have witnessed the intergenerational commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of Pontos.

Through their music, dance, and unwavering passion, Pontians ensure the soul of Pontos lives on through events such as this one that wrapped up at 4.30am on Sunday. 

Guests enjoying themselves.
Guests enjoying themselves.

Pontians at the Antipodes Festival on Sunday 25 February3:50 pm Junior Pontian dance troupes will perform at the #Lovelonsdalestage 5 pm Pontian musicians Sotiris Theodoridis, Nikos Kokkinidis and Giannis Katotikidis will be at the main stage of Pontiaki Estia at 5pm on Sunday 25 January. Joining them will be local musicians Mavrothalassites, and Pontiaki Estia will present its Momogeroi Performance. 




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