South Australians commemorate Cretan battle with proud cultural display

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The island of Crete became the centre of a significant battle during World War II when in May 1941 Germany invaded the island because of its strategic importance. For 10 long days, the troops and civilians fought hard to resist the Germans.

Their combined bravery resulted in a surrender, but over the next four years the local people helped many Australian soldiers who did not get the order to evacuate. Many headed to the mountains, refusing to accept defeat while others joined the local resistance fighting the German occupiers. During these times a close bond of friendship was established between the Cretans and Australians that continues to this day.

This year, Cretan committees from Australia and New Zealand held various events in May and June to commemorate the significance of the 83rd anniversary of the Battle of Crete. These community and church events also paid tribute to the bravery of Cretan civilians, Australian, British and New Zealand troops in the fight for freedom.

Recently, the Cretan Association of South Australia also held a dinner dance to commemorate the 83rd anniversary event, with more than 120 guests attending.

President Pantelis Fridakis said remembering the valour and resilience shown by Australians and the local civilians during the ‘harrowing days’ in May 1941, is important.

“The battle exemplifies the indomitable spirit of the Cretan people who alongside Allied forces, displayed extraordinary courage in the face of overwhelming odds,” he said.

“We pay tribute to the heroes who fought for freedom on Crete’s rugged terrains and honour their legacy of bravery and sacrifice.”

Guests were entertained by the Cretan Association dance group and with traditional Cretan music by Melbourne musicians George Vardakis (lyre/vocals), George Rerakis (laouto/askobundoura) and Alexis Mountakis from Sydney who played the laouto instrument.

Local band Fix Life with Kevin Amanatidis (bouzouki), Michael Papacharalampous (clarinet), George Kalamatianos (vocals) and Peter Stamatopoulos (keyboards) also performed a mixture of songs.

Performers from the dance group of the Cretan Association of SA were Giorga Mitzi, Anatoly Georgaras, Photini Frazelas, Maria Georgaras, Rafaela Bouras, Panayiotis Koliakoudakis, Steven Ward, Yianni Mitzithras, Yianni Papazis and Andrew Frangos.

As a 16-year-old, Mr Fridakis recalled dancing at a Battle of Crete dance and hopes to see the next generation following in his footsteps to participate and perform at commemorative events to keep Greek and Cretan traditions alive.

“I feel it is my duty to keep the doors open to the younger generations coming through so they too can have the same opportunity I had,” he said.

“Keeping the Cretan culture alive for future generations is important to me because it is what connects us to our history.”

Mr Fridakis is keen to hear from young people with Cretan ancestry to become involved with future event planning. Contact Pantelis Fridakis on 0416 947 817.

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