Synapantema 2023: A memorable gathering for Australia’s Pontians in Melbourne

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The Pontian Synapantema event in Melbourne, Victoria this year was more than special. Following the ‘Parakath’ welcoming event on Friday, February 17, a dance workshop for the Pontian youth was held on Saturday, February 18 in the morning.

Dance instructors Samantha and Peter were among the teachers in the morning workshop and guided young dancers who were looking forward to a dance event to be held later on Saturday night.

“I think that this Synapantema is a fabulous opportunity for the children of all three states to come together to experience the Pontian culture and get to know their dances, their traditions and build a Pontian family,” Samantha told The Greek Herald.

Peter added: “It’s a great opportunity for the little ones to embrace their heritage and their culture, to really know why we dance some dances, what outfits mean, the colours, even to learn the language.”

Young dancers were excited for the upcoming event

After their rehearsal, the young dancers were joined by adults to form one group of Pontians from all different ages.

Dance teacher, Christina Ioannidou, said that Synapantema for her is something beautiful and holy.

“All different associations are merged and we are under one roof, uniting our energy and thirst for dancing,” she said. “Wherever it had taken place, we would be more than happy to make that trip… We are trying really hard to pass to the next generation our history and our culture.”

The Pontian’s biggest annual gathering peaked with a memorable sold-out Saturday night event, after two years of COVID-19 restrictions. After 7pm, the Stars International venue in Preston was full of happy faces and Pontians from four generations united to celebrate, dance, sing and honour the Pontian culture.

The Synapantema was organised by the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia and all member associations were present: Pontoxeniteas NSW, Panagia Soumela Sydney, Diogenes Wollongong, Pontian Club Canberra, Akritis tou Pontou, Pontic Foundation of Panagia Soumela of Australia, and the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia.

The event was hosted by George Donikian who welcomed everyone, highlighting that this year’s Synapantema focused on the youth. “The core of all the tomorrows,” he said.

Pontian dancers in traditional outfits

Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta then blessed the dinner, thanked the Federation for the invitation and spoke about the youth.

“We need the youth, because it is not only the future, it is also what supports the older generation, and what gives the older generation strength, courage and hope,” the Bishop said in his speech.

Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, Federation President, Peter Stefanidis, Host George Donikian

After the dancing groups of the associations, consisting of children and adults, impressed with a special Pontian dancing performance, the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne Emmanuel Kakavelakis spoke to the public about the importance of Pontian history.

“I get in the room and I see 28 centuries of history,” he said. “In the last century Pontians were spread, but they were spread carrying everywhere Christ and Panagia, and they carry the cross of the race wherever they go.”

He also talked about Synapantema as a fiesta and a dance, but also as ‘liturgy’ and ‘mnimosino’ – referring to the four generations that were gathered for the event that night and to remembering the distant homes and the sacred bones of those who passed. Before leaving the stage, he called for unity.

“If we want to stand in a society, far from home, unity is the first and the most important value,” he said.

Federation President, Peter Stefanidis, highlighted the evolvement of Synapantema, which first started in 2004.

“After the two years of the pandemic, that we have been away from each other, this year we have all come together in order to be able to celebrate our culture and during that very dark time we were still able to support each other, to conduct group sessions, culture programs to keep things going so that today this would be possible,” he said.

After that, he gave national awards to community members who offered their precious service to the Pontian culture. Later, the two giants of Pontian music Alex Parcharidis and Fanis Kourouklidis performed live.

On Sunday, a special commemorative event by historian Dr Panagiotis Diamadis at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance commemorated the sacrifices made by the women of Greece between 1915 and 1930. This concluded the Pontian Synapantema.

*All photos belong to The Greek Herald / Giorgos Psomiadis

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