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‘We will not forget’: NSW and SA communities mark anniversary of Greek Pontian genocide

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By Andriana Simos and Argyro Vourdoumpa.

Greek communities across New South Wales and South Australia commemorated the Greek Pontian genocide and its 353,000 victims over the weekend with a number of solemn wreath laying ceremonies and events.

Here is The Greek Herald’s rundown of what was held to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the historic event.

New South Wales:

Commemorations began in NSW with an event at Marana Hall in Hurstville, Sydney on May 19 organised by Pontoxeniteas NSW, Panagia Soumela Sydney and Diogenes Wollongong, and attended by over 200 people.

Photo: The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

Among the attendees were the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras; the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Archimandrite Christophoros Krikelis; The Honourable Courtney Houssos MLC, representing the NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns; and The Honourable Reverend Fred Nile MLC.

READ MORE: Sydney’s Greek community gather to remember victims of the Greek Pontian genocide.

The event consisted of a number of speeches, as well as poems and dancing by Pontian youth dressed in traditional Greek costumes. Dr Theophanis Malkiidis was the Keynote Speaker and he urged the Greek Australian community to continue pushing for the Federal Government to acknowledge the Ottoman atrocities against the Pontians, Assyrians and Armenians as a genocide.

Dancing on the night.

On Sunday, May 22, the Pontian societies also held a wreath laying ceremony and Divine Liturgy in memory of the 353,000 Pontian Greeks who lost their lives during the genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks between 1914 and 1922.

The service was presided over by His Grace Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis and was attended by a number of people including, but not limited to, Member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis MP; Press Counsellor at the Consulate General of Greece in Sydney, Costas Giannakodimos; representing the High Commissioner of Cyprus Martha Mavrommatis, Michael Kyriacou; the Vice President of the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia, Esta Paschalidis Chilas; the President of Panagia Soumela Sydney, Peter Papoulidis; the President of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Maria Anthony; and the President of the Hellenic Lyceum of Sydney, Liana Vertzayias.

Wreath laying ceremony in Sydney.

South Australia:

With a church service at the Parish of St Dimitrios in Salisbury followed by a wreath laying ceremony under the tunes of the lyra played by Efthimios Avgetidis and a luncheon at the Pontian House, South Australia’s Pontian community got together on Sunday, May 22 to commemorate the Pontian Greek Genocide.

“This day is extremely important and emotional to all Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians, and we give endless thanks to everyone who helped commemorate and remember our ancestors who suffered in these horrific times,” President of the Pontian Brotherhood of SA, Nazareth Chisholm, said in her speech.

“The Greek Genocide was one of the darkest chapters in all of Greece’s history and was a plan to eliminate the Greek population of Asia Minor; 350,000 Pontian’s were eliminated; 350,000 stories won’t be heard. We will never forget.”

Ms Chisholm said “it’s important for our ancestors to be remembered through dance, music, language and religion in order to continue our culture.”

The event was emceed by Pontian youth member, Renae O’Donnell while Aris Chisholm, read out an essay on his feelings about the Genocide and shared his views on his Pontian heritage.

Attending the commemorative events were a number of guests and dignitaries among them: the Consul General of Greece in SA George Psiachas, Minister for Small and Family Business, Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs and Minister for Arts Andrea Michaels representing the Premier of SA, Minister for Multicultural Affairs Zoe Bettison, State member for Morialta John Gardner representing the Leader of the Opposition, Connie Bonaros MLC, Chair of The South Australian Multicultural Commission, Adriana and President of the Armenian Cultural Association of South Australia, Elena Gasparyan.

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