Sharing philotimo: City of West Torrens celebrates common ties with sister city Kalamata 

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Cities are made from more than buildings and roads. They are also made by the people – and with over one out of six residents claiming to be of Greek heritage, there is no doubt that West Torrens is where Greece’s heart beats in Adelaide. 

“It was back in 2019, prior to the pandemic, when I first visited Kalamata, personally met with His Worship at his chambers and had a short dialogue acknowledging our common ties,” said City of West Torrens Mayor, Michael Coxon, in the civic reception held on Monday in honour of the visiting Mayor of sister city Kalamata, Athanasio Vasilopoulo. 

“We both share cities of similar size, population and demographics. However, I think Kalamata may just have a few more Greek residents than West Torrens,” Mr Coxon said. 

“It is almost impossible to allude to West Torrens without making some kind of reference to our local Greek community. With 62,000 residents we have around 10,000 residents or 1 in 6, claiming to be Greek or part Greek -and that includes our significant Messinian community.” 

Mayor Coxon also acknowledged the City’s three Greek Australian Councillors and those like himself “who claim to have some kind of honorary status”.

Also attending the event among others were Bishop Silouan of Sinope, St George Parish priest Fr Diogenis Patsouris, representing the Premier Peter Malinauskas was Irene Pnevmatikos MLC, Member for Badcoe Jayne Stinson, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Jing Lee, Connie Bonaros MLC, Chair of SAMEAC Adriana Christopoulos, GOCSA’s Peter Gardiakos and other community organisation representatives. 

“The most important contribution that our Greek community have made is the living and the sharing of their values like philotimo, philoxenia and philantropia,” Mayor Coxon said.

Addressing the attendees, Kalamata Mayor Athanasios Vasilopoulos, reiterated the strong ties between the two countries and said that during his short visit in Australia he found a “more powerful and vibrant Greece outside of Greece”.

Before visiting Adelaide, Mr Vasilopoulos was in Melbourne where he attended the official launching of Kalamata Place in Thornbury and the Antipodes festival. 

“What brought our cities together are also the ANZACs who fought in Kalamata during WWII. We owe gratitude to the Australian people,” Mr Vasilopoulos said. “I stand here in front of you and want to honour the generations of Greeks who have contributed to this country.”

Speaking to The Greek Herald, Mr Vasilopoulos said that since he resumed his duties, part of his strategy has been not only been to create a city that is attractive to the diaspora but also to encourage initiatives for young Greeks and Greek Australians. 

“Education is the only way to achieve our goals and this should be our priority. This is where we need to invest in. Tourism, trade and technologies will follow,” he said. 

Centenarian Dionysios Vassilogiannakopoulos (Vassos) with his daughter Helen. Photo: TGH/Argyro Vourdoumpa

Centenarian Dionysios Vassilogiannakopoulos, the event’s most senior attendant and founding members of South Australia’s Messinian Association who migrated to the country in the early 1950s, was there to attest to that.

“It is important to keep our heritage alive and encourage young people to get involved in our cultural associations or we will disconnect from our roots,” he said.

Current President of the Messinian Association, Martha Ioannides echoed his words. 

“It’s important to keep the relationship and the bridges of communications open. It’s emotional to see people from the homeland feeling humbled that we have safeguarded our language and culture through generations.”

The reception concluded with exchange of presents between Mayor Coxon and Mayor Vasilopoulos who also enjoyed a private tour of the City of West Torrens council chambers. 

Read More: Walk Down Memory Lane: The iconic Victor Harbor Messinian picnics

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