Lesbos: providing renewed faith in humanity

Lesbos,_GreeceIf you have been preoccupied with the thrills of the Olympic Games, or with the U.S. presidential race to the bottom, you may have missed the recent dramatic happenings on a small Aegean island, Lesbos. The daily drama and the endless stories of compassion and hope are amazing. On this island, our faith in mankind can be renewed; faith personified in simple acts of kindness and understanding that span race and religion.

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With the post-failed-coup crisis unfolding in Turkey, there has been a new wave of refugees wash ashore the beaches of Lesbos. Or, more accurately, hundreds of new souls have been plucked from overcrowded rafts into the arms of Greek fisherman and coast guards to be taken in by the people of this generous Greek island.

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Through the past year-and-a-half hundreds of thousands of refugees have sought escape and arrived on the island of Lesbos. Today, to mark their Herculean efforts, there is a eerie monument that continues to grow… A Cemetery of Life Vests But Not Lives.

     Unlike islands elsewhere, Lesbos discards thousands of life vests every day. They litter its eastern and northern shores, coloring the beaches or floating aimlessly on the azure waters. For months now, they have been routinely collected by municipal workers and volunteers and unceremoniously discarded in a municipal dumpsite near the town of Molyvos. Each life vest was worn by one of the more than 450,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in 2015 alone who made the sea crossing from Turkey to this Greek island. Each tells a different story, but almost inevitably, it is a story of fear.

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The people of Lesbos tell another remarkable story that demands to be understood by all who wish to help the Syrian displaced and desperate. This reflection of a Greek fisherman is a stark and simple message.

     “I remember I was a young boy, and I saw Iraqi men arriving on small rubber boats with paddles,” Pinteris says while pulling his fish-laden nets out of the water. “We wondered, ‘Why are these men here?'”

     Like most of the people in this small and conservative village, Pinteris initially viewed the arrivals as an invasion. But now, in light of recent events, even some of the most hardened Greeks on the islands have changed their minds.

     “After having experienced what we have this year, with women and children in the water screaming for help, many people’s world views have changed,” Pinteris says.

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From the fishermen who lift them from the rafts, to the YiaYias who feed and care for their disoriented guests, the people of Lesbos are the finest example of human compassion; they are the essence of humanitarian spirit. So much good has come from their acts of kindness… and today Lesbos islanders persevere under the strain of economic and political realities.

Learning to Love the Sea – After surviving traumatic journeys, children of refugee crisis are getting swimming lessons

Life on Lesbos: residents tell us what its really like.

UN News: “If tiny Lesbos can do so much, surely others can do more.”

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There is little wonder that the Lesbos people have been nominated to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for their acts of kindness. Take a moment and watch these moving YouTube videos.

The Greek Grandmother and Fisherman

Greek submission for Nobel Peace Prize

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On a small Greek island where they have so very little to give, the Lesbos islanders give their all. Their acts have truly provided renewed faith in humanity.

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

 

10 Facts: Pontian Greek Genocide

The Genocide of Greeks living in the lands south of the Black Sea took place between 1914 and 1923. Here are ten facts you need to know about this atrocity.

 

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SUMMARY: The Greek genocide, part of which is known as the Pontic genocide, was the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from its historic homeland. It was instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire against the Greek population and it included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches (photo below), summary expulsions, arbitrary execution, and the destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural and religious monuments. By the end of the Greco-Turkish War most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled or had been killed. Those remaining were transferred to Greece under the terms of a population exchange agreement, which formalized the exodus and barred the return of the refugees.

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Pontian and Anatolian Greeks were victims of a broader Turkish genocidal project aimed at all Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire. A total of more than 3.5 million Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians were killed from roughly 1914 to 1923. Of this, as many as 1.5 million Greeks may have died either from massacre or exposure. About one million had migrated, some voluntarily but most under coercion. Presently, a miniscule Greek population remains in Turkey.

 

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Ancient Historical Context: Pontus is what the Greeks have called the Black sea from times immemorial. The first Greek settlements appeared on its southern coast (modern Turkey and the Caucasus) as early as 800 BC. They were founded by Ionian Greeks, natives of Attica, Anatolia, and the islands of the Aegean. The first city, Sinop, was built in 785 BC. Very soon not only the southern, but also the northern Black sea coast was completely Hellenized. Many renowned Greek men of antiquity, such as Diogenes and Strabo, were born and raised in southern Pontus. In the 4th century BC, an independent Kingdom of Pontus was established on the southern coast of the Black Sea and since that time Pontus began to develop independently from other Greek lands.

 

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Modern Historical Context: The Greeks successfully overthrew centuries of Ottoman rule during the War of Independence from 1821 to 1830, establishing the Modern Greek state as it is currently situated at the tip of the Balkan Peninsula. A “Young Turk” movement emerged aiming to turn the Ottoman Empire (which included Pontus) into a homogenous Turkish nation state. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman government seriously feared losing its power over Pontus, as it had already with Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. “Drastic measures” of extermination of the Greek element were planned by the “Young Turks” whose slogan was “Turkey for the Turks”. In September 1911, the participants of the Young Turks conference in Thessalonica openly discussed the issue of extermination of the ethnic Christian minorities in Turkey, especially Greeks and Armenians.

 

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Beginning in the spring of 1913, the Ottomans implemented a program of expulsions and forcible migrations, focusing in Greeks of the Aegean region and eastern Thrace, whose presence in these areas was deemed a threat to national security. Turkish military units attacked Greek villages forcing their inhabitants to abandon their homes for Greece, being replaced with Muslim refugees. Entering into talks for population exchanges, the Ottoman government adopted a “dual-track mechanism” allowing it to deny responsibility for and prior knowledge of this campaign of intimidation, emptying Christian villages.

 

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In the summer of 1914 the Turkish military, assisted by government and army officials, conscripted Greek men of military age from Thrace and western Anatolia into Labour Battalions in which hundreds of thousands died.  Sent hundreds of miles into the interior of Anatolia, conscripts were employed in road-making, building, tunnel excavating and other field work, Their numbers were heavily reduced through either privations and ill-treatment or by outright massacre by their Ottoman guards. This policy of persecution and ethnic cleansing was expanded to other regions of the Ottoman including Pontus.

 

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Pontian Greeks – women, children, and elderly people – were evicted from their houses in 24 hours, not being allowed to take with them almost anything of their property, and in long columns, under armed convoy, were marched far inland. The deserted villages were plundered and burnt – often before the very eyes of the evicted. On the deportation march, people were treated with utmost cruelty: they did not receive almost any food, were forced to march forward for hours and days on end without rest over the wilderness, under the rain and the snow, so that many of them, unable to endure the hardships, dropped dead from exhaustion and illnesses. The convoy men raped women and young girls, shot people for a slightest reason, and sometimes without a reason at all. Most of the deported died on the way; but even those who survived the deportation march, found themselves in a no better situation – the places of destination turned out to be real “white death” camps. In one of such places, the village of Pirk, the deported inhabitants of the city of Tripoli were kept. According to the reports of the survivals, out of 13,000 Pontians who had been sent to Pirk, only 800 survived.

 

 

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In his memoirs, the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1913 and 1916 wrote “Everywhere the Greeks were gathered in groups and, under the so-called protection of Turkish gendarmes, they were transported, the larger part on foot, into the interior. Just how many were scattered in this fashion is not definitely known, the estimates varying anywhere from 200,000 up to 1,000,000.” German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats have provided evidence for series of systematic massacres and ethnic cleansing of the Greeks. The accounts describe systematic massacres, rapes and burnings of Greek villages, and attribute intent to senior Ottoman officials, including the Ottoman Prime Minister.

 

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At present, the Pontian Genocide is officially recognized only by Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Sweden, and the American State of New York. This is due to insufficient awareness and, sadly, insufficient interest of the international community. Led by the Greece, the 19th May has been established as Commemoration day of the Pontian Genocide.  Interestingly, in response the Turkish government officials claims that describing the events as genocide is “without any historical basis”.  A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement states: “Greece) in fact has to apologize to the Turkish people for the large-scale destruction and massacres Greece perpetrated in Anatolia, not only sustains the traditional Greek policy of distorting history, but it also displays that the expansionist Greek mentality is still alive.”

 

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Toronto City Council recently passes a Pontian Genocide Motion: That City Council recognize the Pontian Genocide, to honour the memory of the men, women and children who died.  Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who moved the motion said, “It is important to remember these moments in our shared history. We must remember those who suffered and perished. We must teach our children the violence face by their ancestors and others. It is only by remembering and teaching the young that we can ensure that these atrocities never happen again.” (Note that the City of Toronto is the first City to pass such a motion and the Government of Canada has yet to recognize the Pontian Greek Genocide.

 

This May 19th may we commemorate the Pontian Greek Genocide.

 

SOURCES:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_genocide

http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/center-study-genocide-conflict-resolution-and-human-rights/genocide-ottoman-greeks-1914-1923

http://www.pravmir.com/article_978.html

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

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10 Facts: Greek Independence Day

 

1. Greek Independence Day is a national holiday celebrated annually in Greece on March 25, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821.  The “Greek Revolution” was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1830.

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2. In celebration of Greek Independence Day, towns and villages throughout Greece hold a school flag parade, during which schoolchildren march in traditional Greek costume and carry Greek flags. There is also an armed forces parade in Athens. Around the world, Greek emigrants and those of Greek descent also parade and conduct flag ceremonies in celebration of the 9-year victorious struggle to free their country.

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3. Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453 with the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks. Greeks remained under the Ottoman rule for nearly 400 years. Through these years, Orthodox Christians were granted some political rights, but they were considered inferior subjects. The majority of Greeks were called “Rayah” by the Turks, a name that referred to the large mass of non-Muslim subjects. However, through the centuries, Greek religion and their sense of Hellenism remained strong, as did the desire for some form of independence fostered, in large part, by the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as the survival of the Greek language.

 

4. The Greek revolt was precipitated on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. Thus began the 9-year revolution for freedom.

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5. Here is a summary of the war. The Greeks experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in 1822, but infighting ensued. By 1827 Athens and most of the Greek isles had been recaptured by the Turks. Just as the revolution appeared to be on the verge of failure, Great Britain, France, and Russia intervened in the conflict. At the naval Battle of Navarino in 1827, the combined British, French, and Russian forces destroyed an Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. A Greco-Turkish settlement was determined by the European powers at a conference in London and Greece was declared an independent monarchical state under their protection in 1830.

 

6. The struggle for the liberation of all the lands inhabited by Greeks continued. By mid-1832 the northern frontier of the new state had been set along the line extending from south of Volos to south of Árta. In 1864, the Ionian islands were added to Greece; in 1881 parts of Epirus and Thessaly. Crete, the islands of the Eastern Aegean and Macedonia were added in 1913 and Western Thrace in 1919. After World War II the Dodecanese islands were also returned to Greece.

 

7. The Greek struggle had elicited strong sympathy in Europe, and many leading intellectuals had promoted the Greek cause, including and most notably the English poet Lord Byron. His prestige and his role as a representative of the philhellenic London Committee (which raised both moral and financial support) came in a critical time for the course of the Greek cause. Lord George Byron also fought in the rebellious areas of Greece from December 1823 until 7 April 1824, when he died at Missolonghi.  Dionysios Solomos wrote a poem Ode on the Death of Lord Byron (first verse) which honours the poet and the liberal revolutionary:

For a moment, Liberty,
Let the war, the bloodshed sleep;
Hither come and silently
Over Byron’s body weep.

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8. The popular cry “Freedom or Death” became the motto of the revolution and was constantly heard throughout the liberation. This war-cry is also a significant part of the Greek flag: it is believed that the nine lines of the flag reflects the number of syllables in the Greek phrase “Eleftheria i Thanatos” = Freedom or Death. Not only the flag, but the the Greek National Anthem “Hymn to Liberty” was born of the revolution. Dionysios Solomos wrote the lyrics in 1824, Nikolaos Mantzaros put it to music in 1828. (This English translation of the revolutionary ballad is by Rudyard Kipling in 1918.)

We knew thee of old,
Oh, divinely restored,
By the lights of thine eyes,
And the light of thy Sword,
From the graves of our slain,
Shall thy valour prevail,
As we greet thee again-
Hail, Liberty! Hail!
As we greet thee again-
Hail, Liberty! Hail!
As we greet thee again-
Hail, Liberty! Hail!

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9. Greeks celebrate the 25th of March as a double holiday: a historical and a religious one. Independence Day coincides with the Greek Orthodox Church’s celebration of the Annunciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God.

 

10. A custom across the country on this day is to eat crispy, fried cod fish with garlic sauce (Bakaliaros skordalia). This has to do with the Lent before Eastern, where no animals or animal products should be eaten. However the Orthodox Church allowed an exception for the celebration of the Annunciation and that it the Cod fish! Here is the recipe for Bakaliaros skordalia.

 

Sources (and further reading):

Encyclopaedia Britannica on Greek Independence Day and War of Greek Independence

Wikipedia

Keep Talking Greece

Crete History

Lord Byron

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

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Greek Wisdom

On our Facebook page through this past week, By George has featured sage Greek sayings from some of the world’s greatest classic philosophers and leaders. Below you will find five of our FAVs.

“Like” By George Facebook to see the full selection of Greek Wisdom (to be featured through next week as well).

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Greek humour (applause for Ang!)

This past week By George had some fun in social media advancing Greek Comedy Night that headlined Angelo Tsarouchas “The Funny Greek.”

Not familiar with Big Ang? He is hilarious: http://www.tsarouchas.com

Here is Ang with one of his classic routines: It is all Greek

By George promoted the evening of comedy with a series of comic Greek memes on Twitter – @ByGeorgeJournal. Here are some of our favourite. Enjoy – or should we say, Opa!

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BTW – Greek Comedy Night was a huge success – and largely due to the hour-and-a-half marathon performance of Ang!

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.