It was certainly history in the making and another significant chapter in the relations of the two countries, Greece and Australia, when Adelaide’s Greek community turned out in force to welcome the eleven Evzones, an elite military unit of the Greek Presidential Guard, and witness their participation in ceremonies to commemorate the anniversary of ANZAC DAY and the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Crete.

The Evzones together with their commanding officer arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday evening, April 17, to a heart-felt welcome by the newly elected Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall who welcomed them on behalf of the South Australian Government.

“This is a huge honour for us to welcome the Members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard for the second year in a row in South Australia, especially at this time of year, as we have our lead up to Anzac Day and of course we remember the work of the Anzacs in the Battle of Crete which affected so many of our corps as well as many of their families and descendants from Greece,” said Premier Marshall in an interview with Neos Kosmos.

His Grace Bishop of Dorilaion Nikandros, Consul General of Greece in South Australia, Andreas Konstantinos Gouras, President of The Foundation for Hellenic Studies Hon Craig Crafter, Greek Australian Hon Chief of Justice Chris Kourakis and Trustee of The Foundation for Hellenic Studies, Harry Patsouris were amongst the distinguished guests who attended the event.  

During his opening speech, Premier Marshall spoke about the strong bond between Greece and Australia and thanked the members of the Presidential Guard for honouring South Australia with their presence.

“This visit is significant for all of us because it lifts the spirits of the Greeks in Australia as well as the rest of the South Australian population,” said Premier Marshall.

“We have a wonderful and truly faithful Greek community in Australia which we are all really proud of. In fact, so many of our community leaders come from Greek migrants who came to Australia, especially after World War II,” said Marshall after the wreath laying ceremony which was held on Saturday and was attended by the Premier together with the Governor of South Australia His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, His Grace Bishop Dorilaion Nikandros, the Hon Chief of Justice Chris Kourakis, Federal Member of Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas MP, President of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Intercommunities Council, Con Dalas and President of the Greek Orthodox Community of SA, Bill Gonis.

This was the second time (following last year’s visit) that allied soldiers have been bestowed the honour of guarding the Adelaide War Memorial.

“We have learnt so much from the Greeks in Australia. They have given us democracy, mathematics, philosophy, the Olympic Games and we are lucky to share their culture, their language, their food, their sport, their enterprise, their traditions, their faith, therefore, we can’t but feel very grateful and enriched by the contribution they have made,” continued the SA Premier who first saw the Evzones in Athens when he took his children to visit Greece two years ago.

“The precision and discipline that they display while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier below the Greek Parliament in Athens was awe inspiring,” he said.

During their stay, the Evzones also visited St George Orthodox Church for a Vespers and Divine Liturgy Service for St George’s Day where His Grace Bishop Nikandros welcomed and thanked them for bringing such an important piece of Greece to Australia.

Scheduled visits also included St Basil’s Homes (SA) and the Ridleyton Homes for the Aged, as well as St George College and Adelaide High School where the leader of the Evzones presented a speech recounting the history and significance of the attire of the Presidential Guard. On Sunday the Evzones attended the St George paniyiri where they were given the opportunity to mix with the crowds and introduce themselves to thousands of members of the community.

“Greeks in Australia would welcome the idea for the Evzones’ visit to take place annually,” said former Treasurer of South Australia, Tom Koutsantonis to Neos Kosmos.

“Therefore, we are already in discussions with the new Premier to investigate ways and options to make this happen because it is important for our children to feel proud of who they are and embrace their Greek heritage. We have many Greek migrants in Australia and we need to make sure we stay connected to the country of our ancestors so that Greece doesn’t fade away and become just a distant memory for our Greek-Australians,” continued Koutsantonis.

According to The Foundation for Hellenic Studies’ Trustee, Harry Patsouris, the feedback from the community has been overwhelming.

“For many it was an inspiring yet humbling experience to see the Evzones guard our National War Memorial, remembering the sacrifices that families and individuals made to secure the life we have here today. By the end of the week, one understands that these visits and the relationships that are forged, can defy geographical and political boundaries,” said Patsouris.

“It is absolutely our intention and hope, that we make this a regular event, as it exposes our children to another experience of Hellenism while highlighting the long standing relationship between Australia and Greece,” concluded Patsouris.

The Members of the Presidential Guard left Adelaide last Monday and travelled to Sydney in order to participate in ceremonies marking both the anniversary of ANZAC DAY and the 77th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete. Their visit will conclude on April, 30.