Speaking to the Greek Volunteer Firefighters Union in Pallini, the President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis, said that the Greek diaspora in Australia had become aware of the grave consequences of the Mati fires from the 12 first hours of the tragedy.
“You are an example for all of us and we are grateful for the work you do pro bono,” stressed Mr Papastergiadis handing them the $40,000 financial aid check gathered with the collaboration of the Greek Community, The Pancretan Brotherhood along with Greek Australian businesswoman Martha Tsami, who helped organise fundraising event and accompanied the GOCMV President to Greece.
The $40,000 will be allocated towards providing new uniforms for the volunteer firefighters who, even though they belong to the Fire Brigade Unit, they have been on hold since 2011 waiting for a bill to be ratified to they can afford their equipment.
“People assume we only go to fires but that’s not correct,” said Spiros Politopoulos, who works in a bank but has been a volunteer firefighter for six years now. “We go anywhere the fire brigade is called and we have specific rounds and tasks every month. However, we are treated like beggars in the Force, wearing the firemen’s leftovers,” he said, explaining that 3,000 fire-proof suits were donated to the brigade back in 2007 and most rely on those to this day.
“In the next days a $100,000 check will be handed to the Lyrio Foundation; there is more. The Australian Archdiocese has gathered over $500,000 [Neos Kosmos notes the exact amount is $630,000] and about that much has also been raised by the Stamoulis Family radio station (3XY). In the days to follow, there will be formal announcements regarding the funds raise by the Australian diaspora,” Mr Papastegiadis added.
“It is over $1,5 million altogether.”
Earlier that day, Mr Ppastergiadis visited the affected areas in East Attica, Greece, accompanied by an ABC television crew. He left the sight feeling “devastated”.
“I know that what you lived through will stay with you for the rest of your lives, the burden on your shoulders is heavy”, he told the volunteers. “We are certain that if we ever need you you will be by our side, too. Filotimo is part of the Greek DNA”.