For years young Greek-Australians have sought ways to engage in their culture and learn about the origins of their ancestors.

Last year’s lockdowns brought many Greek youth groups to a standstill, forcing many to cancel events that hundreds of people looked forward to, but not all was lost.

With a good grip on technology and internet literacy, youth run organisations made sure to power on through.

In this three part series, representatives from Greek youth groups from across Victoria share the efforts they made to ensure that young Greeks remained well connected to their community and heritage despite being in lockdown.

In our final part of the series we hear from our more area specific cultural clubs including Pallaconian Brotherhood’s and Pontiaki Estia’s youth factions, along with the Pan Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria.

READ MORE: University Greek clubs adapting for preservation

Miltiadis Paikopoulos – President of the Pallaconian Youth

Miltiadis Paikopoulos Photo: Supplied

2020 was a year of successful adaptation for the Pallaconian Youth. Determined not to let Covid-19 hamper our plans to commemorate the 2500th Anniversary of Thermopylae (480 BC – 2020 AD) we transitioned to a digital format, and ran a series of events, the most notable of which was a commemorative lecture series.

We brought together young Laconians from the USA, UK, Greece and Australia to present informative and engaging lectures (which can be viewed on Facebook, YouTube or our website) covering topics as varied as Genealogy, Archaeology, Art and History.

Having begun the process of professionalising and overhauling our digital infrastructure, we have put in place assets to future-proof our organisation. Whether it was digitising the Pallaconian archives, creating a network of young Laconians abroad, or beginning the revitalisation of our property in Brunswick, we are sure to apply these same practices this year to commemorate the Club’s 60th Anniversary (established in 1961) and the 200th Anniversary of the Epanastasi (1821 – 2021).

Kallie Karamanlidis – Pontiaki Estia Youth Committee Representative

Kallie Karamanlidis Photo: Supplied

As the COVID-19 pandemic found its way to Australia and we as Victorians were forced into an extremely strict lockdown, Pontiaki Estia like all business and all social clubs were forced to close its doors to its members, students and friends.

Some of the things that that the Youth of Pontiaki Estia have produced include:

Pontiaki Estia Youth Group – A Facebook group that the youth have made to connect with other youth, and not just with our own. It is a good tool to use to connect with other associations.

Pontiaki Estia Library – An avenue to promote our culture and our heritage. The PE Library is an important part of any community as gives people to explore, research and experience new ideas. This is also an avenue of self-growth. The library includes information on the genocide, Agia Sofia, music and customs. From having all this online, we are currently fundraising to build a library at Pontiaki Estia.

Pontian Dialect Lessons – When we went into our first lockdown in March, one of our dancers wanted to learn about the Pontian dialect. Language is one of the most important parts of any culture. With language comes different dialects which differentiates the different regions of each country.
More relevant to us, the Hellenic language has many different dialects, in our case, the Pontian dialect It is a means of communicating and thus preserving values, beliefs and customs. The idea has stemmed from there and that is how we got to where it is now. Kosta Pataridis is teaching the classes. Additional information is on Pontiaki Estia’s Facebook page. Classes are online, and they are set to resume mid-late Feb.

Although we did not get to see each other on a weekly basis like we usually did, we were still eager to continue to learn about our history and culture. We did not want to feel alone, instead we wanted to stay connected with each other, other youth as well as the broader Greek community.

Olympia Nelson – Pan Macedonian Association of Melb & Vic Cultural Officer

Olympia Nelson Photo: Supplied

Throughout lockdown, dance—perhaps more than the other arts—faced an uphill battle with the challenges presented by Covid-19. A communal affair associated with χαρά (joy) and κέφι (kefi), dancing unites people through the holding of hands in rhythm. It inspires friendships and bonds among the dancers, an unparalleled sense of παρέα (company) shared by all those who participate.

Despite not being able to catch up in person due to social distancing restrictions and lockdown, as a dance group, we were still determined to uphold all these important values, but most of all, a sense of history and culture. As being at home inevitably meant more time spent on our phones, it was a great opportunity to be able to work on the social media of our club (Panmac).

Through the platform of Instagram, we shared ‘stories’ honouring and explaining important events in our history, such as Oxi Day, the Athens Polytechnic uprising, the liberation of Western Thrace, as well as the various name days and birthdays of our dancers.

The posts and stories also commemorated dark chapters in our history, such as the Pontian Greek Genocide, Dekembriana, the genocide of the Jewish Greeks of Thessaloniki during WWII as well as more recent sinister events such as the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Although we couldn’t physically participate in dance, it was an important opportunity to make space in our minds for the culture that generates it.