With a lot of “kefi” and heaps of positive vibes, “Heliades”, the Hellenic Women’s Network of Victoria, welcomed “Protomagia” and celebrated Mother’s Day, at the Bar & Grill Restaurant “YASSAS”, on the banks of the Yarra River in Southbank last Sunday.

The special celebration was honoured by the presence of many distinguished guests, including Mr. Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, the Honorable Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne City Council, Ms. Vivienne Nguyen, AM Chair of Victoria Multiculturalism Commission, Mr. Bill Papastergiadis OAM, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, the Honorable John Pantazopoulos, Chair of Parks Victoria and former Minister, Mr. Peter Merkoulias, State President of AHEPA Victoria, Ms Angela Velos, President of ESTIA Hellenic Women’s Cultural Association of Melbourne, and a great number of members and friends of the “Heliades”.

Welcoming the attendees, the President of the Network, Mrs. Niki Mantziaris – Garrey, made a brief reference to the objectives of the Network, which has just completed three years of presence in our community.

“The Network is a Non-For-Profit Organisation focusing on women’s health through recreational activities, information, connection, participation. It is only three years young and at the very early stage of its foundation was hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic as we all did”, said Mrs. Mantziaris-Garey who then went on to talk about how “Heliades” managed to maintain communication among its members even during lockdown.

“In those challenging times our Network had launched online methods to reach out and support our members. We had created various platforms for our members to have the opportunity to communicate and break their isolation. In addition, we had organised a series of meetings and presentations on topics of interest to our members, including information on COVID-19 and coping mechanisms”.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Mrs. Mantziaris-Garey then referred to the custom of “Protomagia” that stems from Greek ancient times and its meaning as a celebration of spring and renaissance of the earth and nature.

“Protomagia is a nostalgic day with happy memories for all of us who were born and raised in Greece.

This year, as the 1st of May falls on a Sunday, we thought of organising this celebration through the Hellenic Women’s Network of Victoria Heliades with the support of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. It is an opportunity to relive the happy custom of “Protomagia” to share it with you all and to be transported to the poppy-red plains of Greece, where we would pick musk flowers, to decorate girls hair and create wreaths to crown the spring. It is an opportunity to relive the joyful custom of May Day,” Ms Mantziari-Garey said.

However, she also referred to the other aspect of the day, as Labour Day, commenting that, in addition to the beginning of Spring, in Greece and in many countries around the world, “we celebrate and honour the people who fought and many who lost their lives for better working conditions and hours such as the introduction and establishment of the eight-hour work day. This day for Greece is a public holiday of double importance and with a variety of events. With celebrations for “Protomagia”, but also with marches to honour Labour Day”.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

The mayor of Melbourne, Ms Sally Capp, the chairperson of the Victoria Multiculturalism Commission, Ms Vivienne Nguyen, the president of GOCMV, Mr Bill Papastergiadis and Consul General, Mr Emmanuel Kakavelakis, then took the floor.

All of them praised the initiative of the president and the members of the network committee, underlining the necessity of communication and interpersonal contact, especially after lockdowns.

In particular, the mayor, Ms. Sally Capp, stood by the fact that the network had chosen a business in the heart of Melbourne to hold the event, which she described as “a very good idea” and an example that she hopes other organisations will emulate, thus contributing to restoring vitality to the city that suffered so much during the pandemic.

The Saristavros family donated $500 to the Hellenic Women’s Network of Victoria, Heliades, in memory of their late mother, Maria. Photo: Supplied

After the end of the official part of the event, everyone was left to the sounds of the live orchestra of the “YASSAS” restaurant and enjoyed singing and dancing until late in the afternoon.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos, the president of the network expressed her gratidute to all those who attended the Protomagia and Mother’s Day celebration organised by the Heliades, confirming the need of – not only the Greek but also the wider – community for communication.

“I would like to thank all the members of the board of the Network for their cooperation and contribution to the success of this event. I would also like to thank the Victoria Multiculturalism Committee for their support and especially the Saristavros family for their kind gesture of donating the sum of five hundred dollars to the Hellenic Women’s Network of Victoria Heliades Inc. in memory of their late mother, Maria Saristavros. It was a beautiful and joyful Protomagia that we all enjoyed. May we all be able to celebrate together again, next year”, said Mrs. Mantziari-Garey.