In the year of the centenary of the catastrophe of Smyrne, AHEPA NSW organised a musical tribute to the city of Smyrne on last Sunday, 18 December at its hall in Rockdale.

With the participation of six talented musicians, ‘Smyrne 1922 – what do I remember, what do I forget’, included the recitation of a poem specially written about the burning of Smyrne in September 1922, the unveiling of a new artwork and the theatrical interpretation of the song ‘Xerizomos’ from the work ‘Our Great Circus’.

The multifaceted three hour event closed 2022, taking space on stage as a memorial for the destruction of this once great cosmopolitan port-city; an ode to the contribution of Smyrne to Hellenism and the world at large.

The event opened with a trisagio for the repose of the souls of the victims of the catastrophe of Smyrne by Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis who also delivered the best wishes of Archbishop Makarios of Australia.

Consul-General of Greece in Sydney Ioannis Mallikourtis in his speech stressed that “the unity of Hellenes is essential”.

Photo: Supplied/AHEPA NSW

Mr Mallikourtis later officially unveiled the new artwork by painter Angela Kiki titled ‘Smyrne Ablaze’, inspired by the original English-language poem by Eleni Eleftherias.

At the heart of the event songs and melodies from Smyrna performed by musicians Angelos Gatsos (keyboard), Mihalis Platyrrahos (vocals, Kretan lyra, Constantinople lyra and laouto), Maria Mouratidou (vocals), Yiannis Bardas (guitar) and Panos Mylonakis (percussion) under the direction of maestro Sotiris Prokopiou (vocals and bouzouki).

The ‘Xerizomos’ performance followed, presented by Lucy Miller, with Maria Chrysaphogeorge and Spiros Papastephanou reciting authentic announcements of the Hellenic Red Cross from 1922.

Photo: Supplied/AHEPA NSW

In his brief address, AHEPA NSW INC President Bill Skandalakis continued in the spirit of messages out of the Catastrophe noting that “History reminds us how fragile freedom and democracy are. We must pay attention constantly to their protection”.

Genocide scholar and historian Dr Panayiotis Diamadis brought to the attention of the audience some little-known facts that connect the Destruction of Smyrna to Australia and AHEPA NSW.

Photo: Supplied/AHEPA NSW

“From 1829, Smyrne sultanas were being exported to Sydney. It was from Smyrne that thousands of British prisoners-of-war (including Australians, New Zealanders and others) were released at the end of World War One. After the Catastrophe, Asia Minor Hellenes arrived in Australia and with their ‘know-how’, became ‘fathers’ of the country’s dried fruit industry. AHEPA NSW also has deep roots reaching to Asia Minor and Pontos. AHEPA NSW was formed by a group of Australian Hellenes with great vision, in 1934. The leader was Nicholas Andronikos (Andronicus) together with Smyrne-born Elias Bizannes, Editor of The National Tribune (Το Εθνικόν Βήμαν) newspaper and later Secretary of AHEPA NSW. Five decades later, Athanasios Yenibis, born in the rural centre of Iosgate in wester Pontos, donated AUD$100,000 to AHEPA NSW for the purchase of the first AHEPA NSW Hall in Chippendale in inner Sydney.”

The final speaker was the coordinator of the event, Harry Fandakis, thanked everyone for their attendance, the musicians for their performance, Mrs Nia Gitsas for her outstanding efforts as MC and the organising team for the success of the evening.