A large crowd from all Melbourne suburbs gathered at the first celebration of Saint Demetrius in Moonee Ponds, “Una Razza Una Faccia – Demetria,” on Sunday.

Following the Divine Liturgy and the Doxology for the liberation of Thessaloniki and the anniversary of the Greek “NO,” the festival began in the churchyard and the adjacent street in honour of Saint Dimitrios, the patron saint of Thessaloniki, the Greek community of the Moonee Valley municipality, and the ties between the Greek and Italian communities in the area.

In his address, Bishop Eumenios of Kerasountos, representing the blessings of Archbishop Makarios, stated that “even during times of war and hardship, such as the conflicts in Gaza, our duty is to inspire hope and joy in our fellow human beings”.

He also congratulated the parish priest, Fr. Ioannis Fragos, and the parish council for organising the celebration.

Federal Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Bill Shorten, expressed his satisfaction with the social work and services provided by the parish of Saint Demetrius to the disabled and elderly in the area.

Photo: Supplied

He also shared his belief that the celebration of Saint Demetrius will become a permanent tradition and a landmark for the region.

State Deputy Treasurer and Member for Essendon, Danny Pearson, acknowledged the long-standing social contribution of the local Greek community and the parish of Saint Demetrius.

He went on to praise the exhibition of traditional costumes and jewelry from Epirus, which included items from Konstantinos Kalymnios’s collection and was held as part of the celebration to honour the historically significant Epirote homeland of Moonee Valley.

The President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis OAM, commended the organisers of the celebration and the fact that it was realised in collaboration with the local Italian community, further strengthening the bonds between these two communities.

“The GOCMV stands by all Hellenic hubs in Melbourne,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

Greek Consul General Emmanuel Kakavelakis referred to the history of the Greek “NO” and the epic of 1940, saying “I hope that we can draw inspiration from the courage of the fighters while striving to maintain our identity in the country where we live.”

Photo: Supplied

Also present were Viv Nguyen, President of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and Dimitris Minas, President of the Pan-Macedonian Association.

The celebration featured a rich musical program with traditional music from all over Greece. Artists from Greece, Spyros Siolas and Vangelis Pantióras, accompanied by the Demotika orchestra, captivated the audience, with Father Nikolaos from Trikala, who was visiting Melbourne, leading the dance.

The event included performances by the dance group of the GOCMV, the dance group of the Pontian Society, the musical group Odyssey Trio consisting of Wayne Simmons, Katerina Stevens, and Stavroula Thomopoulou, as well as the dance group “Aristotelis” from Florina, accompanied by the brass band of Giorgos Kyriakidis, honouring the Macedonian Hellenism.

Officials and clergy at the celebration. Photo: Supplied

Finally, special emotions were evoked by the participation of the traditional music ensemble from Southern Italy, Rustica Project.

The musicians highlighted the commonalities that characterise our two peoples and the fact that, although relations existed between us, they were further forged in the factories and suburbs of Melbourne, igniting the youth to dance.

Their performance of the well-known song “Siko horapse koukli mou” in impeccable Greek left a lasting impression.