With strong encouragement for the preservation of the Greek language in Australia, Greek student organisations and Hellenic associations of NSW honoured the 50th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising.
The necessity for maintaining our language arises from the additional fact that, at tertiary level, another Greek department is seriously threatened with closure, that of Macquarie University.
The Combined Universities Greek Association (CUGA) organised a commemorative event on the day of the anniversary, Friday November 17, at the University of Sydney.
The Chair of the Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies Department at USYD, Dr Anthony Dracopoulos stressed that the fighting spirit of the students of the Uprising can be emulated today in the struggle to maintain Greek at our universities.
“It is not enough to remember and celebrate anniversaries but to engage creatively in the vision and ideals of those who fought, suffered and sacrificed themselves,” Associate Professor Dracopoulos said in his keynote speech.
Asking the question, “What are we, as Greek Australians, fighting for today?”, Dr Dracopoulos posited that:
“We are fighting for having the right and the freedom to enhance our understanding of what is Hellenic and what is Greek at the highest level,” he said.
“There is something more in Greekness than everyday cultural practices. This ‘something’ is what we can study at universities. This right is currently under threat.”
Following suit, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Mr Ioannis Mallikourtis, applauded the students for holding such an initiative, noting it as another opportunity to engage with our homeland’s native tongue.
“We try through events such as this one today to project the importance of continuing and maintaining the Greek language in NSW and in Australia,” Mr Mallikourtis said, who also spoke at the commemorative event organised by the Greek Orthodox Community (GOC).
“I say this because as you know there is a serious issue at Macquarie University for maintaining the Modern Greek Program.”
The same concerns were echoed at the event that took place on Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Community’s premises in Lakemba.
The main speaker on behalf of the students was Argyri Kallos, First Year Representative of (SUGS, who noted how relevant the Polytechnic Uprising is with h our community in Australia.
“We have in front of us a huge challenge which is of concern to all of us. The Greek language is being threatened continuously, something that has been highlighted recently by developments in the teaching of the Greek language at tertiary level,” said the first-year law student at the University of Sydney
“Our Greek language is the element that unites us more than anything else. What are we going to become without it?”
The GOC President, Mr Harry Danalis, paid homage to the heroic struggle of the students of 1973 in his speech and noted that the Community will always honour the Polytechnic Uprising.
The CUGA event of Friday night was organised by its four members: SUGS, Macquarie University Greek Association (MUGA), UTS Hellenic Society and UNSW Hellenic Society (HellSoc).
It was emceed by Denis Antipas and Angelique Aifantis, President and Vice-President of SUGS respectively.
The Chronicle of the Uprising was read in Greek by Argyri Kallos and Maria Kakali, both First Year Representatives of SUGS.
Poems were recited by Theodora Koutzoumis (General Committee Member of MUGA), Jonathon Cremen (President of HellSoc), Elly Vazouras (President of the UTS Hellenic), Kassandra Pegios (Vice President of HellSoc) and Martina Theodorakakos (Secretary of SUGS).
The GOC’s event on Sunday afternoon opened with a one-minute silence in honour of the fallen which was followed by the national anthems of Australia and Greece.
Afterwards, officials and representatives of various Greek organisations laid wreaths at a replica of the statue that is in front of the Polytechnic University in Athens.
There was student participation in the form of poem recitals by Lia Pappas, Anastasia Mouzos, Poppy Mavrakis, Antonia Baliva, Dimitris Colletis, Emmanuel Kasadelis, Anna Maria Parissis and Maria Kakali.
The Chronicle of the Uprising was read by Matthew Politis, Treasurer of UTS Hellenic.
In addition to this, the event also featured a video of Greek poet Γιάννης Ρίτσος reading his “One Week Diary” of the Polytechnic Uprising.