The Greek Centre in Melbourne will be bathed in red light in remembrance of the Pontian Greek Genocide (1916-1923).

The red illumination of the Centre symbolises the extermination of 350,000 Hellenes by Turkish troops and Kurdish paramilitaries. The actual number of victims may be closer to 500,000, as many perished on forced marches into the Anatolian desert.

Greek cities (Pafra, Samsous, Kerasous, and Trapezous) endured massacres and deportations that decimated their populations.

The tribute by the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) underlines the importance of acknowledging past atrocities while educating future generations.

Bill Papastergiadis OAM, the President of the GCM, said that his grandmother was born in Trapezous (now Trabzon) in Asia Minor.

“In her eyes, I saw a strength that defied all odds,” said Papastergiadis.

“My grandmother faced the darkest of days with an indomitable spirit. Even as she rebuilt her life in Kastoria, the shadows of genocide lingered, haunting her every step.”

“Her words, ‘Bill, we must forge ahead,’ echo in my heart. She couldn’t bear to speak of the horrors she witnessed, but her message was clear: resilience in the face of adversity”.

According to the press release from the GCM, the “initiative signifies the collective resolve of the Greek community to honour the memory of the fallen”.

As he stood before the Greek Centre, bathed in a solemn red glow, Papastergiadis declared, “Today, we pledge to remember, to honour the memory of those who endured unimaginable suffering and loss. Our gesture, a beacon of remembrance, signifies our commitment to ensure that history never repeats itself.”

The president of the GCM quoted Edmund Burke’s, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Vice President of the GCM, Anthea J. Sidiropoulos, is of Pontian descent.

“Both my paternal and maternal great-grandparents settled in Katerini, Northern Greece, after surviving their journey from Pontos, witnessing unspeakable horrors, and losing much of our extended family.

“I am moved to tears by the red glow over the Greek Community building. I am reminded of our family’s painful history and overwhelmed with a mix of sadness and relief.

“The red glow is a fitting tribute to lives lost and an acknowledgment of our existence as Pontians,” said Sidiropoulos.

Recognised by the Greek state in 1994, this genocide stands as the Hellenes’ bleakest chapters, the systematic eradication of the native Greek populace of Anatolia.

The atrocities included massacres, rapes, forced deportations, and perilous marches. In the genocide, most Eastern Orthodox cultural, historical, and religious landmarks were erased.