Sydney is home to the biggest diaspora of Lesvos-heritage people outside Greece.
Lesvos is famous for philosophers, artists, ouzo, sardines, the best olive oil in Greece, the petrified forest, centuries-old kindness to refugees, the spiritual home of women in Eressos and the first meeting of the head of the Greek and Roman Catholic churches in hundreds of years (2016).
A group of friends in NSW with a keen interest in Lesvos have been working diligently to present A Taste of Lesvos on Sunday 2 April as part of the Greek Festival, and under the umbrella of the Mytilenean Brotherhood of Sydney and NSW.
Lesvos gained international attention for influxes of refugees in 2015 and 2016. The island previously embraced hundreds of thousands of refugees in 1922 as a million Greeks were evacuated from Ottoman Turkey. Since 2013, Lesvos has again helped innocent victims of war. This island, like the rest of Greece, is going through economic hardship. Yet, as they did in 1922, the residents welcome everyone and show the compassion and kindness for which they are known.
For some reason, the international media has portrayed the island as unsafe. There are no issues: no local has experienced any problems, no tourist has been inconvenienced. The visits of Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, the Pope, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch have highlighted this. The friends, or rather the parea, know that, and they want to present this to the broader community.
A Taste of Lesvos will be held at Mytilene House in Canterbury – the south western Sydney suburb that is home to more Lesvos-heritage people than any other area in the world outside Greece.
The event will showcase the vast history, culture, and commerce of the island. The day starts with a musical performance from some of the many talented musicians of Lesvian heritage including Spiro Bougoukas, Eleni Meli and Mersina Tonys-Soulos. They will be joined by one of the world’s best bouzouki players – Tassos Bouzouki. A late addition is the star of the island, John Tikis, who is currently on tour in Australia with his new album.
Added to the mix will be a lecture on why you should travel to Lesvos, and a talk about the great painter Theophilos. Theophilos had a style and a story that captivated the entire island last century. This lecture is presented by artists and the comedian Anna Cominos, who is starring in her own shows in May.
Mr Costa Vertzayias, President of the Hellenic Studies Foundation at the University of New South Wales will present on Asia Minor (Turkey) and its connection with Lesvos.
To add to the taste is a demonstration on how to make local food! This will be followed by a tavli championship – the famous Greek backgammon game that is fun and easy to play. The tavli is being sponsored by Blue Sky Hotel Lesvos (Petra) and Plateia Gyradiko in Potts Point.
Those in attendance will be treated to a range of products and services made famous by the island. This includes Lesvos t-shirts, ouzo, olive oil from Gera and Vatera, a Kallonis FC display, Tzeli Hadjidimitriou’s writings, a kids’ corner, a food display and much more.
The event is being made possible thanks to the dedicated committee, including Dimi Konstantinou, Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos, Mano Francis, Maria Findanis, Myrsini and Spiro Bougoukas, Pamela Rogaris, and Will Vee, along with Vicky and Anna.
A Taste of Lesvos is part of the 35th Greek Festival of NSW and is one of the most anticipated of the 30 initiatives that have been arranged for the Festival.
A Taste of Lesvos takes place on Sunday 2 April from 11.00 am – 4.00 pm at Mytilene House, 225 Canterbury Road, Canterbury, NSW. Entry is free. For more information, visit www.greekfestivalofsydney.com.au/events/april/a-taste-of-lesvos.html
* Billy Cotsis is the author of ‘From Pyrrhus To Cyprus – Forgotten & Remembered Hellenic Kingdoms, Territories, Entities & A Fiefdom’.