The much anticipated arrival of nine soldiers of the Greek Presidential Guard to mark the anniversary of Anzac Day and the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Crete this month will most certainly be a historic moment in the relationship between Greece and Australia.
The official visit of the Evzones, the highest level of military guard in Greece, was delayed by three days due to a heavy and demanding schedule in Greece, according to correspondence between members of the Board of the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, who are driving the initiative, and Greek government officials.
“After obtaining special attendance permission from the Greek government, the nine Evzones and their two lieutenants will visit Adelaide and Sydney to commemorate the serving soldiers of Greece and Crete, often known as the ‘forgotten Anzacs,” Harry Patsouris, trustee of the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, explained to Neos Kosmos.
Patsouris has coordinated the Evzone visit in collaboration with Arthur Balayannis of the Hellenic Club Sydney.
“The nine Evzones and their lieutenants will arrive in Adelaide on Wednesday 19 April and their presence will bestow the Foundation for Hellenic Studies with a sense of great pleasure and honour in being accorded the opportunity to introduce them to our community, to have them participate in significant ceremonies in Adelaide to honour the Anzacs, and to show them our state,” Patsouris added.
Greek Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has already announced that he will be hosting an official state reception at the Adelaide Town Hall on behalf of the South Australian Government, to be held on Thursday 20 April, in honour of the Hellenic Presidential Guard.
“According to historical data, 8,900 Anzac prisoners of war were captured in Greece, and 646 Anzacs are still buried or memorialised in Greece; 50 per cent of whom are memorialised at the Athens Memorial, as their bodies were not recovered,” says Patsouris.
He also reveals that it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of people in Australia today who are connected to the Battle of Crete, whether as descendants of Anzacs who fought, or Australians of Greek heritage whose families were affected by the event.
As part of their visit, the members of the Presidential Guard, dressed in their official uniform, will pay their respects to the Anzacs who fought in Greece and Crete by marching to the National War Memorial on North Terrace, Adelaide and taking part in a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony there on Saturday 22 April.
During their stay in Adelaide, the Evzones will visit the St George Orthodox Church for a Vespers and Divine Liturgy Service on St George’s Day, and an Anzac Day memorial service.
Other planned visits include St Basil’s Homes (SA) where the leader of the Evzones will present a speech recounting the history of the Presidential Guard; the Ridleyton Homes for the Aged; and after changing into their official ceremonial dress, St George College where students will have an opportunity to meet with the Evzones and ask questions about their role in the military of Greece.
The Hellenic Presidential Guard members will be taking part in the pre-game flag-raising ceremony at Adelaide Oval for the AFL Power v Carlton game on Friday 21 April 2017 as part of the AFL Anzac Day round.
“This promises to be an event not to be missed before 50,000 fans and the ceremony is scheduled for 7.00 pm so get there early,” says Patsouris.
The Evzones will stay in Adelaide until Tuesday 25 April when they will fly to Sydney to participate in ceremonies to mark Anzac Day and the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Crete. They will stay in Australia until Tuesday 2 May.
“Over 100 years ago, in WWI, there was a link formed that connects our two countries, Australia and Greece, forever in time. About 39 per cent of the Australian troops in Greece were either killed, wounded, or became prisoners of war while more than 450,000 Greeks died during the next four years of German occupation; nearly 25,000 of them executed for assisting the allies. Therefore this visit is a significant chapter in the history and relationship of our two countries.
“We are very proud to be behind this initiative and it makes the Greeks in Australia feel proud to have such an important part of their home country visit Australia,” concludes Patsouris.