Saturday, November 27, 2010

Melina Mercouri - The Woman Who Should Have Been Mayor of Athens

 Honouring Melina Mercouri - the Last Greek Goddess
The Poster created for her Mayoral Campaign in 1990  was later issued 
as part of a set of commemorative stamps in her honour

The local elections in Greece recently saw a change of power in Greece's two main centres, for the first time since 1986...

In the capital, Athens the sitting Mayor, Nikitas Kaklamanis, a former Minister with Nea Democratia, was defeated by outsider Giorgos Kaminis, the former Ombudsman whose candidacy was supported by PASOK and the left coalitions...whilst Yiannis Boutaris, of the reknowned Boutari Wines, on a similar basis, ousted Nea Dimokratia's sitting Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos in Thessaloniki...

As the elections came and went and a new Mayor was elected for Athens, some of us couldn't help but think of the only woman who really deserved to have been the Mayor of Athens but wasn't, Melina Mercouri, the ultimate Athenian, the last Greek Goddess, someone who loved the city and would have done wonders for Athens' image and identity...

Her vision was focused on showcasing Greece's rich heritage - emphasising the beauty of Athens' many classical and historical monuments, uniting  Athens' many Archaeological sites, reuniting the Parthenon Sculptures, and adding culture and poetry to everyday living and education...

One thing is for sure, she certainly wouldn't have allowed her beloved Athens to get to the level it is today, with scenes such as the one pictured below an everyday occurrence which totally mars the beauty of the newly restored Athenian Trilogy buildings in one of the most beautiful streets of Athens, Panepistimiou... and not only!

Photo by Alexandros Filippidis which appeared in the Kathimerini on Sunday 
14 November 2010  in the article  Athens Is Losing its Symbols

Melina, born Maria Amalia Mercouri in Athens in 1920, was the daughter of Stamatis Mercouris, a former cavalry officer, member of Parliament for the Democratic Socialist Party of Greece and former Minister for Public Order of Greece, and the granddaughter of Spyros Mercouris, one of the most successful Mayors of Athens.

Melina worshipped her paternal grandfather who played such a significant role in her early childhood. In turn, Spyros Mercouris adored his granddaughter and took her with him almost everywhere he went - the sight of a young Melina with her grandfather was an endearing one, and one which would inspire the song Melina Melinaki which also became very popular in France.

A well-known and talented actress, Melina was internationally acclaimed for her portrayal of a woman of pleasure in Never on Sunday,  a film which was a milestone in Greek film history but she also had many other performances in her repertoire, both in films and in the theatre, modern and classical. 

During the years of the Military Junta in Greece, while in exile abroad, Melina also recorded several albums which became very popular... her sultry, husky voice giving the songs an extra special dimension. 

One of the most popular was a 1973 album with fellow Global Greek, composer Vangelis,  'Si Melina M'Etait Contee', which featured this song , one of her most beautiful ...  

 Athenes, ma Ville

Ma ville,c'est bon ne plus te voir en rêve
Ma ville, regarde le soleil se lève
Je te salue, toi mon ami, ma soeur
belle endormie mais qui attend son heure

Ma ville, écoute au creux de tes ruelles
Ma ville la voix  de tes enfants t'appelle
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna

réveille-toi  réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna

Ma ville que c'est un joli jour pour naitre
dore le pain Pâques est enfin venue
tire le vin qui fait chanter tes rues

Ma ville écoute au creux de tes ruelles
ma ville la voix de tes enfants t'appelle
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna
réveille-toi réveille-toi
Athèna Athèna

Famous for her anti-dictatorship stance during the Military Junta, she was deprived of her Greek citizenship and denied entry into Greece from 1967 to 1974. Her response to that was a simple
'I was born Greek and I will die Greek. 
Mr Pattakos was born a dictator and a dictator he will die

Her biography, appropriately enough, has the same name, I Was Born Greek...

When democracy was restored to her homeland Melina returned to Greece and entered politics, becoming Minister of Culture in the first PASOK Government and retaining that position until she died, except for a short break between 1990 and 1993. From that position she took on the British Museum as she campaigned long and hard for the return of the stolen Parthenon Sculptures now on display in the British Museum. 

Melina didn't live to see her dream become reality. She died in 1994 but her cause was rapidly gaining support around the world and her vision of a Museum to house the Repatriated  Sculptures materialised on 20 June 2009  when the magnificent New Acropolis Museum opened its doors in Athens. 

The pressure on the British is unrelenting and grows daily, with the London Olympics in 2012 an ideal moment for initiatives to be taken. 

Melina, our immortal Melina, will be waiting, just as we are...  as she said when she addressed the UNESCO Conference in Mexico in 1982...

'You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles stand for us. They are our pride. Our sacrifice. Our ultimate symbol of nobility. It is a requiem to our democratic philosophy, our ambition and our name. They are the essence of our Hellenic Being. 
If you ask me whether I will be alive when the Marbles return to Greece, I tell you, yes, I will be. 

But even if I'm not, I will be born again.

When the Sculptures come home to Athens, so will I'

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Remembering 17 November 1973 - Εδώ Πολυτεχνείο! Εδώ Πολυτεχνείο!

Εδώ Πολυτεχνείο! Εδώ Πολυτεχνειο! Σας μιλά ο Ραδιοφωνικός Σταθμός των ελεύθερων αγωνιζόμενων φοιτητών, των ελεύθερων αγωνιζόμενων Ελλήνων... 

Today is the 17th of November and in Greece it marks the culmination of the 3 day anniversary commemoration of the events and the victims of the Polytechnic student uprising against the Junta in 1973.

We dedicate this post to all those involved who fought and resisted the dictatorship so that the future generations could enjoy the benefits of freedom and democracy in the land which invented them; to all those who resisted so that the future generations could enjoy the ideals they fought for, namely the right to

 (Bread - Education - Freedom) 

ideals which seem as relevant today as they did then,  as Greece and her people struggle for economic survival in one of the most difficult periods seen in the last 30 years...

The great Nikos Xylouris' presence inside the Polytechnic in November of 1973 was catalytic, rallying the students and the people who gathered outside the gates with the depth and the power of his distinctive voice ...

His song Pote Tha Kanei Xasteria, was a call to battle, a rally to resistance against the Junta and the 7 year old dictatorship. 

This song, this call is as relevant today as it was then, because as Greeks we need to take stock and determine where we go from here. 

We have all played a role in allowing our society to get out of hand, not that we have all taken part in or benefitted from the corruption endemic in Greece today, but we have allowed it to happen... by not protesting, by not resisting, by giving in to all the shallowness around us we are almost as guilty as those who accepted the bribes or squandered public funds.

We need to take the 'opportunity' that this economic crisis has given us to re-examine the values our modern Greek society has acquired, focus on what is important in our lives and reset our objectives, rediscovering our values, ethical as well as economic, such as work and family and a host of other values intrinsic to Greece and important to Greeks...

If we do that, and do it fast, we have every hope of improving things dramatically and leaving something better for our children just as our parents did for us ... 

It is up to us!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Global Greek Maria Menounos: As a First Generation Greek American, I Desperately Wanted to Do Something to Help Greece...

Maria Menounos with her Mum and Dad at the end of their run in the Kallimarmaro Stadium
 Photo Source: Maria Menounos via

Gorgeous and multi-talented Greek American Maria Menounos, actress, journalist and television presenter, Access Hollywood and NBC News Correspondent, is one of our wonderful Global Greeks who always does her bit for Greece, the land her parents left to emigrate to the US in the 1970's. 

Her love for Greece brought her to Greece in 2006 to host the Eurovision Song Contest along with Sakis Rouvas, something she did with a lot of love, taking a few days off from her busy work schedule so that at the end of the contest she could enjoy some quality time with her relatives in the Peloponnese.

Just recently she anchored a great little video clip called "Heck Yeah! We Invented Democracy" for the Greek American organisation Next Generation Initiative, featuring many prominent Greek Americans who had a great time getting together to encourage Americans to do get out and "Vote, it's the Greek thing to do"

At the end of October this year, she came to Athens to take part in the Marathon of Marathons, the 2500 year celebrations for the Marathon. Not only did she host the celebration at the Zappeion Centre but she also participated, accompanying both her parents in the 5 kilometre run!

We listened to a visibly moved Maria speaking to reporters after she finished the 5 kilometre run with her parents and declared that she would love to come back and do the Classic 42.195 kilometre Marathon one day, in fact she said,  everyone should come to Greece for the Classic Marathon!  

We were thrilled that she participated, along with George Papandreou, the Prime Minister of Greece and a lot of other people, famous and not so famous, and we loved what she had to say shortly afterwards, to her friends on Twitter...

Finished the 5k marathon today w/my parents.I didn't know that the 5k finishes thru the original olympic stadium..omg it was so moving!!

I almost lost it coming thru-such a historic day-truly honored to have participated-i recommend the classic athens marathon to all!

A few days later she wrote  an exclusive diary for magazine and we thought we would share it with you ...

"Believe it or not, the economic conditions in Greece are even worse than those in our country's. As a first generation Greek American, I desperately wanted to do something to help. That something came in the form of hosting the 2010 Greek marathon. 

This year was the 2500th anniversary commemorating the mythic run of Greek messenger, Pheidippides, from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. Way back in 490 BC., Pheidippides job was to spread the word that Athens had defeated Persia at the battle. 

In 2010, it was my job to spread the word that the Greek marathon is THE premiere marathon in the world and that Greece, despite its economic setbacks, is THE premiere vacation destination and tourist attraction as well. 

After all, what other marathon is so authentic and rich in history? 

And what other country offers travelers such a wide range of assets from gorgeous island paradises to ancient historical wonders to a booming night life? I can't think of many. 

Yet, as awe-inspiring as Greece and the marathon was and is, it was my decision to run the 5K portion of the race that may have given me the most inspiration.

Honestly, I wouldn't even think to attend this event without my parents. As Greek natives who moved to the United States in their twenties, this was an experience they could not miss. Growing up in mountain villages that lacked electricity and running water, this was quite their triumphant return. 

However, what truly inspired me, and what I hope inspires others, is the fact that they decided to actually run the race with me. 

Mind you, these are not the parents who play tennis, do aerobics or have gym memberships. 

They are working-class folk. Dad, Costas, was a janitor and a handyman. Mom, Litsa, was a cafeteria worker. They had kids to feed in a foreign culture whose language they did not speak. 

What compounded their struggles was the fact that Dad's a Type I diabetic, prone to severe low blood sugar attacks. He's had the disease for forty years and has even been pronounced dead on more than one occasion due to its effects. As you can guess, there just wasn't room for extracurricular activities like exercise. 

Yet, this 66-year-old diabetic and his 56-year-old wife, who battled medical setbacks of her own including thyroid issues and a deviated septum, were determined, despite everything, to help the cause and to show their support by running the race. They lacked exercise experience and they lacked youth but had something, perhaps, more valuable. They had their minds in the state of 'possibility.'....

Thanks Greece, and thanks Mom and Dad, for reminding me to keep MY mind in possibility when I want to give up. I hope others out there can be reminded, too."

Read the rest of the article here...

Thank YOU,  Maria

Thanks for the generous and unstinting support that you and your parents, along with the rest of our Global Greeks, have given, and continue to give our homeland, especially at times like these ...We're keeping our minds in the state of possibility too! We know Greece will overcome!

Ευχαριστούμε πολύ! Νάσαι Πάντα Καλά!

To read more about Maria, Click Here

To follow Maria on Twitter, Click Here

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Misappropriation of National Symbols: United 'Macedonia' Diaspora Issues VISA Card With Alexander the Great Portrait

 VISA Card - United 'Macedonian' Diaspora

The pictured VISA card appears to be the latest provocation by an increasingly intransigent FYROM in its continuing battle with Greece over what it sees as its exclusive right to appropriate the name 'MACEDONIA' , by claiming the great Hellene, Alexander the Great as its own, and by so doing putting another obstacle on the road of any possible resolution of the name dispute.

Alexander the Great has been a feature of Greek history, art and culture, even coins and notes for a very, very long time, long before the establishment of FYROM and  its historially unfounded claims, that its inhabitants are the direct descendants of one of our most glorious Global Greeks!

It appears that the US  based United 'Macedonian' Diaspora has had this VISA card issued (we don't know the bank) featuring the detail above from the famous floor mosaic below.

Floor Mosaic - Battle between Alexander the Great and King Darius III
Source: Wikipedia

The mosaic depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia, and was found at the House of the Faun in Pompeii.  The portrait of Alexander shown sweeping into battle at the left of the mosaic on his famous horse, Bucephalos, is one of his most famous and internationally recognised and acknowledged. The breastplate he carries in the battle depicts Medusa, the famous Gorgon, and his wavy hair is typical of royal portraiture as established in Greek art of the fourth century B.C.

As negotiations continue between Greece and FYROM on a long-term-one-name-for-all-uses solution, FYROM knows that without an acceptable solution it will be very difficult if not impossible for FYROM to be admitted to the European Union and NATO, as well as other International Organisations, yet they continue to create obstacles to this. 

This weeks' EU report on accession progress effectively said that FYROM cannot join the EU until the name dispute with Greece is resolved, but it doesn't seem to worry their leader Gruevski at all.  

If it hadn't been for President GW Bush and the US fanning FYROM's over inflated ego, by  recognising it as 'Macedonia'  for reasons known only to them, FYROM would have been obligated to put some water in their irredentist wine by now.

As it is, each such move by FYROM or their 'friends' just aggravates an already difficult situation. 

As Alec Mally *, a former US Diplomat in the region commented recently,

'I can only say most of the time we have engaged, we tilted badly towards Skopje and failed. They move deeper into self created purgatory with each new statue and renamed airport. Skopje has lost a lot of time. Gruevski was elected on a highly nationalistic platform, and he deserves zero support from Washington or fact he should be snubbed. I hope the Greek lobby in the US can make it clear to Secretary Clinton that US re-engagement is a waste of energy.

The Greek lobby should indeed act quickly to nip this particular provocation in the bud but let's all help! 

It is up to us in the Global Greek Community, and especially the Greek American Community to point out the futility of such moves by FYROM who have every reason to want a resolution to the name dispute but seem to be doing everything they can to sabotage it.
There's nothing like a bit of pressure  so ACT NOW!

Mobilise all of our sitting Greek American representatives such as Olympia Snowe, John Sarbanes, Niki Tsongas, Zack Space, Dina Titus, Gus Bilirakis, Charlie Christ,  Suzanne Kosmas and Shelley Berkeley  all members of the Hellenic Caucus.  

Mobilise the Greek American organisations, AHEPA, AHI, the Pan Macedonian Association and others. 

Write to your local congressman/woman or senator, to Secretary Clinton even, pointing out that this is an unacceptable move by a US based organisation and that appropriating your neighbour's national symbols and passing them off as your own is not exactly conducive to peaceful coexistence, on any level!

PS You could also contact VISA asking them what it was thinking of to allow one of its partner banks to issue a card with a 'forged' identity? 

Ask VISA what they would it do if someone decided to issue a card with the word VISA written on it but without getting the proper authorisation? 

Maybe then it will get the message that it should never have allowed a card with misappropriated symbols to be issued! 

 *Alec Mally is currently Executive Director for Global Economics at Foresight Strategy and Communications, Athens.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Heck Yeah we Invented Democracy! The Greek American Candidates in the US Mid-Term Elections!

With the US Mid term elections coming up tomorrow in the USA, some of our most famous Greek Americans have got together to encourage people to vote, telling them that Democracy was their idea first and that Americans shouldn't mess with democracy, but get out and vote! 

George Stephanopoulos, Bob Costas, Nick Galifianakis, Maria Menounos, and Chris Sarandon star in the hilarious little video which they called "Heck Yeah! We Invented Democracy." and even Tina Fey has a guest spot with her phrase from her SNL skit...'Drepome, Drepome, which means I'm ashamed....', as do Arianna Huffington and Betty White.

The video was made by Hellenext, one of our Global Greek Organisations, whose aims are to engage the next generation of Greek Americans and have them embrace the core values that their Greek Heritage represents - a respect for education, an entrepreneurial  spirit and a striving for excellence! 

Hellenext's founders and friends reads like a Who's Who of the Greek American Community - among them Thalia Assuras, Dr. John Brademas, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Dr. James Dimitriou, Michael Dukakis, Ted Leonsis, Gregory Maniatis, Barbara Spyridon Pope, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Sen. Olympia Snowe, George Stephanopoulos, and George Tenet to name but a few...To read more about this very worthwhile organisation, Hellenext, Click here

The Greek American involvement in politics has always been particularly strong and in 1988 got the closest to the top of the political ladder, when Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic Party Presidential Nominee lost to George Bush. 

The first Greek American who had ever got so close to the Presidency was Spiros Agnew,

who served as Richard Nixon's Vice President from 1969 to 1973, but had to resign because of criminal charges, otherwise he may well have become the first Greek American President when Nixon was impeached.

Recent US politics have seen an increase in the number of Greek Americans standing for office, something we welcome, but we would like to see more of them, as Greek issues become more and more complex, issues on which Greece needs as much support as possible. 

For that reason, we thought we would help all those who would like to VOTE GREEK AMERICAN in tomorrow's elections, by listing them for you in this post. 

We tried but didn't manage to find a central list of Greek American candidates (perhaps that is something which one of the Greek American Organisations such as AHEPA or AHI could put together, irrespective of party affiliations) but we are able to provide this list thanks to Andrew Kaffes of A.G. Kaffes and Associates in Washington.

If you want to read more about them, please click on the link to each candidate's website. 

It is worth noting that Gus Bilirakis, Zack Space, Dina Titus, Shelley Berkley, Niki Tsongas and Suzanne Kosmas are  members of the Hellenic Caucus in Congress, while Gus Bilirakis is the Co-Chair and a very active proponent of Greek Issues such as the rebuilding of St Nicholas at Ground Zero and protection of religious sites and artefacts in Cyprus

US House of Representatives


Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)           Website 

Zack Space (D-OH             Website    

John Sarbanes (D-MD)       Website 

Dina Titus (D-NV)              Website 

Shelley Berkley (D-NV)       Website

*Niki Tsongas (D-MA)         Website

*Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)     Website

who, although not Greek by blood, but via marriage, or osmosis, as Niki Tsongas says, carry their Greek surnames proudly, and are very much part of the “Greek American” delegation. 


Dean Scontras (R-ME)        Website
US Senate


Alexi Giannoulias (D) IL  Website

Charlie Crist (I) FL         Website

We wish all our Greek American candidates, including all those running at local level, such as Mariyana Spyropoulos , Maria Pappas, and Frank Skartados, and regardless of party affiliation, the best of luck in tomorrow's elections and look forward to seeing them cooperate positively with, and support the Greek Government as much as they can at this difficult time in Greece's history!

Καλή Επιτυχία!!!

P.S We had already posted our article when we found it, but we found the relevant post and brief bios of each candidate at USA Greek Reporter  useful.


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