Τετάρτη, 24 Ιουλίου 2013

Passionate for a Hellenic Identity: The Greeks of Boston

Huffington Post
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. From left to right: Businessman Ted Argyris, author/journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris, Museum coordinator Betty, lobbyist Nick Koskores,
Sitting:English teacher Mary Koskores and the great benefactor of the Boston Museum,  Ms Eve Condakes!
 

They may have been marginalized, frowned upon as being part of an immigrant ghetto and received so suspiciously before World War II that they were often forced to hide their origins but the Greeks of Boston, who emigrated to America early last century in search of a better life, have come a long way. So far in fact that, today, some of their names adorn the walls of the city's storied Museum of Fine Arts, having taken their place amongst its most vaunted benefactors.
The couple of Eve and Leo Condakes were instrumental in funding the restoration of the Classical Antiquity Gallery while George Behrakis provided the financial resources for the new "George D. and Margo Behrakis Art of the Ancient World" wing. Opened last September, it marked the first time that the museum has named a multi-gallery wing after a major donor since 1915 and led to Behrakis being honoured as one of the seven "guardians" of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a title reserved for those that have contributed in excess of $25 million. A true masterpiece, the wing is crowned by a showcase gallery featuring some thirty pieces from the museum's collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.
Strolling through the majestic corridors with the ever-charming Eve Condakes at my side, I am filled with pride as I spy the names "Eve and Leo Condakes" prominently displayed above the Antiquity Gallery and listen attentively as she begins to narrate in a most eloquent, fluent Greek:
My father was the publisher of the first Greek newspaper here in Boston and, along with my mother, taught us the Greek language and instilled in us the obligation to honor the country of our origin. I remember that we visited the museum when we were very young and how devastated my father was when we were shown the museum's collection of ancient Greek sculptures on display, down in the basement. As such, when the opportunity arose many years later, my late husband, Leo, and I jumped at the chance to fund the marvellous gallery that houses many of those very same works of art today. I am very proud to witness our national treasures being admired by visitors from around the world in one of the most famous museums in the United States.
Born and raised in Boston and the mother of two prominent professionals, Nick and Ted Koskores, Evanthia Condakes rose to a senior level executive position with a major international cosmetics company but, following her father's teachings, never forgot her roots.
Our parents and grandparents were conscious of their great responsibility towards their history when they began their long journey to the blessed land of America. They may have come here with very little means in the quest of a better future but they arrived full of pride in their history and traditions.
A much decorated and highly beloved former president of the National Philoptochos Society of the Archdiocese of America, a longtime benefactor of Leadership 100 and the Greek Orthodox Community of Boston to name but a few, Eve Condakes has also become an outspoken advocate for the reopening of the Chalki Greek Orthodox Theological School in Turkey.
A long friendship connects me with his Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. Together with many other Greek Communities in the Diaspora, we support all his efforts for the re-opening of the historical Theological School in Chalki. We demand protection for the human and religious rights of the people in Turkey and we hope that the status of our historic Patriarchate in Istanbul will be respected and that the country begins to adopt a more pro-European stance. Our prayers are with his Holiness, our Patriarch and leader of the Orthodox around the world.
Eve, along with her late husband, Lycurgus (Leo) Condakes, may symbolize the "American Dream" but she is also a shining example, as was he, of an individual with a deep sense of being and respect for her heritage. Their gallery at the museum houses an important series of sculptures and vases that date from the 4th century B.C.
As we walk down the gallery named after the Eve and Leo Condakes' Foundation, she notes, head held high:
I am proud of my cultural and religious origin. Here in Boston, I feel full of Greece and Orthodoxy and I am trying to pass these values on to my grandchildren. My late husband and I invested in the Classical Antiquity wing at the museum so that future generations of the Hellenes could explore and admire the beauty of our culture and experience the eternity of the Hellenic spirit.

Πέμπτη, 18 Ιουλίου 2013

The Greek Diaspora: A People Neglected

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The Huffington Post

Somewhat after World War I but, predominantly after World War II and the devastating Greek Civil War that ensued, Greece encouraged her children to emigrate, en masse, in quest of a brighter future.

Facing a ruined economy, the post-war eras left no other plausible options to the Greeks who fled to Australia, Canada, the United States and Germany as they had done in ancient times when they left for the shores of Southern Italy and France.

However, instead of Greece moving ahead with the implementation of some coherent policy to support the Greek element overseas, the country, on the contrary, became dependent on a flow of funds from these expatriates back to the homeland. Known as "hidden resources," these monies were essential in providing the developing nation with an economic respite in its effort to stand on its feet.

The only aid that Greece offered was to dispatch a vibrant clergy to the Greek communities that sprung up around the world who would go on to become the founding fathers of Greek Orthodox churches and parishes and, by extension, the pillars of Greek language education with the establishment of parochial schools.

This great wave of post-war migration created a large Greek diaspora with varied problems, needs and priorities. Unfortunately, however, Greece showed little interest in or entirely abstained from adopting a continuous, consistent and balanced approach to help these new communities. For example, Greek-educated teachers were sent to Germany but not to any other country until the recent years.

Meanwhile, post-dictatorial Greece (1974) began to develop rapidly, quickly obtaining the means necessary for abetting the Greek diaspora whose flow was, by then, slowly subsiding. Once again, however, the government demonstrated no desire in promoting educational or other programs that could instill a Greek identity among the youth and strengthen the ties between the fledgling communities and the motherland.

To this day, Greece continues to act irresponsibly and unevenly with respect to the teaching of the Greek language in the Greek Community schools abroad. In Germany, for example, an old-fashioned methodology has resulted in outdated institutions whose teachings have long been bypassed by a much more quickly evolving population whereas in Australia and America the Greek schools have been basically abandoned, left to fend on their own with anachronous textbooks and teaching materials.

The government has been inept at dealing with the different generations of Greeks abroad, unable to tailor its educational programs in accordance with the differing stages of progress in which they are and insisting on focusing almost exclusively on language to the detriment of Hellenic history and culture.

On fomenting a Hellenic identity among Greek youth abroad, here, too, political investment is sorely amiss. The country should be avidly promoting the attendance of the diaspora's young in camps around the country where contact with Greece's natural beauty, the native population and other Greeks from around the world could go a long way to instilling these Hellenic ideals.

Despite the fragmented efforts of leaders such as Andreas Papandreou who showed true compassion for the Greeks living abroad as he, himself, was an expatriate for many years, the Greek government has done far too little for far too long to arrest the crumbling of the majority of Greek institutions abroad.

And today, given the ongoing economic crisis with Greek unemployment approaching 30 percent and surpassing 60 percent among the young, we are faced with a new wave of Greek immigration looking to build a life in Europe, Australia and America. This may just be the Greek state's last chance to help the Greek Diaspora reach its full potential and become a force that can eventually be instrumental in bringing Greece, once again, back from the brink.

Τρίτη, 2 Ιουλίου 2013

Learn From Laval and Montreal -- Limit Mayoral Terms

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
Huffington Post

Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum is taken away by police after being arrested at his home in Montreal on Monday.


It is summertime in Montreal and that implies decrepit, broken roads and endless congestion as a result of omnipresent construction crews in the midst of repairing potholes left over by the spring thaw. It is also the time of the world famous Montreal International Jazz Festival but instead of the city revelling in music and laughter, it is being bombarded by the deafening sound of jackhammers on asphalt repair.

The astonishing fact, however, is that to build these wretched streets that are the root cause of innumerable major car repairs, taxpayers, on average, have been charged some 30 to 50 per cent more than those of neighbouring provinces and states with similar climactic conditions such as Ontario and New York.

For, as has been revealed at the hearings of the ongoing Charbonneau Commission investigating Montreal's construction industry, the awarding of city contracts has, for years, been dominated by a select, corrupt oligarchy involving kickbacks to political parties and payments to corrupt city officials. The inquiry, whose mandate was recently extended, has already brought about the resignation of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, the arrest of many of his closest collaborators and his interim replacement, Michael Applebaum, as well as the indictment of the mayor of the adjoining city of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt.

Having entered municipal politics after a distinguished career at the provincial level where he served as Minister of Industry, Gerald Tremblay was forced to resign this past November after 11 long years at the helm of the city of Montreal and after allegations of corruption surfaced at the Charbonneau Commission.

Tremblay's resignation landed Michael Applebaum, the chairman of Tremblay's Executive Committee, in the mayor's chair. Promising to bring transparency and honesty to City Hall, Applebaum created a stir for becoming the Montreal's first Anglophone mayor in a century. However, last week, he, too, was forced to resign, indicted on 14 counts, including fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.

The Applebaum saga was preceeded by the spectacular arrest of Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt along with 37 co-conspirators on multiple charges of corruption and gangsterism. Vaillancourt ran Laval for an unprecedented 23 years, often without any opposition, before being forced to resign in disgrace last November.

So, as I drive through the city, desperately trying to avoid the deadly obstacles, I keep thinking about the very notion of corruption and how this beautiful city has become a beacon of mismanagement all around the world.

In looking for possible solutions, I believe the time has come for the National Assembly of Quebec to legislate a limit on a mayor's tenure in the province's cities. As in many other jurisdictions, two terms are more than sufficient for a leader to illustrate and realize the projects he or she wishes to enact whereas clinging to power for extended periods of time leads to cronyism and conspiracy as has been well demonstrated by the Montreal and Laval experience!