Monthly Archives: March 2015

Construction in Greece falls by 80 per cent

Construction in Greece falls by 80 per cent

Employment in the sector more than halved within five years.

Since 2008, Greece has seen a huge decline in construction interest.

Construction in Greece has suffered one of the biggest declines to have been recorded by any professional sector within just a few years, as business activity in the domain has dropped as much as 80 per cent since 2008, a study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) showed this week.

It added that more than a third of the economic contraction recorded from 2008 to 2013 in Greece is associated with the drop in investment in construction.

Employment in the sector more than halved within five years, from 589,000 people in 2008 to 287,000 in 2013, the study revealed.

Source: Kathimerini

Greek hoteliers crackdown on illegal tourism accommodation


Two in every five nights spent by tourists in Greece are in undeclared accommodation. The hotel industry isn’t happy.

Greek tourism bodies are forming a strong front – including a dedicated inspection unit – against the phenomenon of illegal tourism accommodation. The latter constitutes a major source of tax evasion in the country, as for two in every five nights spent by tourists in Greece are in undeclared accommodation.

The president of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, told a national conference of room rental entrepreneurs on Monday that illegal accommodation is a huge problem for Greek tourism, with such units taking the place of their legal counterparts for as much as 40 percent of nights spent in Greece by visitors.

To combat this phenomenon, SETE intends to commission a company to perform electronic checks on the tourism accommodation that is illegally available.

The data collected will be forwarded to the country’s tourism and tax authorities, which will in turn perform targeted inspections and impose the penalties provided for by law.

Giorgos Tsakiris, the head of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, said that the turnover of the approximately 500,000 illegal beds available for visitors amounts to 2 billion euros per year, leading to losses not only for state coffers but also law-abiding professionals.

Source: Kathimerini

Greek Australian community:Ice burning through our youth

Ice burning through our youth

Australia is in the grip of an irreversible violent crime rise thanks to the influence of drugs like ice.

Violent crime, suicide and trafficking numbers related to methylamphetamine addiction are on a constant rise within the Greek Australian community.

The Australian Crime Commission’s first public report has identified ice as the biggest threat facing our society, warning that Australia is in the grip of an irreversible violent crime rise, increasing drug addiction to unprecedented levels.

The ‘mind-eating, life-ending drug’ has had a harrowing impact on Australia’s indigenous and multicultural communities. The illicit substance has been found to be fuelling most violent and offence related predicaments within the Greek community as well.

Neos Kosmos talked to Helen Andrianakis, who has been working as a prison clinician for more than 30 years, and Jim Mangioros, founder of the non-profit organisation Endless Horizons.

“It’s true that crime syndicates never cease to adapt to new legislation and law enforcement, baring new holes in the system,” Jim Mangioros tells Neos Kosmos.

“They are pushing multi-drug and alcohol-combined use, they even provide the public with online recipes to produce the highly toxic drug.

“These are accessible to young kids. I have been dealing with cases of 14-year-old addicts. Even some 12-year-olds. It’s devastating,” he adds.

Jim Mangioros and his wife Neda have devoted their lives to providing young people coming from underprivileged and sometimes ‘hard-core’ backgrounds with support and counselling, education, as well as food parcels, meals and clothing. They even do mediation, bringing families together through rehabilitation. Endless Horizons deals with youths tormented by addiction, which most of the times leads to human trafficking and crime.

“The team is working closely with rehab centres and shelters throughout Victoria,” he explains.

“We have many teenagers coming from broken homes, children we found living on the streets in deprived and unimaginably hard conditions.”

“We can’t disclose names and a lot of information about what we do as we ourselves are dealing with crime syndicates, facing threats. We sometimes keep information from the teens’ families, in order to protect them till they come out of the addiction and this vicious circle,” Mr Mangioros continues.

He believes that it is not until people comes off the drugs that they realise how much help they need.

“When people are on drugs, especially with ice, they are all over the place. Living in denial.”

“When they are sober and more alert, the destructive effect of their addiction is obvious,” he stresses.

“It is not an overnight process. We usually deal with people from all stratas and they all need at least 6 months to eve begin to realise this is killing them-if they even do.”

Jim Mangioros highlights that Australia and Melbourne is dealing with a massive epidemic, which is killing its multicultural communities first. The Greek Australians are no exception.

“At least 60 per cent of my cases do come from European backgrounds and sadly most are Greek and a lot of people we deal with come from good and well-off families, too. Ice is huge and everywhere,” he tells.

“There is a lot of ignorance and curiosity around it. It’s a peer pressure thing amongst youngsters. Trying it out is ‘cool’, but it’s highly addictive.”

“People take it to numb their pain, numb their life issues but it only makes things worse,” he says.

Middle Eastern and Asian ice-exporting countries are targeting the Australian market, which has become the dominant ‘client’ since 2010. Ice is penetrating security checks and borders into Australia from 50 countries, while Australian ice users pay 6 times the amount of money a gram costs in China. Dealers are massively pushing ice through urban, rural and regional communities as 60 per cent of organised criminal gangs, including bikies, are profiting from the importation, manufacture or trafficking.

“The fight against ice is a matter for everyone,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said and his cry is far from mistaken.

“I have looked after people from the age of 16 to 60 and I assure you, ice makes no discrimination,” prison clinician Helen Andrianakis tells Neos Kosmos.

“I keep coming across a lot of Greek girls hooked on ice that end-up becoming sex-workers or strippers. Ice keeps them going, numbs them, and fries their brain- which is perfect for the brothel owners who can profit more on their expense.”

“However, it’s not only delinquents, offenders and kids from broken homes. Not long ago, I treated a gentleman at the age of 55. He’d never touched anything in his life, until he did.”

The situation is not improving, the cases are on a constant rise and it is getting dangerous and harder for clinicians to work, according to Ms Andrianakis’ experience.

“Ice causes psychosis and long-term psychological damage, leading to daily violence, accidents and aggression, suicides and homicides even,” she admits.

“People do not realise what ice is doing to them, how degenerating and destructively chemical it is. It blows my mind what this drug does to people every single time.”

“People are hallucinating. I had a Greek girl patient whose mother and sister died from the same addiction. She hadn’t slept for 6 days and she was violent and uncontrollable, constantly hurting herself and became suicidal as the voices she was hearing were urging her to end her life unless she found ice.”

Coming from a Greek background and being a clinician for so many years, Ms Andrianakis finds the lack of Greek speaking rehabilitation centres and shelters in Melbourne, disturbing.

“Considering the constantly increasing numbers of Greek Australians on ice, I’d say it’s necessary,” she tells.

“There are many newcomers from Greece, who have burned a lot of bridges along the way, facing many financial and integration difficulties, therefore easily coerced into drug-use and trafficking.”

The landmark report concluded that unless the Australian government, state and territory governments work closely with non-government organisations, industry and the communities- the ice market will continue to grow. However, can this case of public concern rest merely with law enforcement and government policies or are the statistics indicative of a family and educational weakness to engage effectively as this vicious enemy trail-blazes its way through all walks of this nation’s life?

source: Neos Kosmos

Australia: Tens of thousands of chickens starved by Apostolatos brothers


Chicken farmers Gerry and Chris Apostolatos plead guilty to starving a huge number of chickens

Two brothers have pleaded guilty to starving more than one million chickens after some of the animals resulted to cannibalism due to insufficient food.
Veteran chicken farmers Gerry and Chris Apostolatos stopped feeding the chickens across their six farms in Victoria when their business Tip Top Livestock fell on hard times in December 2011, The Age reports.

More than 86,000 chickens starved to death under the care of Gerry Apostolatos at six sites, while his brother Chris was responsible for 804,000 chickens on three farms where more than 63,000 died.

When animal welfare officers were alerted to the chickens, they found some of them had turned to cannibalism to survive and others suffered from malnutrition and lameness.

The brothers, who had been in the chicken farming business for 30 years, pleaded guilty to multiple animal cruelty charges at Melbourne Magistrates Court last Wednesday.

Prosecutor George Georgiou SC said the animal cruelty case was one of the worst to come before the court as he revealed the chickens were starved between December 2011 and February 2012.

The company ran into financial difficulty and had trouble making payments for food, the court heard.

The brothers’ processing plant was shut down by authorities in November 2011 due to hygiene concerns and feed bills grew to $1 million a week because they couldn’t keep up.

The pair will be sentenced at a later date.

source: Neos Kosmos

Macedonian Hellenes’ story unveiled

Macedonian Hellenes' story unveiled

Professor Anastasios Tamis speaking during the launch of Macedonian Hellenes in Oceania. Photos: Mike Sweet.

Professor Anastasios Tamis’ latest work is a memorial to Macedonian Hellenes in Australia, and a touchstone for future generations.

Fittingly, it was Greek National Day that saw over 500 people join community leaders at the Nick Andrianakos Cultural Centre, Melbourne, to take part in the much-anticipated launch of Professor Anastasios Tamis’ latest publication Macedonian Hellenes in Oceania.

The book, which details the story of migration from Macedonia to Australia in the 20th century, has been six years in the making, and is the result of the author’s intensive research into family records and the archives of Macedonian Hellenic diaspora organisations.

Joining Professor Tamis at the event, dignitaries included Speaker of the Victorian Parliament Telmo Languiller, GOCMV’s president Bill Papastergiadis, Dimitris Minas, president of the Pan Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria, and arguably the state’s pre-eminent Philhellene – former state premier Jeff Kennett – who as guest of honour, formally launched the publication.

Mr Kennett, who as premier in the early 1990s was a staunch advocate for Greece’s position on the FYROM naming issue, said that Professor Tamis’ book was a vital reference point for future generations.

“This is an investment not in the past, but in the future,” he said.

“This book is about each of us in society understanding each other. It’s about having a level of tolerance, which is as good here in Victoria as it is anywhere else in the world.”

Mr Kennett said that the book’s publication in English was very significant, enabling those beyond the Greek community to understand the history of the Macedonian Hellenic diaspora in Australia.

“This is not just a book of record, this is a book of hope. I see it as a moment when there is a new line in the sand.”

In his speech, Professor Tamis said his motivation to write the book had come from “the necessity to honour pioneer Macedonian Greek immigrants and their children”.

In great detail, the 592-page book charts the personal stories of scores of Macedonian Hellene families – the challenges they faced, the contributions they made to their adopted country, and the social and economic context in which they lived.

The author’s research for the book also delves into the causes and continuation of inter-ethnic conflict thrown up by ‘the Macedonian dilemma’.

Professor Tamis said the issue at stake was not one of “an imagined and/or invented ethnicity” but an “aggressive nationalism”.

“To dare naming your airports and enriching your capital with shrines and monuments belonging to another nation constitutes a fallacious defilement,” he said, before adding that to maintain “exclusively for your own group the shared geographical term of Macedonia is incompatibly artificial and irrationally pseudonymous”.

Published and printed in Thessaloniki by Tziolas Publishing, Macedonian Hellenes in Oceania is available from the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria, which funded the publication’s three-year research phase.

The book’s sponsors include the Benevolent Brotherhood of Men of Thessaloniki, the Australian Institute for Macedonian Studies, A. and M. Efkarpidis, G. Kitharidis, A. and C. Tsoulias, the Bank of Cyprus, the Philanthropic Association of Kastorians O Grammos, the Philanthropic Association of Chalkidians Aristotelis O Stagitrtis, Serraion Society, Pempieriki Broththerhood O Olympos and the Philanthropic Association of Kozani O Lassanis.

source: Neos Kosmos


Stabbing in Sydney leaves young Greek-Australian dead


Unexpected death of 20-year-old Alex Bargiatakis shocks community.

Sydney’s Mascot Street became the scene of a devastating crime last Monday night, resulting in the unexpected death of 20-year-old Alex Bargiatakis.

According to police, upon arrival they found two men standing close to the victim’s body, one of whom was identified as Jarrod Mitchell.

Said to be a local whose home was close to the vicinity of the incident, it has been alleged that a witness heard Mitchell arguing with someone prior to the stabbing.

Following the questioning of both men, police charged twenty-one-year-old Mitchell with Mr Bargiatakis’ murder.

Those who knew the victim were shocked at the news of his death, a close friend describing the incident as a “cowardly act”.

His sister Denise Bargiatakis expressed her sadness publicly on social media, writing: “R.I.P. Alex, I’ll love you forever my brother. No words could ever describe the pain of losing u.”

The matter was scheduled to be heard in Newtown’s local court on Tuesday, however, the suspected culprit did not appear.

According to his lawyer, Brad Mallinson, his client is expected to apply for bail in a court appearance next week.

Source: Nine News

Socceroos friendly against FYR Macedonia: Australia finish with 0-0 draw in Skopje

Macedonia's Dushko Trachevski (L) fights for the ball with Australia's Massimo Luongo.

IN the lead-up to this morning’s tepid 0-0 draw between the Socceroos and FYR Macedonia in Skopje, the Football Federation of Macedonia website offered free tickets to the game.

One reply translated along the lines of, “If it was being played in my backyard I’d close the curtains.”

It was hard to disagree. With support for the Macedonian national team at an all-time low after a 2-1 loss to Belarus last week, the cavernous 33,500 Philip II Arena was less than 10 per-cent filled.

Add in the chilly night and six changes to the Australian starting side that drew 2-2 with Germany last Thursday, and the result was a game lacking in atmosphere and excitement.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Socceroos took a step back from the great progress that they have been making in recent months – they didn’t lose after all – but they didn’t make any further strides either, despite a start that showed plenty of promise.

As they inevitably do under Postecoglou’s coaching, the Socceroos began full of intent, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie and James Troisi employing a slick interchange of passing to take play down Australia’s left side from the kick-off.

In the early stages it seemed just a matter of time before Leckie would get free down Australia’s left side and engineer the first score, but perhaps because of the number of changes, the Socceroos appeared to lack cohesion and, surprisingly, given the way Postecoglou has drilled them over the past year, desperation.

It was as if they felt the goals would eventually come, and were in no great hurry to make them happen.

They were the team making all the running, but time and again the final pass went astray and Macedonia was able to go onto the counter.

Against a better side Australia could have been in trouble but the Macedonians were devoid of precision in front of goal. Four times in the first half alone they set a good platform but three times the Socceroo defenders got back in numbers.

On the fourth occasion the Macedonian forward pushed the ball aimlessly over the sideline. It summed up their night.

Sadly, Australia’s finishing wasn’t much better. Leckie, Troisi and Tomi Juric all had chances that came to nothing.

In fact, apart from a bit of excitement late in the first half when Aussie born-and-bred Macedonian Daniel Georgievski engaged in some push and shove with Leckie, and Jedinak received a yellow card following a collision with Dushko Trajchevski, booing their own team was the only thing that kept the minuscule home crowd warm.

Ἀρθρο βόμβα από ΗΠΑ για την Γερμανία:Ἡ Ελλάδα σας έσβησε τα χρέη το 1953 κάντε το ίδιο


Η υπογραφή της συμφωνίας το 1953 από την γερμανική αντιπροσωπεία (Φωτογραφία Süddeutsche Zeitung) Πηγή:

Μ΄ ένα άρθρο φωτιά η μεγάλη αμερικανική εφημερίδα Washington Post υπενθυμίζει στο Βερολίνο όσα Μέρκελ και Σόϊμπλε κάνουν πως δεν θυμούνται.

«Στην ελληνική κρίση, η Γερμανία θα πρέπει να διδαχθεί από το δικό της δημοσιονομικό παρελθόν» τονίζεται σε άρθρο του Χάρολντ Μέιρσον στην εφημερίδα Washington Post.

Όπως αναφέρεται, «τόσο για λόγους στρατηγικής, όσο και οικονομικούς, θα αποτελούσε καταστροφή για τη Γερμανία, εάν η Ελλάδα υποχρεωνόταν στην αποκήρυξη των χρεών της και στην έξοδό της από την ευρωζώνη, καθώς μία τέτοια κίνηση θα απειλούσε την ίδια την ύπαρξη της νομισματικής ένωσης».
«Η νέα ελληνική κυβέρνηση αντιπροσωπεύει, το λιγότερο, τη ρήξη με την πρότερη κακοδιαχείρηση της Ελλάδας, όπως είχε πράξει και η κυβέρνηση του Αντενάουερ ως προς εκείνη του Χίτλερ. Οι πρώτοι διορισμοί σηματοδοτούν μία καινοφανή εξέλιξη στη διακυβέρνηση της Ελλάδας, τη μάχη κατά της διαφθοράς και του ευνοιοκρατικού καπιταλισμού που διαβρώνουν εδώ και χρόνια την οικονομία της χώρας» προστίθεται.
Σύμφωνα με το άρθρο της αμερικανικής εφημερίδας, «η Γερμανία, μολονότι έχει κατανοήσει τα διδάγματα από τα λάθη που διέπραξε τον 20ό αιώνα, δεν φαίνεται να διδάσκεται από το κόστος που ενέχει η προσκόλληση στη δημοσιονομική ορθοδοξία, παρά το γεγονός ότι η ευημερία της οφείλεται στην απόφαση των αντιπάλων της κατά τον Β΄Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο που επέτρεψε στη μεταπολεμική Δ.Γερμανία να διαγράψει το ήμισυ των χρεών της. Μετά την κατάρρευση του 2008, η Γερμανία, ως η κυρίαρχη οικονομία της Ευρώπης και η σημαντικότερη πιστώτρια χώρα, υποχρέωσε τις χώρες της μεσογειακής Ευρώπης και κυρίως την Ελλάδα να λεηλατήσουν τις ίδιες τις οικονομίες τους για να αποπληρώσουν τα χρέη τους».

Το άρθρο γίνεται ακόμη σκληρότερο στην συνέχεια αναφέροντας ότι η εμμονή της Γερμανίας οδήγησε την Ελλάδα στην καταστροφή:
Στη συνέχεια, μεταξύ άλλων, υπογραμμίζεται ότι «η επιμονή της Γερμανίας οδήγησε στη συρρίκνωση της Ελλάδας στο επίπεδο της Μεγάλης Ύφεσης των ΗΠΑ. Η ανεργία εκτινάχθηκε στο 25%, ενώ η νεανική ανεργία ξεπέρασε το 50%, η οικονομία βυθίστηκε κατά 26% και η κατανάλωση κατά 40%. Το χρέος ανήλθε στο 175% του ΑΕΠ, ενώ τα κεφάλαια από τα δάνεια που παραχώρησαν η Γερμανία και τα άλλα κράτη στην Ελλάδα, δόθηκαν, είτε για την κάλυψη των επιτοκίων, είτε για την αποπληρωμή παλαιότερων δανείων. Μόλις το 11% εξ΄αυτών δόθηκε πραγματικά στην ελληνική κυβέρνηση. 
» Δεν προκαλεί, λοιπόν, έκπληξη ότι οι Έλληνες ψηφοφόροι επέλεξαν μία νέα κυβέρνηση, η οποία διεκδικεί την επαναδιαπραγμάτευση του χρέους. Οι αξιωματούχοι της Γερμανίας και της ΕΕ αντέδρασαν σθεναρά στις όποιες αλλαγές.
» Ευτυχώς για τη Γερμανία, οι δικοί της πιστωτές είχαν υιοθετήσει διαφορετική στάση μετά τον Β΄Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο. Στη συμφωνία του Λονδίνου για το χρέος, το 1953, 20 κράτη, συμπεριλαμβανομένης της Ελλάδας, που είχαν δανείσει χρήματα στη Γερμανία κατά την προναζιστική Δημοκρατία της Βαϊμάρης και μετά το 1945, συμφώνησαν να μειώσουν το χρέος της Δ. Γερμανίας κατά το ήμισυ. Επιπλέον, συμφώνησαν ότι η αποπληρωμή του δεν θα προέρχεται από τις κυβερνητικές δαπάνες, αλλά αποκλειστικά από τις εξαγωγές.
» Με τη συγκατάθεση όλων των μερών, η συμφωνία του Λονδίνου και οι διαδοχικές τροποποιήσεις της, κατέστησαν τη Γερμανία ισότιμη με τους πιστωτές της, διαθέτοντας τη δυνατότητα, την οποία χρησιμοποίησε κατά καιρούς, να απορρίπτει τους όρους των πιστωτών και να εμμένει σε νέες διαπραγματεύσεις».
Καταλήγοντας, ο αρθρογράφος σημειώνει ότι «ο κόσμος θα ήταν ένα καλύτερο μέρος, αν οι Γερμανοί γνωρίζαν την ιστορία τους».

Θα ακούσουν άραγε οι Γερμανοί; Πηγή:


Proposal for Greek Signs on Melbourne Streets



Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has become an “ambassador” for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, said Greek-Australian Labor MP, Steve Dimopoulos, during his speech at a reception hosted by the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Christina Simantirakis, on the occasion of Greek Independence Day (March 25).

Several Australian ministers, parliament members, mayors, Greek Diaspora organization representatives, scientists, academics and artists were among the hundreds of people who attended the event.

Both the consul general, as well as the other speakers referred to the day’s history, the contribution of Greeks to the development of Australia, also noting that they are certain Greece will overcome its problems and mainly the economic crisis.

In his speech, the Republican opposition leader, Matthew Guy greeted metropolitan Iakovos, noting that the Greek Orthodox Church is an important part of the Greek Diaspora.

Furthermore, he mentioned his proposal to the Mayor of Melbourne to place bilingual signs in English and Greek on roads and public buildings in the center of Melbourne, especially near the new Greek Cultural Center, “to recognize the presence of Hellenism in the city.”

On Wednesday, March 25, a large Greek Diaspora parade marched through the center of Melbourne waving Greek flags to commemorate the 1821 Greek Revolution.





Speaking Greek in March, a futile attempt

Speaking Greek in March, in Olbia

Fluency in Greek is an issue for younger generations of Greek Australians.

The Speak Greek campaign represents a futile and ultimately doomed attempt to stave off the inevitable says Dean Kalimniou.

Kαι τώρα πώς εξέπεσαν, πώς έγιναν, να ζουν και να ομιλούν βαρβαρικά, βγαλμένοι -ω συμφορά!- απ’ τον ελληνισμό.» Cavafy.

If Cavafy’s poem «Ποσειδωνιάται» is anything to go by, the phenomenon of diasporan Greeks feeling concerned about losing their mother tongue in their adopted countries is neither a product of the post-colonial, globalised capitalist world or a product of cultural imperialism. Instead, it is a historical inevitability. In his poem, set in Poseidonia in Southern Italy, colonised originally by Greeks from Sybaris, who over a long period of time, assimilated with their Latin neighbours, Cavafy sets out the manner in which assimilated Greeks struggle to make sense of their cultural heritage, going through the motions of conducting “Greek” rituals, mouthing words they barely understand and finally, being overwhelmed with the sense that they have lost something that they really can’t define.

Cavafy’s poem was inspired by the ancient writer Athenaeus who wrote that the Poseidonians celebrated an annual festival of “forgetting”, where they called up from memory, the remnants of their heritage and lamenting their loss, went their separate ways. Cavafy, and Athenaeus, are making a pertinent point: Despite what we may have been led to believe by the various myths that underpin and inform our ethnic identity, geographic alterity does produce amnesia. Otherwise, whet real need is there for our “Speak Greek in March campaign,” or indeed our many other festivals which, rather than exhibiting or expressing a dynamic culture of their own making, instead, appear to be a litany of past remnants of memory, re-enacted so as to not be forgotten?

Olbia Pontica, nowadays called Nikolayev and situated in the Ukraine, also provides a striking parallel to our contemporary reality. Founded by Greek settlers in the sixth century BC and serving as the granary of Greece, Olbia remained a predominantly Greek city until 63 BC when an army of Dacians and Getae captured and destroyed it.

In his ‘Borysthenitica’, Stoic philosopher Dio Chrysostom of Prousa describes his visit to the city in 95AD. He relates how the local inhabitants were were obsessed with remaining Hellenes. ‘Those that come here’ one citizen complained to Dio, ‘are nominally Greeks but actually more barbarous than ourselves…but you would appear to have been sent to us by Achilles himself..”

During his visit, Dio found himself in a time warp. The Olbians were determined to impress him with their Hellenism, much as we do visitors from Greece, but it was an archaic and obsolete version of Hellenism that they clung too. In addition, they appeared to Dio to be as much Scythian as Hellenic. His definition of ethnicity had nothing to do with genetics and descent but with the clothes, customs and language. The Olbians wore Scythian clothes and the Greek they spoke was barely intelligible.

Walking through the town, Dio met a young man by the name of Callistratus on horseback and started a conversation. Callistratus seemed straight out of a museum. He was wearing ‘barbarian’ trousers and a cape, but on seeing Dio, he alighted from his horse and covered his arms, observing the old Greek rule that it was bad manners to show bare arms in public. Like other Olbians, he knew Homer by heart and was immensely proud of this, however poor his spoken Greek was. But Dio was even more fascinated to discover that Callistratus was gay. He boasted that he was already famous in the city for his courage in battle, interest in philosophy, his beauty and because he had many lovers. Dio saw this not as a statement of sexual orientation but as a wonderful survival from a bygone age. Here, in the time of the Roman Empire, flourished still the ancient Athenian veneration for homosexual love as the supreme intellectual experience. The Olbians supposed that in the world beyond the sea, homosexuality was still in fashion.

At this stage, Dio, being a stranger and overtly ‘Greek’ was being swamped by other Olbians who believing that all Greeks ever did when they met each other was to discuss philosophy, begged him to discuss Plato with them. In the manner reminiscent of the ‘older’ Greeks, they all sat down outside the portico of the temple of Zeus to hold their debate. As the older men sat down, Dio noticed that they all wore beards, at a time when shaving had been the fashion in Greece for half a century. Dio was touched by the ‘real Greekness’ which he found surviving at Olbia. It appeared to him that they were more Greek than the Greeks in many respects, a sentiment echoed here in Melbourne time and time against by visiting Greek dignitaries and indeed, in sentiment and practice, not much seems to separate the Olbian Greeks from their Melbournian counterparts two millennia later.

As such, campaigns such as “Speak Greek in March” and our various festivals may appear to some to be, trite, kitsch, or anachronistic, given that they either present an idealised, ossified re-construction of a culture that bears no resemblance or relevance to a modern reality, or, at least, in the case of the Speak Greek campaign, represents a futile and ultimately doomed attempt to stave off the inevitable. However arguably what we can do, in view of our history and current practices is to realise that perhaps in so far as any concepts of Greece or a Greek identity inform our composite sense of self, our culture is a culture of memory, and a culture whose sole aim seem to be to stave off amnesia. Having accepted this, we can then accept another key value, something that our diasporan ancestors have troubled themselves with for thousands of years: that regardless of the state of preservation, or of the intensity of our own effects to effect such preservation, whatever we understand to be Greek culture or language is important to us, and sine our culture is founded upon our attempts to preserve it, without its preservation, we will cease to exist.

Undoubtedly, users of the Greek language among the second and third generations of Greek Australian do not possess in adequate numbers, the fluency or dedication that will see the Greek language used for daily discourse beyond a generation or so. Yet faced with such a bleak prospect, our Olbian ancestors provide consolation. For the wheels of history turn in unexpected ways. Centuries after the Greek language died out, Catherine the Great re-settled the entire area with Greeks eager to leave the Ottoman empire. The vibrant communities that they founded provided the impetus for the creation of the Philiki Etaireia and the emergence of Modern Greece. The creative impetus of these communities has largely died out as they too have become assimilated, culturally and linguistically with their neighbours, yet the shared memory of both sets of ancestors’ exploits appears to be enough to sustain them, until the next turn of the cosmic wheel. In absence of all else then, we can do as the Olbians do, and always remember.

*Dean Kalimniou is a Melbourne solicitor and freelance writer

source:Neos Kosmos