America’s reaction to the destruction of the summer fires in Greece is discussed in this week’s edition of Reportaz Apo Washington, a VOA/Greek television presentation for affiliate stations in Greece, Cyprus and communities of the Hellenic Diaspora. U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) is one of the Congressional leaders who came to our studio to express his concern for the people of Greece at this critical hour and to offer hope to those affected by the disaster. Several of his comments were included in this week’s edition of Reportaz Apo Washington. However, other important comments made by the Congressman were edited out in order for the program to meet airing time constraints. Following is the full text of the interview granted by Congressman Sarbanes to VOA.
Transcript of Rep. John Sarbanes interview:
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Sarbanes, welcome. As you know the Government of Greece has declared the country in a state of emergency following the devastating fires that have caused the loss of many lives, an environmental disaster and of course a great deal of human suffering. What impact has this great tragedy had on you and your colleagues in the U.S. Congress?
Mr. Sarbanes: (Opening lines spoken in Greek) First of all I wand to extend my deep condolences to the families who lost loved ones during this very sad situation. (Rest of statement in English) The impact on me and on many Greek-Americans and many Americans, because it extends beyond the Greek-American community, has been very sobering, because Greece has been one of the strongest allies and friends of the United States for many decades. So, I think there is a special bond between this country and the country of Greece. So when we see Greek citizens, when we see these villages suffering as they have, our hearts go out.
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Sarbanes, the Hellenic American community, of which you are a proud member, has been mobilized across our nation and raises funds for the affected Greek families. How is this mobilization going in the State of Maryland, particularly in your district that includes the beautiful port city of Baltimore, which has been home to many generations of Greek Americans?
Mr. Sarbanes: As you may know George we have three very vibrant Greek churches in the Baltimore area and they are joining the efforts that are being led by the Archdiocese and by AHEPA. The Greek-American community is really stepping forward, all across this country, and is part of a multi level response. We have seen the U.S. government initially contributing about a million and a half dollars of assistance, there is technical assistance going from the U.S. Forest Service to Greece immediately and there is going to be fact finding by the Forest Service to come back and let us know in the government whether there are additional measures that we can take to help with the situation in Greece.
In addition, in Congress we are passing a resolution (referred resolution was adopted unanimously on day program aired in Greece) expressing the sympathy of the entire United States Congress and condolences of the United States Congress for what has happened in Greece. So, as I say this extends well beyond the Greek-American community in terms of the feelings that are being expressed by the United States. Then lastly, as you point out, I expect there will be a very significant effort by the private sector led, I think, by the Greek-American community and we are going to make sure that we get as much information to people as we possibly can about how they can help.
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Sarbanes, thank you very much for being with us today on this very sad occasion.
Mr. Sarbanes: Thank you George. We are going to keep working hard to address this.