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 Zack Space (D-OH) 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 Space to VOA.
Transcript of Rep. Zack Space interview:
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Space, welcome.
Mr. Space: Thank you George.
Mr. Bistis: You are the grandson of immigrants who came to the U.S. from Greece and you have not only enjoyed a very special relationship with your grandparents but also appreciated the values they instilled in you, when you were a child. What were your feelings in the last several days when you watched on TV the ravaging effect the wildfires had in Greece?
Mr. Space: It has been especially close to our family, my father and my entire extended family have been watching the events unfold with a very heavy heart. It is a humanitarian tragedy. It is a historic tragedy and one that concerns us greatly. My grandparents come from Ikaria and incidentally I was just at an Ikarian convention in Baltimore over the weekend and I can tell you Ikarians from across the country are concerned about this. In fact the entire Greek American community in this nation is watching it with a very heavy heart.
Those values that you referenced a moment ago, George, are the very kinds of values that cause us to have deep empathy and concern for what many of us here in this country view to be as our motherland. Concern for others who are in need, concern for the preservation of historical landmarks, certainly concern for those who are suffering and a desire to alleviate that suffering. We in America are watching the situation very carefully and have grave concerns. Again as an example of the kind of empathy that we are experiencing, this was the subject of conversation at our Ikarioti convention (an annual gathering of Americans descended from the Greek island of Ikaria) that was just held over the weekend and we are proud of the fact that the Ikarian Americans are raising money and donating money in an effort to help mitigate some of the crisis that has occurred there.
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Space, you and your Greek American colleagues in the House of Representatives have undertaken a number of initiatives aiming at generating greater awareness about the devastation in Greece among members of the legislative and the executive branches of our government and more importantly at helping to alleviate the suffering of the families affected by the fires. Could you elaborate on these efforts?
Mr. Space: This is a bipartisan effort. We have three Greek Americans in Congress now, Gus Bilirakis who is a Republican from Florida, John Sarbanes, who is a Democrat from Maryland and I am a Democrat. This is not about partisan politics. It is somewhat different than the norm in Washington. We have reached out to the State Department, we have signed on to a letter to Condoleezza Rice commending the State Department for its 1.3 million dollars in aid and encouraging them to dig deeper. But we have also sponsored a resolution that again commends the active charity that we have given and encourage not just our government but also the people of this country to contribute to this international disaster.
We feel, and I am sure that Gus and John will agree with me, a special responsibility to do what we can to help alleviate the suffering that is going on in Greece and we are educating our fellow members who by the way are very receptive and responsive to the concerns of Greece. We have a large Hellenic Caucus in Washington now, many non-Greeks who belong to Hellenic Caucus, and we are using that to help educate other members of the need for prompt and considerable action to help in this crisis. Greece has been there for the United States. Greece was one of the first countries to respond after the 9/11 disaster in New York City. Greece was there after Katrina, a couple of years ago, to help with humanitarian relief. Now it is our turn to reach out and help those Greeks who are in need.
Mr. Bistis: Congressman Space, thank you for coming to our studio and joining with the people of Greece as they mourn the fire victims.
Mr. Space: Thank you George and thank you for all the good work that you do.