Κινητοποίηση στην Αμερική για
στήριγμα της πονεμένης Ελλάδας (Greek
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously
adopted a resolution expressing sympathy for the losses Greece has suffered
during a recent wave of violent fires and underlining America’s support in
coping with them. Greek American Congressman John Sarbanes presented the
resolution, on behalf of the 14 members of Congress who co-sponsored it, during
a House session attended by Ambassador of Greece, Alexandros Mallias.
The Congressional event was held as large circulation
dailies The New York Times and USA Today each carried a full-page
plea for contributions in support of the fire victims in Greece. The plea to
Help the Birthplace of Democracy was made by Archbishop Demetrios of
America and several national level political leaders with strong ties
to the Hellenic American community, including Senator Paul Sarbanes,
Senator Olympia Snowe and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Other distinguished individuals who
co-signed the request for assistance, published in major U.S. newspapers this
week, include Nicholas Bouras, Margo and George Behrakis,
Margo and John Catsimatides, Jim Gianopoulos, Mary
and Michael Jaharis, Melina Kanakaredes, Helen and Peter
Kikis, Faye and Alex Spanos and Nia Vardalos.
All of the above and many other fellow Americans have
also joined in offering generous assistance to the victims of the fire-ravaged
nation through the Greek Fire Relief Fund. Several web sites have been
established to provide information about the Fund and/or facilitate the flow of
donations. You could access some of these sites by clicking on the contact
links we provide below for your convenience.
Archdiocese of America www.goarch.org
Order of AHEPA
of Hellenes Abroad, US Region www.saeamerica.org
Embassy of Greece
America’s early response
to the fires in Greece is also the subject for this week’s edition of
Reportaz Apo Washington, a VOA/Greek television presentation for
affiliate stations in Greece, Cyprus and communities of the Greek Diaspora.
Following is an English text adaptation and the original video of this program.
REPORTAZ APO WASHINGTON
GREECE ON FIRE: AMERICA
English adaptation of original Greek
Byline: George Bistis
Mr. Bistis: The Hellenic community has been mobilized
across the United States of America in a major fundraising drive for the benefit
of the people of Greece who are facing a major crisis following a series of
devastating wild fires that have caused the loss of many lives, an environmental
disaster and a great deal of human suffering.
Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of
the Greek Orthodox Church in America, watched the tragic events unfold with a
very heavy heart. His Eminence immediately realized that this is indeed a
calamity for in addition to the unbelievable losses of lives and property,
countless people in Greece have also lost their livelihoods and will need
assistance for many years in order to recover.
After praying for those affected, Archbishop
Demetrios worked in concert with concerned community leaders and developed a
joint plan of action. The plan aims at generating greater awareness among the
American people of the ravaging effects the summer fires had in Greece and to
raise substantial sums of money to be used for the alleviation of the pain and
suffering of the Greek people.
The fundraising started in the churches of the
Archdiocese in America where parishioners made generous tray contributions,
effectively opening both their hearts and their wallets for the Greek fire
Archbishop Demetrios: In addition, Archdiocesan
institutions and related agencies and organizations, like for example the
Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, the Faith Endowment, which is our Endowment of
Orthodoxy and Hellenism, the Philoptochos Society and the Archons of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate were immediately mobilized and they have already brought
in substantial contributions for this particular cause. Also we have received
pledges for assistance from families and individuals, which are expected to
substantially increase the total contribution level. For example, one of these
pledges is for a million dollars.
Mr. Bistis: The Ambassador of Greece to
the United States, Alexandros Mallias, is justifiably proud and obviously
pleased with the spontaneous response of the Hellenes and Philhellenes in
America to the call of aiding “the motherland” in its hour of need.
Mr. Mallias: I would say Mr. Bistis that the
Greek American response has been from the start and continues to be extremely
moving. The wonderful people who make up this community have roots in affected
villages, cities and prefectures of Greece, like Evia and Arcadia. They have
turned their concern into a coordinated effort, which promises to provide
immediate as well as intermediate and long-term assistance to Greece.
Mr. Bistis: Among the first U.S. lawmakers who
expressed concern and sorrow for the catastrophic fires, which forced the Greek
government to place the country in a state of emergency for three days, is
John Sarbanes, Democratic Congressman from Maryland.
Mr. Sarbanes: First of all I want
to extend my deep condolences to the families who lost loved ones during this
very sad situation. 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 fiends of the
United States for many decades. There is a special bond between this country
and the country of Greece, so when we see Greek citizens and villages suffering
as they have, our hearts go out.
Mr. Bistis: Republican U.S. Congressman Gus
Bilirakis of Florida expressed similar sentiments.
Mr. Bilirakis: It is a tragedy and my heart
goes out to the Greek people. We are very proud Greek Americans and we are all
united. We are going to do whatever we can to help the people of Greece. I
know we have already sent some aid over there, including fire kits, and our
government will also provide federal assistance. We will reassess the situation
to ensure that what we do is enough.
Mr. Bistis: Democratic U.S. Congressman
Zack Space of Ohio works closely with the previous two guests of this
program and with other members of the prestigious Hellenic Congressional Caucus
on how best to help Greece mitigate at least part of the crisis that has
occurred there. Congressman Space believes that there is a strong
co-relationship between the values brought over by Greek immigrants, who came to
America in the first half of last century, and the way today’s Hellene Americans
are responding to the humanitarian tragedy in Greece.
Mr. Space: Those values are the very kind 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 historic 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 concern. As an example
of the kind of empathy we are experiencing, this was the subject of conversation
at the Ikarioti Convention (an annual gathering of Americans descended from the
Greek island of Ikaria) that was just held over the weekend in Baltimore and I
am proud of the fact that the Ikarian Americans are raising and donating money
to help Greece.
Mr. Bistis: The Congressional District of
Representative Gus Bilirakis includes picturesque Tarpon Springs, which
was established by Greek sponge divers from the islands of Kalymnos, Simi, Halki
and Siros on the west coast of Florida, facing the Gulf of Mexico, when they
immigrated in the early part of the 20th century. Descendents of
these immigrants still live there making Tarpon Springs an American fishing town
with a Greek soul. Congressman Bilirakis came to our studio for this
interview directly from the airport, immediately upon his return to Washington
from Florida. He provided us with this update on the mood of his constituents.
Mr. Bilirakis: The people in Tarpon
Springs are very upset. They have a lot of relatives in Greece who suffer. As
you know, after the original sponge divers came a lot of other people from all
over Greece also settled in Tarpon Springs and in the areas around it. It’s a
somber mood. We pray for the people in Greece. They are our brothers and
sisters. We have a great connection with the people of Greece and we are going
to help them out financially. I will be returning to Florida in the next few
days to work on organizing a fundraiser for the people of Greece. We will do
anything we can to help.
Mr. Bistis: Congressman John Sarbanes is very
excited seeing the Greek American community really stepping forward all across
this country. Ever since he was elected to Congress he has been encouraging the
community to be more actively involved on issues that are close to its heart.
The Congressman from Maryland views the latest community initiative as an
important part of a multi level response.
Mr. Sarbanes: We have
seen the U.S. government initially contributing about a million and a half
dollars of assistance. There is also technical assistance going from the U.S.
Forest Service to Greece immediately and there is going to be a fact finding by
the Forest Service which will 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, the House of Representatives unanimously
adopted a resolution expressing the sympathy of the entire U.S. Congress for
what has happened in Greece. So, this extends well beyond the Greek American
community in terms of feelings that are being expressed by the United States. I
also expect that 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: AHEPA, the American Hellenic Education
Progressive Association, which is the oldest and largest Greek heritage
organization in the U.S., has mobilized its approximately 500 chapters across
this country and Canada in a massive effort to provide support for Greece.
Basil Mossaides is Executive Director. He spoke to us on behalf of
traveling AHEPA Supreme President Ike Gulas.
Mr. Mossaides: We sent immediately from
our hospital in Thessaloniki a team of doctors to the Kalamata area to provide
any first aid that was needed. We also acquired 10.000 heads of livestock that
will be sent to Kalamata, if they haven’t already been there. From our
Headquarters in Washington we are sending care packages that consist of
necessities, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, toothbrushes, diapers, etc.
Additionally we have initiated a fund drive for the collection of money to be
donated through our chapters in Greece. Currently in four days we raised 25.000
dollars on our internet site for the AHEPA Greek Fire Relief Fund.
Mr. Bistis: Drives for the collection of public money
in America, in addition to funds they often raise a variety of questions,
particularly by the media. However no one until now has questioned the need to
help the suffering Greeks. Congressman Zack Space gave us one good
reason as to why this may be so.
Mr. Space: Greece has been
there for the United States. Greece was one of the first countries to respond
after the September 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: AHEPA has expanded its fund raising drive
for the Greek fire victims beyond the sphere of Greek America. Serbian
American, Italian American and Jewish American organizations have reportedly
become part of the drive. Basil Mossaides believes this a most important
Mr. Mossaides: Only with creating alliances
and friendships with other organizations we can bring about better days for the
affected people in Greece. You see ten dollars are not going to solve the
problem. A billion dollars will be needed to replenish the land with trees,
with animals and homes and we stand ready for the task.
Mr. Bistis: Experts believe that the wheels of the
U.S. aid machine that produces packages of federal assistance to people in need
around the world have started moving a little faster as a result of the Greek
American mobilization. Ambassador Alexandros Mallias believes that two
additional elements could prove to be crucial to the success of the total
Mr. Mallias: The Greek American community has
always been and will always be on the side of its motherland. At this point the
community constitutes the heart of the mobilization. I am equally certain that
the presence of a distinguished American of Hellenic descend, Deputy Secretary
of State John Negroponte, who is the second in the hierarchy of the U.S.
State Department, will contribute substantially in this direction. I also
believe it is not coincidental that Andrew Natsios (former Director of
USAID) has been selected by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to serve
as its special advisor for the coordination and the distribution of all the
Archdiocesan humanitarian aid to Greece.
Mr. Bistis: His Eminence
Archbishop Demetrios has no doubt that in time all the wounds suffered by
the people of Greece who had the misfortune to go through this historic calamity
will be healed as it has happened with the people of New York years after they
experienced the nightmare of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Archbishop Demetrios: This is our hope. This
is what I pray for. My projection is not wishful thinking. It is based on a
reality that we ourselves have experienced so many times in this country.
Mr. Bistis: New initiatives to help Greece are being
planned or undertaken practically every single hour of the day by large and
small community groups in America. Even non-American based organizations such
as SAE, the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, are soliciting contributions from
the U.S. Theodore Spyropoulos is Coordinator for SAE America. He is based in
The Embassy and the Consulates of Greece in the United
States are also working extra hours providing information to public and
assisting concerned Americans in making contributions to any of the accounts
that have been opened for the benefit of the families of the Greek fire victims
as well as for those displaced from their homes and for all the others who saw
their properties and fortunes go up in smoke.
The losses from the fires in Greece are estimated to
be between 1.6 and 5.4 billion dollars.
Ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Δημήτριος για τις
φωτιές στην Ελλάδα
Ο Πρέσβης Αλέξανδρος Μαλλιάς
εξαίρει την ομογένεια
Greece on Fire: Rep. John Sarbanes
Greece on Fire: Gus Bilirakis
Greece on Fire: Zack Space
Greece on Fire: Basil Mossaides