Source: The National Herald
NEW YORK – Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou in collaboration with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America hosted the opening reception of the moving exhibition Echoes of Asia Minor: Life, Catastrophe and Resilience on November 29 at the Consulate General of Greece in New York.
The fascinating exhibition which brings history to life through everyday objects, housewares, clothing, textiles, and photographs, among other objects, is made possible with generous support from the Consulate General of Greece in New York, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Municipality of Egaleo, and the Federation of Refugee Associations of Greece.
The exhibition’s co-organizers are the Asia Minor Association of Egaleo ‘Nees Kydonies’, the Asia Minor Culture Museum in Egaleo, Consulate General of Greece in New York, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Municipality of Egaleo.
Consul General Konstantinou gave the welcoming remarks at the exhibition opening, noting that after the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the subsequent population exchange, “a million people were uprooted and sought a better life in Greece and a portion of those in the United States, and for this reason today’s exhibition is very significant since in the 15 months I have been in the United States, I have met hundreds, if not thousands of people who have roots in Asia Minor.”
He continued: “These people came with basically nothing except a few personal items and objects, we are lucky that some of those objects are here and you can see them in the exhibition. I think the Catastrophe, life and death, brings a renaissance, and the Asia Minor Catastrophe brought a renaissance to the Greek nation, it was arguably the greatest peaceful achievement of the last 100 years for Greece, there was a cohesion of the Greek fabric, if you will, and Greece from being a bedridden and bankrupt nation achieved the miracle as it always does.”
Konstantinou then thanked His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Archdiocese as well as Asia Minor Culture Museum in Egaleo President Giannis Koutoulias and historian, archaeologist, and exhibition curator Dr. Kiki Karoglou. In conclusion, Konstantinou noted that the exhibition is “of particular importance in New York and has an educational dimension and the most important aspect is that we never forget what happened at that time and for the younger generations to learn what happened, the children, grandchildren, all those who are here in our area, and I invite educators to bring their students to see the exhibition which is on view through December 22.”
Koutoulias then shared his greetings and said: “We are very happy, moved, and proud to be here, thousands of miles away from the homeland, 101 years after the Asia Minor Catastrophe, and 100 years since the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne which began a new settlement of people who had lived through tragic events, rapes, murders, fires, every evil you can think of, but where they settled, they created, they did great things.”
He pointed out that at first “it seemed outlandish for a settlement of refugees which had been called Nees Kydonies, a city of workers, to spread its wings and show the idea of Asia Minor on the other side of the globe seemed an elusive dream which began in 2017 in Smyrna, where the Association and the Museum first asked permission of the Turkish authorities to present the exhibition at Smyrna’s City Hall, for the people’s objects and photographs to be displayed back in the place where they had originally come from.”
“The exhibition was such a success that it was then presented in the Old Parliament House, and with the help of the Consul General and the Archbishop, we are here, history makes circles, and those who are up there now, no longer with us, our people, are smiling down on us, as we view their objects in the exhibition,” Koutoulias said. “We invite all those who have roots in Asia Minor, we have already sent out an open call through the Consulate, to send the association the your relatives’ stories, so that not even one eyewitness account is lost,” Koutoulias said. “There is a need for history and the Consul General is right that young people distance themselves from this traumatic memory, because it is traumatic, but we as much as we can we should encourage the people to remember.”
He concluded by thanking Consul General Konstantinou, Archbishop Elpidophoros, Dr. Karoglou, and the members of the Association, 17 of whom traveled from Greece to attend the opening in New York, for all their efforts.
Archbishop Elpidophoros then noted how happy he was to be present for the opening of the exhibition and how meaningful an exhibition it is for him as he was born and raised in Constantinople, not only with the memories of Asia Minor, but with direct, firsthand experience of what Asia Minor is, having served as Metropolitan of Bursa which was resurrected from a dead Metropolis with the help of Greek-Americans and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, formerly of America, who was present at the event. He pointed out that two churches were purchased and resurrected the Metropolis as His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch has also resurrected other Metropolises in Asia Minor once considered destroyed which are now active, highlighting the fact that Asia Minor should not only be remembered for the trauma of the Catastrophe and the population exchange as a dark page and as a wound in the history of Hellenism, but as a vast culture because if we only identify it with the Catastrophe, we wrong that culture which has at least 3,000 years of history, Asia Minor is a cradle of Hellenism, where Hellenism blossomed and later Orthodoxy, of course.
He noted the importance of highlighting the culture and civilization of Asia Minor and that the remarkable ability of Hellenism to recover relatively quickly from the ashes, to start over, to rebuild, and to prosper again is in our DNA and a great gift.
Talented singer Erini (aka Eirini Tornesaki), who has roots in Asia Minor, sang three well-known songs from the region, accompanied by George Crotty on cello, impressing everyone in attendance with their skillful performance.
Among those present were Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN Ambassador Evangelos Sekeris and his wife Maria Kazana, Consul of Greece in New York Dimitris Papageorgiou, Greek Public Diplomacy Office Head Mary Vaxevanidou, Nancy Papaioannou, Aris Christodoulou, Alexandra Mitsakis, and Athan Ioannou.