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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 January 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 2015 15 FEATURE The Greek community schools in Romania have a wealth of spirit that money cannot buy. language, which is a prestigious competition. You can see all the annual winners' pictures hanging up on the walls of the classroom. From what I experienced on my visit, I am positive that the Hellenic culture will survive here for generations to come, continuing an unbroken presence in Romania. Sadly for me, none of the representatives I met here could trace their heritage back thousands of years! After my visit to the Union, I drove past a beautiful Greek church which was located nearby. The church was designed in the shape of a Greek temple, which was built around 1893 and is located near the Greek Embassy. Ploesti I also had the pleasure of visiting one of the twenty-two associations affiliated to the Union, in Ploesti. Whilst you can see the need for development in the city, you can also gauge the sense of patriotism here. People are proud to be from Romania and everywhere I went, people wanted to tell me how fantastic their country is. The Greek office I visited was amazing. For a small city with minimal access to funds, I felt the Greek community had a wealth of spirit that money cannot buy. The office has a school classroom, coordinates dancing, organises a Greek festival and does its best to promote Hellenism through its energetic representative, a woman in her 50s (who has not been named in this article). I was pleased to visit the only Greek tavern here to eat calamari and have an ouzo with the Greek owner who had lived here since the fall of communism. Ploesti will always make me smile. I needed to withdraw money and chose Pireaus Bank. It had no money in it... Greek students and famous names (Zappas, Averoff) Romania has always hosted Greek students. I recall meeting Spiros Kontonikos in a small town in Greece in 2004. He has since become a good friend of mine who I catch up with whenever I can, and I appreciate the hospitality provided by him and his family. Spiros told me he went to Romania to study medicine and learn from a new country. It was one of his first trips abroad. He always reflects glowingly about the people of Romania and there are similarities with the culture of Greece. I was told that this made it easy for him to adapt during his time away from Greece. Spiro studied in Iasi, which is just shy of the border with Moldova, between 1987-1992. Interestingly, his grandfather lived in Romania as well, way back in the early 1900s, establishing two eateries in Bucharest. I was informed that their grandfather spoke about how the city was full of rich Greeks, as well as Vlahoi from Greece. He lived there for A Greek church near the embassy in Bucharest, designed like a Greek temple. a while but would travel back and forth. Unfortunately, Pappou Kontonikos lost a lot when his sons-in-law gambled away his money, and in the stock market crash of 1929 he lost whatever he had in the bank. In Iasi, Greeks came together to devise the strategy of 1821, to bring down the Ottomans. It was one of the active sites of the Filiki Eteria. Iasi is not too far from Odessa in Ukraine where the house (and museum) of Filiki Eteria is located. Spiros and his wife Angela reminded me that a lot of Greeks invested in Romania. Evangelis Zappas was possibly the biggest name, born in 1800 in the village of Labovo near Gjirokaster in Albania, a region with a significant Greek minority. Zappas was a significant player in the Greek War of Independence, reaching the rank of major, and by 1831 he moved to Wallachia. Here he made a massive fortune in agriculture and land ownership. His most significant achievement is the establishment of the 'Olympic Games', for as early as 1856 he was seeking to create a modern Olympiad. He established a fund for the Olympiad in Greece which was then held in 1859 in Athens. He died in 1865; his work on an athletes' competition was the precursor for the modern Olympic Games that Pierre de Coubertin would officially found. Another famous name is Evangelos Averoff, the famous politician and author, who was born in Greece. His ancestry was from Romania. It is fair to say that a country with plenty of natural beauty and access to the sea should be enough to keep the current Hellenic population of Romania in place for many decades to come. With no Ottomans or Dracula to scare them away, I am positive they will stay in this old country for at least another 2,700 years.
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