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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 March 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 MARCH 2015 21 in Brussels Germany. We met near the Council of the EU and it was a thrill to be close to EU institutions which employ around 1,000 Greek nationals. With a background in European law, he was quick to point out how Greek emigration has evolved: “Billy, there have been four waves of Greek migrants to Belgium.” As outlined in the article, there have been certain eras when Greek speakers have come out and it was interesting to note the use of the term waves, with the latest being the economic crisis in Greece. It was explained that he was one of the drivers behind the 'Hellenic Circle' cultural organisation (www.hellenic-circle.eu) and for several years devoted a significant amount of his spare time to ensure that regular events were held. His objective, and that of the organisation, was to build bridges to create and maintain links with people in Greece and abroad; this resulted in his involvement with 70 events (concerts, conferences, book presentations, networking). The Greek community in Brussels is active. Anastassios pointed out there are numerous Greek groups ranging from theatre to cultural that work tirelessly to serve the interests of the Greek community and those interested in Hellenic initiatives. Greek education is highly valued. My own research indicates there are possibly 31 school institutions that are either directly Greek, such as the Greek Primary School of Bruxelles, or teach Greek as a language, either during school hours or afterward. This ensures that Greek-speaking people will be able to maintain the Greek language quite easily in generations to come. Being a fan of football, it was interesting to note that one of the best players in Greece was born in Seraing; Viktor Klonaridis. His father is a native Greek and his mother is from Belgium. Having played 100 top flight games across AEK, Lille, Mouscron Peruwelz, (Belgium) and Panathanaikos, he is a rising star at the age of 22. There are also many mixed marriages in Belgium involving a Greek partner and it is interesting to see their children lean towards their Greek roots as Victor has. THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH In 1900, a Greek Orthodox Church was created on the coastal city of Antwerp for the Greek sailors and merchants. This resulted in a small permanent Greek presence in Belgium. The first Greek parish in Belgium opened in 1926. With the influx of Greek people to the mines during the 1950s, approximately 12 new parishes were created in Belgium. In 1969, the Patriarchate of Constantinople created an archbishopric, the Metropolitanate of Belgium and Exarchate of The Netherlands and Luxemburg, appointing His Grace Emilianos Zacharopoulos as the first Metropolitan. There is an excellent relationship with the Russian equivalent and between them, approximately 90,000 people in Belgium are Orthodox adherents. The growth of the Greek Church in Brussels resulted in the purchase of many Catholic Church buildings including one in 'Stalingrad Avenue' (near the Brussels South Station), which is now the Greek cathedral of Belgium. I was fortunate enough to visit as I stayed nearby and I met with a wonderful priest, Father Chris, who was originally from Rethymno. His knowledge of Belgium, the Church and the local community, and his warmth, were greatly appreciated. He had just finished meeting with a group of Belgian locals who were interested in the history of the church, in which he was explaining/ teaching, and like me he was glad to have a breather for a few minutes. As we sat in the cathedral, I could feel the presence of the church (Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel) and was glad to have someone to explain some of the intricacies of the church and its local history. Father Chris told me that the cathedral had been bought in 1985 and became the hub for the Greek Orthodox Church. too am from Gree e. My e ce y name is FOOD There are some services in Belgium that are provided in the local language, not just in Greek, which is a great way to engage with young people, especially with many now in the fourth generation, as well as mixed marriage offspring. It was also confirmed for me that the Greek people who came in the 1950s struggled somewhat initially and were housed in 'barrack' style accommodation. The church was a way to help the immigrants adapt to their new, unfamiliar surroundings. The church is led by the energetic Archpriest Stavros Triantafyllou, who has been in the post since the 1980s, I believe. He has helped to inspire and support a number of Greek language schools and undertakes social activities such as helping the newly arrived with their integration, visits to hospitals and coordination of activities for families. I understand that the matriarch of the Leonidas business empire has been a contributor to the church - Marika, who is in her late 80s. For anyone interested in the history of the church in Belgium, there is a free museum located nearby where you can find icons, liturgical objects and sacerdotal clothing. It was fitting that I finished my quick visit to Brussels watching a World Cup match with a number of Greek expatriates who are friends with Theodora. As we watched the match near a piazza adjacent to the EU parliament, I leant over to speak to someone outside the group, wanting to see who he was supporting. He told me “hello mate, I too am from Greece. My name is Leonidas”. s Leoni as” on das .
21 March 2015