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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 March 2017
NEWS 2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 25 MARCH 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Commemorating the 196th anniversary of the Greek Revolution This weekend Greeks across Australia will remember and honour the sacrifices made by their ancestors on 25 March 1821 Saturday marks the 196th anniversary of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, and will see thousands of Greeks across Australian gather to commemorate the day of independence that continues to hold great meaning for the community. Official celebrations across the nation’s cities will take place on Sunday 26 March, however a number of smaller gatherings will be taking place on Saturday. St Eustathios Greek Orthodox Church in South Melbourne will host a service at 9.30 am, followed by a ceremony at the Australian Hellenic Memorial at 12 noon and the Shrine of Remembrance at 1.00 pm. Those in attendance are welcome to enjoy a light lunch at the premises of the Returned & Services League of Australia Hellenic Sub Branch in South Melbourne. The City of Darebin will also honour the day with its own local gathering at the Preston Town Hall at 11.00 am. Local politicians, religious and community leaders, along with members of the community will come together to enjoy a light lunch. On Sunday, St Eustathios will host a service at 10.30 am that will be officiated by Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis. The annual parade will fol- low, with those marching expected to assemble at Service Lane off St Kilda Road at 11.00 am, and will kick-off at 12.30 pm. A memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony will then take place at the Australian Hellenic Memorial at 1.30 pm and will conclude at the Shrine of Remembrance at 2.00 pm. Honouring Greece’s national day with their presence from the Greek Australia community will be Bishop Iakovos of Militoupolis, Consul General of Greece to Melbourne Christina Simantiraki, and Greek Community President Bill Papastergiadis. Liberal Member for Chisholm Julia Banks MP will be in attendance, representing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as will Federal Labor Member for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus on behalf of Opposition leader Bill Shorten, along with various MPs, among them Federal member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou. In Sydney commemorations commenced on Friday, with the opening of the exhibition ‘Escape From Pompeii - the Untold Roman Rescue’ at the Australian National Wartime Museum. As part of the exhibition and to help mark the day, the Hellenic Maritime Museum has loaned a lifesize replica of the Athenian Trireme, Olympias. On Saturday, a lunch has been organised as part of the 35th Greek Festival of Sydney at the restaurant aptly named 1821, where guests will enjoy dishes prepared by chefs David Tsirekas and Janni Kyritsis. In the evening, various Greek institutions across the state will mark the special occasion with their The Australian Evzone in New York ROSS J ROBERTSON Dressed in their distinctive uniforms and standing at full attention, one of the duties of the Greek Presidential Guard or Evzones is to maintain a round the clock vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in front of Parliament House, Athens. A simple enough task one might imagine, but the highly stylised walk during the choreographed ‘Changing of the Guard’ demands an ability to raise their legs to shoulder height while balancing a 12-kilo M1 rifle tipped with a bayonet and wearing nail-shod leather clogs that can weigh 1.5 kilos each. Then there is the duress of adverse weather conditions, over-enthusiastic tourists, and even riotous demonstrations - including, on at least two occasions, exploding Molotov cocktails. Yet Evzones famously remain unflinching at all times and will not stand down unless ordered to do so. Understandably, these formidable challenges deter many from wanting to join this elite military unit. It is somewhat of a surprise, therefore, to learn that among the Evzones is a 23-year-old Greek Australian who deferred his higher education in the UK specifically to return to Greece to try out for the Evzones. Jason Robertson. PHOTO: ROSS J. ROBERTSON Although Jason Robertson was born and lived in Greece as a child, he grew up in a family entirely Anglo-Saxon in nature and has spent all his adult life in the UK. He recently completed an undergraduate degree in London, attended a summer course at Harvard Business School in the US, and, if financing can be found, will be returning to do a master’s degree at CASS City University, London in September. Although national service is compulsory for Greek males, he is somebody who could have easily avoided serving in the military, and yet was inspired to become an Evzone because of what they are and represent. Wanting to become a member of the Presidential Guard can easily be a dream too far. As is well-known, there is a height requirement (more than 1.87 m) and the selection procedure is extremely rigorous. Of all the recruits conscripted into the Greek Army each year, only around 1 per cent are ever chosen. The internal training regime is so difficult that of those selected, no more than half ever have the honour of wearing the white kilt (400 hundred pleats representing 400 years of Ottoman occupation) and tailormade clogs. Then there is the self-discipline and absolute dedication required to actually perform ceremonial duties, whether it be for the general public or visiting dignitaries, come rain or shine, day or night. Moreover, there is absolutely no financial incentive involved. Despite their onerous responsibilities and what they symbolise for the nation they serve, Evzones only make standard conscript pay of about €7 - or just AU$10 a month. So why is Jason’s story important? It is a sad fact that we live in an era in which the young are often unengaged and therefore largely disenfranchised from their poten- tials. The distractions of such things as online gaming and social media, in combination with high youth unemployment and bleak job prospects brought on by an ever-deepening financial crisis have produced a generation of Greeks in limbo. The worst thing is that this apathy is self-sustaining. Robbed of targets and hope, today’s youth are in danger of remaining unfulfilled and unproductive as they grow old in a society that appears to have lost its sense of purpose. In such discouraging and disorienting times, Jason found purpose in the Greek ideal and its proud history. While the obligation of military service is something that most others of his age have come to either despise or try to avoid, he is among the few who regard it as a constructive learning experience. Indeed, he is honoured to wear a uniform that means so much and to have the opportunity to do his duty as a Greek citizen. And this is something of a paradox. Raised with Anglo-Saxon principles and having spent his adult life abroad, he is one of a select few representing Greece in the Greek Independence Day Parade and celebrations on 5th Avenue in New York this year. Along with his fellow Evzones, he epitomises the essence of what it is to be Greek - proud and determined, capable and resilient - the very ideals that founded the western world but are ashamedly under threat today, especially in Greece. It is therefore hoped that perhaps in some small way, his story can restore inspiration in those who have seemingly lost their way. own events ahead of the official ceremony. On Sunday, the Archdiocese and Greek Orthodox Community of NSW will come together for a service at the Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady in Surry Hills and to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. A parade will ensue, featuring students from various Greek schools and other representative bodies, and will conclude at the Sydney Opera House where official guests will give speeches, with an appearance also expected by the Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian.
18 March 2017
1 April 2017