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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 4 August 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 4 AUGUST 2018 19 FEATURE Walking with Pandeli Danilo Brancati and residents of Galliciano by the Greek and Italian flags. PHOTOS: BILLY COTSIS Pandeli Danilo Brancati and local residents. 1500s, the Catholic Church had overseen a period of confiscating Greek Orthodox churches and property, forcing them to adopt the Catholic rite. Almost overnight, the Greko had lost a key element of their Greek identity, the religion that was the hallmark of the strong Byzantine Greek era of southern Italy from the 6th century until the 11th century AD, and strengthened further by the refugees of Constantinople and the Morea of the mid-15th century. By the end of the 1700s, the last remaining Greek Orthodox monasteries had closed. The church was opened by Patriarch Bartholemeos of Constantinople over two decades ago and marked a change for the Galliciano people as it gave them a Greek Orthodox church and another outlet to connect with their Greek past and Greece across the Adriatic. Named for Panagia, it comes at a time when other smaller churches have opened in Calabria. We even had the pleasure of meeting an ordained Greek Orthodox priest, Fr Daniele Castrizio. When we finally sat down to eat, we found ourselves seated at the taverna that had been specifically opened and his friends played the accordion and tambourine, playing a song that seemed to have no end, just a beginning and a future - perhaps a symbolic reflection of There is an eerie sensation unmatched by most travel destinations, almost as though the ancients look over the village. for us with table service provided by the Nucera family, on a picturesque patio overlooking the village with the Aspromonte Mountain almost touching us. The food, of course, was simply divine, local and fresh, with wine to match. We were soon joined by two Dutch tourists, who revealed they had heard that there was a piece of Greece in Calabria and wanted to experience it for themselves. For the next hour, Danilo Galliciano. Soon children who had been playing in the small playground nearby joined in to dance and occasionally play the tambourine. If the food, music and the village had not already captured our imagination, a young boy who welcomed us with a few words in Greko, certainly did. The language itself is said to be spoken fluently by almost 2,000 older people, yet through the work of To domadi greko, l'Associazione Ellenofona Jalò tu Vua di Bova Marina led by the community's young people, the language in the Aspromonte region has a future. On the other side of the country, I met one of the leaders in Bologna, Eleonora Petrulli who spent hours talking to me in three languages: Greko, English and some Italian. She is apart of a campaign called 'An me platespise ZIO' (If you speak me I LIVE) - a poignant title, as it requires as many of us to speak the language to stem the decline and take it forward. In Reggio, my friend Carmelo Nucera and his Apodiafazzi Association are also teaching the language. This too warms my heart as I see the language remaining in the most important city in Calabria, led by a group of people who are passionate and who over the years stayed in touch with me, always encouraging me to return. When we finished our meal, and asked for the bill, the Nucera family replied with "Pay whatever you wish!" This is the first time I had come across this approach anywhere in the world, and I have been to over 50 countries. The meal and location were essentially priceless. We returned to the coast at Bova Marina by 4.00 pm, where a group of children from Palizzi village awaited us with their parents and teacher. They sung us songs in Greko, and swapped letters and cards of well wishes with students from UNSW's Modern Greek Department in Sydney and Oakleigh Grammar in Melbourne. Educators Dr Efrosini Deligianni, Natasha Spanos, and Christina Michailidou from Δημοτικό Σχολείο Νέας Ραιδεστού in Thessaloniki had enthusiastically embraced the chance for their students to connect with Greko students and speakers. One of the villagers managed to trick me into taking a ride on his scooter and to another hidden piazza, where we found various generations of Greko speakers playing music and dancing. Danilo and Basel weren't far behind, and we all joined in another round of music during what can only be described as "Greek time". Eventually, I was able to usher us out of the piazza and to the waiting car for a drive down the mountain past the old dried riverbed that once connected dozens of Greko towns. The river may have dried up, but the spirit of Greko and the language never will. As long as there are people who can speak the dialect and enough people who care about these villages, then these statues will remain on speaking terms with the rest of us for millenia to come. For more information on how to help save the Greko language, visit https://buonacausa.org/ cause/se-mi-parli-vivo Note: There are a number of groups in Calabria all working towards preserving the language, including Apodiafazzi. * Billy Cotsis is the the author of the 'Many Faces of Hellenic Culture'.
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