Aegean Waves

May 22, 1997

Ambassador of Greece comes to L.A. to visit HASO

On May 22nd the Greek Ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Loucas Tsilas, will be giving a talk at UCLA titled "Stability and Peace in Southern Europe: A Role for Greece and the U.S.A.". This event will be the culmination of a very active year for the Hellenic-American Students' Organization and we feel honored that such a distinguished Greek diplomat has been so enthusiastic about speaking to our university community.

Often when people think of Greece, the first images that come to mind are the Acropolis, the Greek gods, and other images from Ancient Greece. Many people are unaware that Greece is a dynamic modern country whose history, culture, and politics did not end after Alexander the Great or at the fall of Constantinople but continue to thrive today. Our primary goal in bringing the Greek Ambassador to UCLA is to expose the campus community to modern Greek affairs.

In this talk, the Ambassador will focus on Greece's foreign affairs, particularly its relationship with the United States. He will touch on Greece's participation in the E.U., in NATO and the UN as well as give an introduction to the complex geopolitics of the Southern European region, an area long troubled by violence and ethnic tensions. Specifically, the Aegean conflict involving Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus has serious implications for regional stability which are widely unknown.

The Cyprus issue was featured in Secretary of State Madeline Allbright's confirmation speech as an issue that must be settled this year. This is critical in light of the violence that took place this past summer and due to the ever-increasing tensions on the island (one of the most militarized regions in the world).

The Ambassador is likely to speak on Greece's international economic position. One of the smaller countries in the European Union, it has nevertheless been very active in helping to reconstruct the economies of its neighbors after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Through major natural gas deals, and telephone and water projects Greece is rapidly becoming the leader of the Balkan nations.

By bringing the Greek Ambassador to the city of Los Angeles, we hope to introduce the UCLA community to the modern affairs of Greece and Southeastern Europe in general, and give students an opportunity to meet an influential diplomat of this magnatude in person. This event promises to be both exciting and educational and we hope that everyone will be made more aware that Greece, in addition to its well known ancient achievements, has a dynamic modern presence as well.

Celebrating the Culture of Greece at WorldFest

There are 180+ different countries in the world, and each one has its own unique culture and traditions. While it is impossible to know the intricate details of each of every culture, it remains important to, at least, sample and gain a glimpse into a few different cultures in order to broaden our knowledge and increase our tolerences.

UCLA does a superb job of multi-cultural exposure with its own WorldFest. WorldFest is the annual weeklong cultural celebration that takes place on the campus, and allows students from every walk of life to come and experience other cultures in a festive and fun atmosphere. One could easily sample some Greek cuisine, while watching a Carribean performance group, right before you go and pick up some handcrafted Indian goods.

In the past, the big event for HASO in the Spring, was Mardi Gras, a carnival type event that raised funds for UCLA's charity, UniCamp. At Mardi Gras, HASO sold gyros and did a great job of it. Every year that HASO participated in selling gyros, HASO would win the award for Most Profitable Small Food Booth. For while food vendors that were next to us, sat idly by, the line for gyros was constant. Sadly, Mardi Gras was placed on hiatus two years ago, as was our gyro selling days, which was really a fun experience.

This year, HASO planned to become a bigger part of WorldFest. It did provide an excellent oppurtunity to put the Hellenic culture on display and it was about time people learned about the modern Greek people and not just ancient Greek texts. When chosing how HASO could make a strong impression at WorldFest, it was decided that they would do, what they had done so successfully in the past: sell gyros.

WorldFest took place on the week of May 5thand on May 9th, HASO set up their gyro booth. In addition to the food, two local Greek dance groups agreed to come and perform at Westwood Plaza, site of WorldFest. The first group to perform were the Golden Greeks of Northrigde, and the put on a fabulous show of taverna-style dancing. Then the Olympian Dancers from Long Beach went on the stage, and electrified the crowd with highflying Cretan dancing. Everyone in the crowd simply loved the performances.

By the end of the day, Hellenic culture was seen and felt by most who passed by, for the dance groups did a grand job of putting on a show and the gyro booth proved to be a success. Even as we were closing up shop, people would come by, asking if we had anything left, and then asked hopefully if we would return tomorrow. The sadened looks on their faces, as we broke the news to them that this was are only day, spoke volumes on our success and impact at WorldFest.

We would like to thank Dionysos Food & Spirits, and Farmer Boy Restaurants for donating the materials and supplies and for helping us with a very successful WorldFest.

The History of a Catastophe

For over two thousand years before 1922, the Greek people thrived in Smyrna, a beautiful port on the coast of Asia Minor. Throughout the ages, it had long been a cosmopolitan center of trade and culture. It was home to a tradition of beautiful music, theater, and architecture.

Although the character of Smyrna was essentially Greek (Greeks made up the largest segment of the population), it was an international city with substantial Turkish, Armenian, Jewish and other European populations as well. In 1922, in the culmination of a campaign to rid the newly created Republic of Turkey of its ethnic minorities, the ancient city of Smyrna was destroyed.

The early 20th century was a period fraught with international conflicts between the great powers of Europe. It was also a time of great domestic upheaval in the declining Ottoman Empire and in the nation of Greece as well (which had gained its independence from Ottomans rule in 1821).

Beginning around 1913, the Ottoman Turks, sensing the imminent collapse of the Empire, began a campaign to "Turkify" the population of Asia Minor by expelling or eliminating its minority populations. The Greeks and the Armenians were two of the many ethnic groups that would be eradicated between 1913 and 1922.

During this same period, mainland Greece was experiencing domestic political troubles of a different nature, the struggle for power between the royalists, who supported the monarchy of King Constantine and his son Alexander, and the nationalists, who supported Venizelos.

The year 1914 saw the beginning of World War One. In 1917, Greek Prime Minister Venizelos led Greece into the war on the side of the Allies, who made unspecified commitments to Greece regarding territorial concessions in Asia Minor. As the war continued, the Turks, who had sided with Germany and the Central Powers, increased their persecution of the Greek communities of Asia Minor in retribution for the involvement of Greece on the side of the Allies.

In 1918, 250,000 Greek soldiers fought in the Allied offensive in Macedonia that resulted in the capitulation of Bulgaria and Turkey. In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles put an end to WWI. The question of Turkey was left to be settled by a separate treaty. At the request of the Supreme Allied Council, Greek troops landed at Smyrna to patrol western Asia Minor until the Allies decided what the ultimate fate of Turkey should be.

After a series of international developments in which the defeated Turks rejected the Allies' Treaty of Sevres, newly-reelected King Constantine led troops towards Constantinople and Ankara.

The Turks mobilized under Mustafa Kemal who launched a major offensive on August 26, 1922. He defeated the Greek army, forcing them to withdraw from Asia Minor, leaving Smyrna undefended on September 8, 1922.

On September 9, 1922, the Turks, under Mustafa Kemal entered Smyrna. As described by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, "[the Turks] massacred a large proportion of the Greek population, burned the Greek quarter, and deported hundreds of thousands of Greek civilians in the most barbarous manner." As the city went up in flames, the Allied ships in the bay sat idly by and did nothing to stop the destruction.

Smyrna was completely destroyed in the latter part of 1922. In July of 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. Eastern Thrace and the islands of Imvros and Tenedos were given to Turkey while the Italians kept Dodecanese. The treaty also called for a population exchange between Turkey and Greece to prevent any future disputes. While 400,000 Turks left Greece, almost 1.5 million Greeks were forced to leave Turkey.

The exchange put a tremendous strain on the Greek economy as it tried to cope with the influx of over a million new people in Greece. The hardships endured by the individuals concerned were also very trying as many Greeks abandoned a privileged life in Asia Minor for one of poverty in shantytowns in Greece.

While Greece and the Greek people went through one of the most disturbing period in history, Turkey got exactly what it wanted. Turkey's desire to rid Turkey of it's minority populations became reality. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks were killed in the burning of Smyrna, and whoever survived was forced to leave and return to Greece. In 1923, a strong Greek presence and over two thousand years of Greek history in Asia Minor came to an abrupt and tragic end.

This tragic chapter in world history is the basis for an exhibit organized by HASO, to inform society about a period of time that remains mysteriously overlooked. The exhibit, which consists of eyewitness testimony and gripping photographs from the era, told the story of how a once rich city was destroyed, and its inhabitants either killed or exiled. The exhibit entitled, The Smyrna Affair: The Catastrophe of 1922, debuted at the Kerckhoff Art Gallery on the UCLA campus and had a successful two week run from April 7th until April 20th.

On April 9th, a reception was held in the Gallery for the exhibit. It was a grand event as many people, both Greek and non-Greek, came and praised the exhibit. Many congratulated Helena Findikaki and Pete Panos, the organizers of the exhibit, for a job that was indeed, well done. The reception was capped off by a historical overview by Helena Findikaki, on the events of Smyrna, and with a brief by powerful speech by Dr. Christos Emmanoulides, who discussed his own families' personal experiences in Smyrna.

The exihbit will continue to travel throughtout the Greek Community and was just featured at the recent festival in Oakland, where it was a success. The exhibit will also be featured in the upcoming AHEPA convention in Reno in late June. We would to thank Pete Panos and Helena Findikaki, Angelos Sakkis, Dr. Christos Emmanoulides, the Hellenic-American Council, the Federation of Greek Societies in Southern California, the Pasadena City College Hellenic Students, and the UCLA Cultural Affairs Commission for all making this exhibit a much needed reality.

Karras hits Vegas, Greek Style

On Saturday April 18 the famous Greek singer, Vasilis Karras paid a special visit to Las Vegas. Many HASO members were in attendance. Everyone arrived in Las Vegas on Friday and almost immediately everyone was ready to have fun. The first night, a large contingent of Greeks met at The Drink night club right down from the street from the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a night of dancing and partying with people from Vancouver, Utah, Oakland, and Los Angeles.

The next day, after everyone woke up around 1 pm, there was an aura of excitement surrounding everyone. They knew that the concert in the evening was going to be nothing but fun.

The concert was held at the Alexis Park Hotel. Almost immediately after the concert started, the dance stage was filled to capacity. As Vasili Karras was singing, people were on and off the stage singing and dancing. At the same time, there was a plethora of flowers being thrown all over the place. So much, that a few people slipped as they danced. As the evening came to a close, there was a somber feeling floating around the room. After a night of festivities, everyone had to return back to the world of reality and face their midterms that were in the upcoming week.

Athens 2004 comes closer to reality

Athens has moved one step closer towards Olympic vindication as it was selected as one of the finalists to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens will be joined by: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cape Town, South Africa; Rome, Italy; and Stockholm, Sweden, as finalists to host the Games.

A record 11 cities submitted bids to the International Olympic Committee. Traditionally, only four finalists are selected, but a special vote allowed for a fifth finalist, which was Cape Town. The 6 cities that did not make the cut were: Istanbul, Turkey; Lille, France; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Seville, Spain; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

As it stands, Athens and Rome are considered the favorites to host the games, with Buenos Aires and Cape Town as the longshots. Stockholm is in the middle, but a division of opinion amongst the citizens of Swedish capital whether to host the Games are dwindling the city's chances. Neither South America or Africa has ever hosted an Olympics, and this is the farthest either has gotten in the selection process. Many believe that Cape Town will not be awarded the 2004 Games, but this may make them the favorites for the 2008 Games.

Insiders believe that Rome has the inside track to host the Games, because the city has made a strong bid, and many of the requirements, such as quality sporting venues and stadiums, and efficient transportation options, are already in place within the city. Yet, Athens has nearly completed most of the projects that it had started when it bid for the 1996 Games, so this may in fact be a tight race.

In the event that Athens does not host the 2004 Olympics, Greek officials have decided that they will make a bid for the 2008 Games.

Athens was the frontrunner and the sentimental favorite to host the 1996 Games which was the 100th anniversary of the Games which started in Athens, back in 1896. In what was considered a surprise to many, the '96 Olympics were awarded to Atlanta. The major part of the Atlanta bid claimed that Athens would have too many traffic and security problems. Tragically, what was feared to be problems in Athens, was reality in Atlanta, as traffic was jammed during the entire Games, and when a bomb exploded in Centennial Park injuring dozens of people.

Closer to home, Los Angeles has announced that it would bid for the 2012 Games, the next most likely time that a U.S. city would be considered to host the Olympics.

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