The Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece and the Association of Pontian Organisations of Southern Greece held the 13th Pan-Hellenic Festival of Pontian Greek Dances, an event honouring Pontic Hellenism at the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
The celebration was attended by 453 associations, and 2,500 hundred dancers and dozens of artists participated.
The Pontian Associations honoured shipowner and head of Olympiacos F.C., Evangelos Marinakis, for his unwavering support for Pontian Hellenism.
The event kicked off with a theatrical performance in the Pontian dialect, and there followed a tribute to the Ypsilantis family, to which yesterday’s event was dedicated, entitled “The vision of the Ypsilantises, the Courage of the Pyrrichios” [war dance].
Among other forms of support, Marinakis, a descendant of the Ypsilantis family on his mother’s side, offered as a gift a Monument to the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontus, which was unveiled in May in Piraeus’ Alexandras Square.
Tanimanidis’ Monument to Pontian Genocide
The monument is entitled “Pyrrichios Flight” and resembles a wave wrought of pain and persecution, a wave that uproots and throws a refugee child from Pontus to Piraeus.
Wrought with contemporary materials, the monument tells the story of an uprooting of yesteryear, thus bridging the present and the past and symbolising the historic continuity and the internal, spiritual force and heroism of Pontian Hellenism.
Sculpted by Panayiotis Tanimanidis, the monument is a tribute to the memory of the 353,000 Greeks of Pontus, who perished during the Genocide of the Hellenism of Pontus, perpetrated by the Turkish government of the time.
As such, the genocide of the Greeks of Pontus is a lesser known atrocity carried out by the ‘Young Turk’ Government between 1914 and 1926. It was committed alongside the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, which cost the life of millions of people overall. An estimated 353,000 Greeks perished as a result of the genocide.
The monumental three-dimensional sculpture, 15.50 m long and 7.10 m high, is made of stainless steel and has brass details. It is a contemporary work of art, presenting an imposing arch called «Pyrrhic Flight». Outwardly, it resembles a huge wave that rises from one homeland, from Pontus, to the other, with everything, memories, traditions, imprints of the ancient presence of the Greeks in Pontus.
Inside, the work is adorned with 17 sculptural compositions, successive icons depicting the flight of a «refugee bird» fleeing from Pontus to reach an unprepared homeland that sheltered the refugees’ dreams.
“It is a great joy and honour for the Municipality of Piraeus to host your 13th Festival at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. We are especially glad and proud, because just a few months ago we had the unveiling of the monument to the genocide of Pontian Greeks, in a historic location, Alexandras Square,” Piraeus Mayor Yannis Moralis told the festival audience.
“Now, just a few months later, we welcome the 13th Pan-Hellenic Festival of Pontian Greek Dances, the most important event for the Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece. This is a spectacular event with thousands of dancers and spectators,” Moralis said.
The mayor underlined the contributions of Pontian Hellenism in disseminating Greek culture, mores, traditions, culture, and trade.
“We must preserve forever the memory of the Genocide and honour the Pontian refugees. Many refugees landed in Piraeus, were assimilated in our society, and with their industriousness and ideas became permanent residents of the city, transferring traditions and new cultural elements to the local society. Pontian Hellenism is a significant segment of our population and we honour it,” he added.
Plaque honours Vangelis Marinakis
A special moment of the event was the awarding of honorary plaques to Evangelos Marinakis, grand benefactor of the Genocide Memorial, and to Athanasios Martinos, as festival sponsor.
Marinakis was abroad, but thanked the festival through a representative:
“Ladies and gentlemen, this distinction is a particular honour for Mr. Marinakis. He is terribly sorry that he cannot receive this honour in person, due to a prior engagement abroad that could not be put off. This honorary distinction is of especial significance to him and me personally, as we are both descendants of the prominent Ypsilantis family of old Pontus.”
“I wish to thank the Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece for its extraordinary work, which does so much to keep alive our traditions and history. I want to assure you all that we shall stand beside you in your important and difficult tasks, at a particularly difficult political and economic juncture for the country.”
“We wish to contribute as much as possible, so that your work can expand and to keep alive as much as possible the traditions of our ancestral homeland. I personally want to offer heartfelt thanks to Elias Yfantidis, the Artistic Director of the Festival, for his hard work, dedication, love, and the great Pontian soul he put into organising this event. I hope you enjoy it,” Marinakis’ spokesperson said.
Addressing the 13th Pan-Hellenic Festival of Pontian Greek Dances, Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece President Christos-Dimitrios Topalidis, and the President of the Association of Pontian Organisations of Southern Greece, Yorgos Varythymiadis, made the following remarks:
“We honour this port, this city, and the people of Piraeus, because it was the only municipality in Greece that responded positively to our Federations’ request to erect a Genocide Monument. Thus, on 21 may, 2017, we were happy to be present and participate in the unveiling of this grand monument to the Genocide of the Pontian Greeks, in Alexandras Square.”
“The “Pyrrichios Flight” sculpture by Pangiotis Tanimanidis became a reality due to the support for the request submitted to the Mayor of Piraeus, Yannis Moralis, and the generous donation of Vangelis Marinakis, who is a descendant of the Ypsilantis family from his mother’s side.”
“To these people we offer a great thank you on behalf of Pontian Hellenism. We also wish to especially thank Mr. Evangelos Marinakis and his associates, who contributed in various ways, in order to ensure the best possible result.”