HSA of York Uni & the 'Traditions Overseas; a Spotlight into the Greek Community of Toronto'

The Hellenic Students' Association
The Hellenic Students' Association
The Hellenic Students' Association


By Christina-Elizabeth Ioannides

In veneration of Greece’s motion to break free from Ottoman rule in 1821, the Hellenic Students’ Association of York University collaborated in an exciting project alongside the Greek Canadian History Project and the York University Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, which was hosted at the Consulate General of Greece in Toronto.

The special event titled “Traditions Overseas; a Spotlight into the Greek Community of Toronto,” was held on the 25th of May this year and exhibited a collection of archival photographs, which illustrated the Greek presence in Toronto between the 1920s and 1970s.  Each photograph was a snapshot of the members of the Greek Community, which were the Greek immigrants and their families, celebrating their Hellenism in a “Parelasi” (march), or in theatrical plays for the National holiday in their actual national costume.

This classic collection of archival photographs was selected by the council, which included frequent visits to the York University Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections for research, where the Greek Canadian History Project’s archival material is hosted.  The goal of the Hellenic Students’ Association was to select photographs that best represented the celebration of the Greek Independence Day parade and to spark a connection for its members with this tradition that is still practiced annually to this day in the heart of Greek Town.

A number of students who attended the event found this collection moving and were left inspired by the display of Greek pride by the newly established Greek Community in the diaspora for its time.

“As a Greek-Canadian, I am thankful for this wave of Greek immigrants for demonstrating their Greek pride, despite the hardships they faced in Toronto.  This set a precedence as to how Greek pride is celebrated to this day in subsequent generations.” says Stefania Ralevski, a Political Science major at the University of Toronto.

Hellenic Students’ Association of York University
Hellenic Students’ Association of York University

Like many of her fellow Greek-Canadian students, Stefania Ralevski felt a connection to the archival photographs and their portrayal of the Greek spirit abroad, which contributes to the maintenance of the Greek tradition overseas. The online exhibit featuring the archival collection for the “Traditions Overseas; a Spotlight into the Greek Community of Toronto” can be found at the following link: https://archives.library.yorku.ca/exhibits/show/hsa.

Moreover, the Hellenic Students’ Association of York University is a student-run, not-for-profit organization that promotes Hellenism throughout the university campus, and the overall Greek community of Toronto.  The main goal of the council is to maintain and promote the Hellenic culture within the Greek community at the university, and to keep the Greek presence strong amongst its Greek and Philhellene members.

With respect to its history, the Hellenic Students’ Association was first established in the late 1970s by the Greek students on campus due to a political event in connection with Greek political figure Andreas Papandreou, and shifted into a cultural community in which Greek students would celebrate their Greek roots in social functions.  To this day, the Hellenic Students’ Association organises an array of events for its members both on and off campus, such as having a table for club promotion in high traffic areas of the campus grounds, Greek social nights in Toronto’s Greek Town, and academic nights.

* Photos courtesy of York University Libraries Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections Online Exhibits, The Greek Canadian History Project, The Hellenic Students' Association

Christina Elizabeth Ionnides

Christina Elizabeth Ioannides is a fifth year Hellenic Studies student at York University in Toronto, Canada and the current President of the Hellenic Students’ Association of York University, and Vice President of the Classical Studies Students’ Association of York University. Christina is also joining the GCT team as one of one regular Canadian contributors.