What a remarkable sight it was.
Pride, passion, love, joy and a beautiful sea of blue and white Greek flags being waved all round, as Melbourne’s community watched the honourable Hellenic Presidential Guard marching at this year’s Greek National Day Parade, marking the 197th Anniversary of Greece’s Independence at the Shrine of Remembrance.
The March 25th celebrations on Sunday began with a Doxology and Church service at St. Efstathios Greek Orthodox Cathedral, hosted by His Grace Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis. The Presidential Guard walked in to a packed church after students from the Greek schools walked and stood at the alter holding the Greek, Australian and Cypriot flags. To have the presence of the Evzones inside church for the service was extremely special and with so many people packed together, sweat dripped down the faces of the Hellenic Presidential Guard.
For the first time in history, the Evzones after church, partook in the Greek National Day Parade at the Shrine of Remembrance. They led the parade, with Greek community clubs, schools and officials following, before they closed the parade and were lead out by the Scouts band.
With a record attendance of 20,000, words cannot describe the atmosphere and feeling of the presence of the Presidential Guard. The love for Greece was definitely shown and felt as the Evzones stood tall and proud at the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance, surrounded by a huge crowd gathered around the front, who all had goosebumps as the Guard honoured and respected Greece’s Independence.
Their presence, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Organisational Committee for Greek National Day in Melbourne, further strengthens the bonds that exists between Greece and Australia, commemorating 119 years of the Greek and Australian alliance, the 170 years of Greek migration of Australia, hence further establishing the rich historical, economical, educational and cultural links that combine the two nations Greece and Australia.
In the evening, the City of Monash organised a big cultural event ‘Evzones welcome and celebration’ with live music, performances and the Hellenic Presidential Guard were welcomed at Oakleigh Village, Eaton Mall, which saw a huge turnout, honouring the Guard and highlighting how much Melbourne’s Hellenic Diaspora are proud of their heritage.
After offical speeches by City of Monash Mayor Paul Klisaris, Lieutenant General Grigorios Prezerakos from the Hellenic Armed Forces, MP for Oakleigh Steve Dimopoulos and Vice President of the Victorian Multucultural Commission Spiros Alatsas, iconic gifts of thanks were presented to Mr. Klisaris And Mr. Prezerakos. A boomerang, symbolic of everyone’s wish to see the Evzones return was presented to the Presidental Guard, and in return they presented a small Evzones costume which will be placed in chambers for all to see.
Tissues were coming out of bags, and being used to dry up teared eyes and Oakleigh came to a standstill as dignitaries and the Presidential Guard acknowledged and honoured former Evzones who were in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It was extremely emotional as many had not seen each other for decades, and the passion as they sung the Greek National Anthem in front of the young Evzones, followed by handshakes, hugs, kisses and conversations, was very special.
Unfortunately Saturday morning and afternoon proceedings with the Evzones at the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Australian Hellenic Memorial was cancelled as well as Multicultural Harmony Day at Federation Square due to rain, however Saturday evening proceedings went ahead. The City of Stonnington held an official reception at the Malvern Town Hall, with Lord Mayor Stephanopoulas highlighting in his speech how proud he was of his Greek heritage and the Greek people in his electorate.
For the last day of the official program for the Hellenic Presidential Guard, they visited St. Johns Greek Orthodox College for their 25th March Assembly. Prep students sung “Feggaraki mou Lambro”, students of the Upper Primary sang the songs “Deka Palikaria” and “Na tane to 21” and the assembly concluded with a performance by the Senior College Dance Group who danced ‘Siganos’ and ‘Pentozali’ from Crete. Later on the Presidential Guard accompanied by Consul General of Greece Dimitris Michalopoulos and Victorian Multicultural Commission Chair Ross Alatsas were hosted by Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AC Governor of Victoria and her husband Mr Anthony Howard QC for an afternoon tea and a tour of Government House.
A truly amazing 2018 Presidential Guard visit has come to an end, with many unforgettable memories and a huge thank you to the organisers, and to the Presidential Guard for their presence in Melbourne, the largest Greek diaspora community outside of Greece.
*Images by Nick Bourdaniotis Photography for Greek City Times (Copyright)