Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Celebrating Women & Greek Independence

Happy Greek Independence Day! When I was a kid, the St. Basil's Greek School put on March 25th events that included folk dances, plays  -- see undated photo of my Mom and Nick Kokonas in action! -- and the recitation of poems. Oy! I used to have terrible stage fright and really did not look forward to going up there to say my poem, which was inevitably entitled something like: "To Hilia Oktakosia Eikosi Ena!" (1821)

Greek Independence Day commemorates the 1821 beginning of the biggest to that point and eventually successful uprising against the Ottoman Turks, culminating after many ups-and-downs (and the help of European sympathizers) in the establishment of an independent Greek state in 1829. Few people, however, focus on the fact that Northern Greece only became part of free Greece about 85 years later.

Much has been written about the Souliotisses of Northern Greece and the “Dance of Zalogo” (December, 1803): ..."rather than live with miserable dishonor as Turkish captives, the Souli women threw themselves off the same cliffs from which they had once thrown stones, standing out in history for their defiant martyrdom." (Greek Reporter 3-24-14). There are many other examples of bravery shown by women actively engaged in the struggle for freedom, including the women of my Dad's hometown of Naousa.

Naousa Memorial Statue
The Revolution of 1821 did indeed engulf Naousa, but did not reap freedom for Macedonian Greeks at that time. A massacre shortly after Easter in 1822 laid the town to waste. Rather than be captured and/or killed by the Turks when fleeing rebel men left them behind, a number of women jumped over a cliff above the Arapitsa River. 

Today we celebrate the bravery of the many women North and South who contributed much over many years to Greek Independence -- OPA!

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