NEW YORK – The celebration of the bicentennial of the start of the Hellenic Revolution continued with a unique event, the Sail to Freedom in New York City on June 6. The event, organized by GlobalAlive LLC, a company based in New York, drew community members from all walks of life to honor the spirit of 1821 as well as the historic connection between Greece and the United States. Ships adorned with Greek and American flags sailed towards the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom for all.
Head of the armada was a three-masted ship. Katerina Soldatou, an internationally renowned aerial dancer, was scheduled to perform but could not make the event. Instead, Jennifer Anne Kovacs, also a renowned aerial dancer, performed onboard, suspended from one of the masts of the ship with red fabrics. The impressive routine was inspired by the spirit of 1821 and our courageous ancestors who fought for freedom. Director Kostas Kimoulis supervised the filming and the live broadcast of the event which was co-hosted by Nicole Petallides and Evlambia Revi.
Among those participating were Member of the Hellenic Parliament Katerina Monogiou from Mykonos who represents the Cyclades, U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nicole Malliotakis, and Gregory Meeks, businessman and philanthropist John Catismatidis and his wife Margo, AHEPA Supreme Vice President Jimmy Kokotas, Empire District 6 Governor, Chairman of AHEPA’s Hellenic Cultural Commission and EMBCA President/Founder Lou Katsos, Delphi 25 Chapter President Theodore Klingos, Argyris Argitakos, Very Rev. Archimandrite Chrysostom Panos, Hellenic Medical Society of New York President Dr. Panagiotis Manolas, and the event organizer Evangeline Plakas. Other vessels sailed alongside with Ahepans, Greek-Americans, and philhellenes onboard as well as representatives of the media.
Catsimatidis was the honorary chairman for the event and Plakas presented him with a gift carved by Greek sculptor Grigoris Liatsos, to thank him for his support of the Sail to Freedom. “We’re celebrating Greek Independence, 200 years, we maintained our religion, we maintained our culture, even though we were in slavery for 400 years under the Ottoman Empire. God bless Greece,” Catsimatidis said, after thanking Plakas for the gift. “There are no parades in New York, but we have done something better, we have a flotilla going down the Hudson River all the way to the Statue of Liberty to celebrate. We have beaten the virus. It’s independence day for Greece, it’s independence day from the virus, and I hope independence day in Europe from the virus, too. ZHTO!”
Plakas also presented a sculpture by Liatsos of the famous heroine of the Hellenic Revolution Laskarina Bouboulia to Rep. Maloney, whose nickname in honor of her philhellenism is “Bouboulina.”
“Today we celebrate freedom,” Rep. Maloney said. “We’re not able to have our usual Hellenic parade for the anniversary but we’re going to have our boat ride out to the Statue of Liberty symbolizing freedom to the world. If you love freedom, you have to love Greece, because the initial ideas and the philosophy and the [democratic] form of government came from Greece. So if you love freedom, you have to honor and love Greece. And it was Greece that inspired the American Revolution. It was the ideals from Greece that told us what to do, what we should strive for and when Greece fought for their independence it was American presidents Jefferson, Madison, who strongly supported Greece and encouraged Americans to go over and fight and be part of that effort, some died, but many who went to Greece came back and became the leaders of the Abolitionist Movement and the Suffrage Movement for more ideals here in America, so we all owe so much to Greece. I’m very honored to represent the largest and mist dynamic community in America, we call it Little Athens in Astoria, Queens, and on the feast days you can close your eyes and think you’re almost in Greece.”
Lou Katsos was honored as an Hellene of the Diaspora, for his contributions to the community and to Hellenism. Plakas presented him with a gift, a sculpture of Theodoros Kolokotronis also by Liatsos, with a quote from Kolokotronis: “Are you Greek? Why do you bow? Stand up. We Greeks stand up even when we speak to the gods.”
Katsos noted that he is of the Diaspora and he is a Hellene, “there’s no doubt about that,” adding that “the Hellenic Diaspora goes back to Homeric times and continues to the present day” and “is the largest Diaspora of any people in the world for over 3,000 years.”
“This award means a tremendous amount to me,” Katsos continued, noting that Kolokotronis was also a member of the Diaspora, serving in foreign armies and having to flee to the Ionian Islands until he returned to the mainland to fight in the War of Independence.
Rep. Malliotakis, on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that she was honored to introduce a resolution calling on the Biden administration to make the reunification of Cyprus a priority and hold Turkey accountable for aggression in the Mediterranean. “God bless America, God bless Greece, ZHTO H ELLAS,” Malliotakis said.
Celebrating the Hellenic spirit, our values and the ideas of Freedom and Democracy, the Sail to Freedom was a moving event, particularly when soprano Sofia Diana Antonakos sang the U.S. and Greek National Anthems from the ship facing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, bringing a tear to the eye of many of those present as they thought of the tremendous sacrifice so many have made for the cause of freedom. It should also be noted that the date, June 6, is also the anniversary of D-Day when the Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the final push to liberate Europe from fascism, reminding us that the fight for freedom continued and continues for all who defend human rights and fight against tyranny.
The video of Sail to Freedom – 200 Years of Independence is available online: https://www.greece2021.nyc/.