Martin C. Barry
Elected officials from three levels of government in the Laval region gathered at the war cenotaph near Laval city hall on March 25 to pay their respects along with residents of Hellenic origin to Greek veterans and soldiers on the occasion of the 196th anniversary of Greece’s independence.
On March 25, 1821 in what was then Ottoman-dominated Greece, Bishop Germanos of the metropolis of Patras blessed a Greek flag and proclaimed an uprising by the Greeks against the occupying Ottomans.
Historic date in history
The event is regarded as the beginning of the Greek Revolution which continued until 1832 when the Republic of Greece was proclaimed and was recognized by the world’s major nations. In the Montreal region, Laval currently has the highest concentration of residents of Greek heritage.
The noontime laying of wreaths at the base of the Laval monument was preceded by a protocol signing of the city’s Golden Book by two leading figures of the Montreal region’s Greek community – Nicolaos Sigalas, the Consul General of Greece in Montreal since 2014, and Nicholas T. Pagonis, president of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal.
Tradition important, says mayor
Speaking briefly in his office where the signing ceremony took place, Laval Mayor Marc Demers acknowledged the demographic significance in Montreal of Greeks, who number up to 62,000 residents in the region.
Demers recalled fondly the days when he worked as a patrol officer for the Laval Police Department and he found himself being frequently invited to Greek community events. “It’s important to preserve traditions and cultural heritage,” he said, while apologizing for being limited in his knowledge of the Greek language.
“We’re very proud today to celebrate the 196th anniversary of our national independence day,” Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis said in an interview. “As Greeks, we all remember what our predecessors fought for us to be independent and to have a free country.
Proud to be Greek
“This is what we are here today to commemorate: all the heroes who fought our independence,” she continued. “We are all proud to be Laval residents and Greeks. We are here to celebrate and to continue celebrating on this important day because for us it’s something that will always be important for us.”
Similarly, Laval city councillor for the district of l’Abord-à-Plouffe Vasilios Karidogiannis emphasized the necessity for Greeks to renew their sense of collective identity by marking their country’s independence once a year.
Living as a Greek
“We have a very special community here – a very vibrant and strong community that not only teaches Greek culture, history and language, but strives and struggles daily to preserve them to make sure they don’t get lost,” he said. “We speak Greek in our homes and in all the places where we go. And that distinguishes us.
“In the United States, there is a strong Greek community, but, for lack of a better word, it’s not as authentic as ours,” he added. “In the U.S. they don’t speak the language as much as we do. What we see more of here is to preserve our culture while being open to other cultures at the same time.”