- Views 0
- Likes 0
Kon Glekas, Jim Bakis, Peter Adamis, John Batsakis, Chris Paikopoulos,George Dikeakos, Sam Mihelakos, Jim Batsakis (kneeling), Peter Roumpos
One could be forgiven if they said that winter had come early in April this year. However despite inclement weather and the occasional drizzle, Melbournians and Victorians on the whole were not deterred from attending ANZAC day dawn services. Nor did the overcast weather with its chilly winds stop the crowds from attending the local RSLs’ scattered around Melbourne and that of the Victorian countryside. Take for example, the Watsonia RSL in the Northern suburbs who opened their doors to the public and held their service within walls it until the worst of the weather was over. In other parts of the nation, Australians attended the ANZAC services with much reverence and remembered the sacrifices of generations of a bygone era.
On the western side of Melbourne, tucked away in Brunswick, a suburb within the City of Moreland, is an area called Sparta Place. Within its confines, stands a solitary statue of an ancient king who symbolizes freedom. This ancient king whose name is Leonidas was erected in 2009 by grateful Australians of Hellenic heritage (Laconians’ of the Pallaconian Brotherhood). The statue is a symbolic reminder to all passerby’s that freedom should not be taken for granted and that those who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of freedom did not do so in vain. The official party consisting of Australians of Hellenic origins gathered together in face of inclement weather to pay homage to these heroes of a bygone era and also to commemorate the Australians who served and died in Greece and in Papua New Guinea during WW2.
The concept of conducting the ceremony was formed by Peter Adamis, a former Warrant Officer of the Royal Australian Regiment and now a member of the Pallaconian Brotherhood “Leonidas”. Peter had first circulated the idea of a commemoration with the Pallaconian Brotherhood management committee and also sought the advice of Brigadier (ret) Keith Rossi of the RSL Victorian Branch regarding Thermopylae and its significance to Australians. In addition, the President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, Chris Paikopoulos had also approached the City of Moreland to consider the statue as a War memorial dedicated to all Australians’. In response to these approaches, the RSL and the City of Moreland were very supportive of the concept and action has been taken to make it official pending the appropriate ceremony and administrative protocols.
During the ceremony, the Australian and Hellenic flags, along with the Pallaconian Brotherhood Banner were proudly displayed in Sparta Place, Brunswick, City of Moreland. Both flags fluttered bravely in the wind, held in place by two stout Australians of Hellenic background, Jim Bakis and Peter Roumpos; was alongside the Pallaconian Brotherhood banner held by George Dikeakos, the President of the Taygetos Federation. This solemn and simple ceremony was conducted amidst the chilly and hollow courtyard where the official party, observers and interested passerby’s stood silently, paying their respects to those of Australian and Hellenic fallen.
The President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, Chris Paikopoulos spoke in a passionate and fervent manner about the exploits of Australians and Spartans at Thermopylae and of those Australians’ who delayed the Japanese on the Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea. He went on to say that although many are aware of the 300 Spartans battle against the Persians, very few knew of a similar battle being fought some 2330 years later at the same place by Australian soldiers against the Nazi aggression in WW2. Chris Paikopoulos looked forward to the day when the heroic stands by the Spartans and that of the Australian are recognized as a band of brothers, having fought for the same ideals and for the freedoms that we cherish today.
George Dikeakos, the President of the Taygetos Federation, choking with emotion, spoke in the Hellenic language, echoing the same sentiments that of the President and also wished that a greater understanding of the contributions both nations had influenced the course of history towards the freedom all nations enjoy this day. He also said that the relationship between that of Australians and of the Hellenic people initially forged during the Gallipoli campaign were cemented when Australians went to the aid of the Hellenic people in WW2. George Dikeakos reiterated that the bonds between the two peoples were such that they were unbreakable even in the face of adversity.
Peter Adamis, the President of the Lykourgos Federation gave a brief outline of the history behind Australia’s involvement in Greece during WW2, its campaigns in Papua Guinea and how it was perceived as Australia’s Thermopylae. He added that Australians of Hellenic heritage had also served in the Australian Armed Forces WW1, WW2 and subsequent actions where Australian forces were deployed. He mentioned Corporal Angelo Barboutis and Con Vafiopulos as but two members who had served during the Papua New Guinea campaign as examples. He thanked everyone for participating during the days event in commemorating the fallen of both nations and said that he looked forward to a time where the links that bonded Australians and the Hellenic people were indistinguishable from one another. Peter Adamis also thanked the President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, Chris Paikopoulos for supporting the concept of current and future commemorations and looked forward to the 70th Anniversary of the Kokoda Track in August September later in the year.
At the end of the speeches, Kon Glekas an ex-Australian serviceman read out the ode to the silent group of sentinels and observers surrounding the memorial. At the conclusion of the ode a two minutes silence in respect to the fallen was observed while the Australian and Hellenic flags were simultaneously lowered. On ANZAC Day the ode below is read out to all who attend the service:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not
weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the
morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget.
A wreath was placed at the base of the statue by the President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, Chris Paikopoulos, followed by the traditional Greek Orthodox Cross of the hand across the body. Passersby’s’ could not help but stop and watch the ceremony take place and enquired of the participants as to its significance and the reasons for the ceremony. On being informed of its symbolic nature these same passerby’s paused and stood still until the ceremony was over. It was somewhat reminiscent of that ancient poet Simonides of Ceos who wrote of the 300 Spartans who fought against overwhelming odds at Thermopylae some 2400 years ago:
Stranger, go tell the men of Lacedaemon
That we, who lie here, did as we were ordered.
On conclusion of the solemn ceremony, the group made their way back to the Pallaconian Brotherhood where light refreshments were served and to reflect on the annals of the Spartans and that of the ANZACS long past. Chris Paikopoulos, President of the Pallaconian Brotherhood, thanked all the members who had presented themselves at the ceremony and paid tribute to past members and management committees who had laid the foundations of the Pallaconian Brotherhood. It is of interest to note that it is Chris Paikopoulos who has been the driving force behind the Pallaconian Brotherhood is credited with bringing together a dedicated Management Committee, committed to upholding Australian and Hellenic traditions. Lest We Forget
Sparta Place commemorates the ANZACs
L-R: Kon Glekas, Jim Bakis, Peter Adamis, John Batsakis, Chris Paikopoulos,George Dikeakos, Sam Mihelakos, Jim Batsakis (kneeling), and Peter Roumpos.
Neos Kosmos 26 Apr 2012. ANZAC Day was commemorated on Sparta Place in Brunswick Victoria, by an official party made up of Australian’s of Hellenic origins who gathered to pay homage to heroes of a bygone era and also to commemorate the Australians who served and died in Greece and in Papua New Guinea during WW2.
The statue of King Leonidas was erected in Sparta Place in 2009, and it serves as a symbolic reminder that freedom should not be taken for granted and that those who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of freedom did not do so in vain.