Today Epirotans and whole of Hellas celebrate the liberation of Ioannina, the geopolitical and financial center of Epirus, from the Ottoman Empire! It is a day of joy, a day of remembrance and a day of syllogism!
Joy that the years of occupation, aggression and oppression were finally over after numerous years of protest, resistance, war and human sacrifice! Joy that peace and human values have finally prevailed over the battered Epirotic land and Epirotans can live as free Hellenes!
A day for the next generations to remember, because freedom rarely comes overnight and never without protest and human sacrifice! We, the generations that live after the liberation should never forget what our ancestors had to endure for us to enjoy this freedom!
Syllogism – thoughtfulness – that this freedom should not be taken for granted! Not all Epirotan Hellenes can live and express themselves as freely, as the ones living in the Hellenic part of Epirus! Enemies and dangers to freedom and liberty are unfortunately always lurking around the corner!
It is indicative that 108 years after the liberation of Ioannina, the Hellenic Republic still has to fight for its sovereignty against Turkish aggression.
It is up to us and the coming generations to safeguard this freedom and this liberty!
In memory of all the humans who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Ioannina, MEMORY ETERNAL, ΑΙΩΝΙΑ Η ΜΝΗΜΗ!
For the Panepirotic Federation of America John Katsimbaris President
Today, It has been 80 years since Ioannis Metaxas and the Hellenic Nation cried out “OXI” to the fascist nvaders of our country!
The strength of our people fighting the intruders didn’t derive from strong and mighty weapons, it emanated from their heart and inner spirit to defend their Nation, protect their families, the land of their ancestors, and the Hellenic identity! This is a ‘strength’ that weapons cannot match!
Our beloved Epiros was in the forefront of the battles! The Italian artillery started pounding on the Epirotic mountains in Kalpaki early in the morning of October 28th, 1940! A piece of unprecedented history was about to be written. The Hellenic Forces not only defended their positions, but also managed to counter attack and liberate the land of Northern Epiros! One-by-one the North Epirotic cities and towns of Korytsa, Premeti, Delvino, Aghioi Saranta, Argyrokatro and Himara were seeing the soldiers of the VIII (8th) division of the Hellenic Army liberate them!
It was not ‘just’ a victory for the Hellenic Nation; it was the first victory against the advancing axis powers in Europe. People of nations like Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and others, which were under Nazi occupation, saw for the first time a spark against the axis powers, a slap on Mussolini’s & Hitler’s ‘face’! Subsequently, Hitler had to delay his invasion of the Soviet Union by 3 months in order to ‘capture’ Greece first, with all the consequences of battling during the Russian winter and of the historical defeats that followed.
Today, I commemorate my grandfather Ioannis, who fought with the 51st Battalion in the battle of Vasilitsa under Colonel Davakis and in the battle of Premeti under General Katsimitros! As Hellenes, we commemorate our ancestors fighting for our Nation and our Ideals! As Americans, we commemorate the Hellenic struggle, which consequently lead to the liberation of Europe from the axis powers! As citizens of the world, we commemorate the Hellenic spirit, which initiated the defeat of fascist and nazi ideologies!
The lessons of ‘OXI’ day are today more contemporary than ever! Let the struggle of our ancestors and the battles in the blood drained land of Epiros be a reminder to every aggressor and invader that the Hellenic spirit of humans defending their freedom and ideals cannot be defeated by weapons or other material means!
ΖΗΤΩ Ο ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΜΟΣ! ΖΗΤΩ ΤΟ ΕΘΝΟΣ!
Ioannis (John) Katsimbaris President of Panepirotic Federation of America
The Panepirotic Federation of America is appalled by the decision of Mr Erdogan and the Turkish authorities to initiate the use of Aghia Sophia of Constantinople as a mosque.
Aghia Sophia was declared a museum by Kemal Ataturk for a reason!
It was a turning point of the Turkish state and society, bringing the country closer to humanistic and democratic principles of the western world.
Aghia Sophia was treated as ‘spoils of war’ by the Ottoman Muslims, the way barbaric traditions were performed by humans during that era. Many of its marvelous frescos, iconographies and mosaics were destroyed or covered with plaster, a primitive way to show power and imperialist supremacy!
Human soul and behavior has evolved since the 15th century and mankind does not need primitive ways to show superiority.
Islam has its own architectural wonders, does it really need to steal from Christianity, occupy a Christian Cathedral in order to feel superior? Don’t the Turkish authorities and Mr. Erdogan understand that it is actually their own religion they are offending by using a ‘former’ Christian Cathedral for their prayers and rituals, as if they do not have any monumental mosques built exclusively for that purpose?
Even if immature Ottoman rulers behaved as such 500+ years ago, do Turkish leaders have to repeat such primitive behavior over again in the 21st century?
As Hellenes from the region of Epiros, we know what inhumane conditions our ancestors had to endure under Ottoman Islamic rule. It is just over a century that most of Epiros was liberated from Ottoman occupation. The remnants of autocratic oppression can be seen in form of monuments on Epirotan soil!
Mr. Erdogan does not respect the dignity and human rights of his own citizens, why would he respect the dignity of monuments of some other religion. He is unfortunately repeating the mistakes of the Ottomans namely, oppression, brutality, violence, imperialism! He is catapulting Turkish society 500+ years back! We urge him to look into the translation of the formal Cathedral and museum he is undignifying, “Aghia Sophia” the “Holy Wisdom”! Even a minuscule piece of wisdom should be enough to let Mr Erdogan and the Turkish authorities rise to the expectations of the 21st century!
Kemal Ataturk brought Turkey to the 20th century by making Aghia Sophia into a museum. He reached out a hand of friendship to the multiple ethnicities of Constantinople alias Istanbul and to the developed world. He rose to the expectations of his era! Recep Tayip Erdogan is catapulting a whole state and society back to the 15th century!
Aghia Sophia of Constantinople was not the first former Christian Church to have been converted into a museum and reconverted into a mosque by the Turkish authorities under Mr Erdogan. Aghia Sophia of Trabzon, a small church from the 13th century, had the same fate 7 years ago! Evidently, it was a tryout, the world did not protest much. Various other reconversions followed.
The Turkish authorities under Mr Erdogan have shown that, as also in the case of pastor Andrew Brunson in 2017, they will not budge from their extremist and primitive acts if there is no international pressure from countries they fear. In 2017, President Trump managed to take actions that lead to the release of pastor Brunson!
President Trump, as Americans, citizens and residents of this great nation, roughly 3.5 million Americans of Greek decent, many from the region of Epiros, look up to You for leadership concerning Aghia Sophia! President Trump, take action, do the right thing!
The Panepirotic Federation of America (PFA) came under new leadership on Sunday, July 19th, 2020, after the scheduled departure of its long time president Nikos Gatzoyiannis (Nicholas Gage). The new president is John Katsimbaris, a senior consulting engineer in the automotive industry in Detroit.
“Mr. Gatzoyiannis agreed to serve a fifth term at our last convention on the understanding that he would leave halfway through his term to open the way for younger members to lead the organization,” Mr. Katsimbaris, whose parents are from the Konitsa region of Epiros, said. “As our fiscal year ended on June 30, he informed us at a board meeting on June 28 that this would be a good time to make the transition.”
Mr. Katsimbaris, the former PFA vice president, officially took over the leadership of the organization yesterday when he was sworn in as the new president. Replacing him as vice president is George Nanis, a real estate executive from Worcester, MA, who served in the same post from 2015 to 2018.
“Both John and George have worked closely with me over the years to protect the people of Northern Epiros and to promote the development of free Epiros,” Mr Gatzoyiannis said. “They are well equipped to lead the Panepirotic Federation into the future boldly and effectively.”
Mr. Katsimbaris, praised the contributions of Mr. Gatzoyiannis as PFA president during two terms in the 1990s and three in the new millennium. “Nick made the Federation highly respected in Washington, deeply admired in Athens and greatly feared in Tirana,” he said. “He leaves it well organized, solidly financed, and effectively positioned to carry out its mission in both parts of Epiros. Of course, he leaves the presidency, not the Federation. We will continue to count on him for advice and support.”
“I think one of Nick’s most important achievements was to bring into the Federation young, American-born members and inspire them to care about their ancestral homeland the way their parents did,” Mr. Nanis said. “That’s no easy task, as other groups have found out.”
Mr. Katsimbaris, whose father worked for the Greek Foreign Ministry, was born in Constantinople in 1968 and educated in Greece, Germany and the Netherlands. He speaks Greek, English, German and Dutch and has degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Married to the former Andrea Feles, he has been active throughout his adult life in both Europe and the United States in promoting Greek national issues, especially those involving both parts of Epiros.
Among the noted Americans whose parents come from Epiros are Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic Party candidate for president, George Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, actress and producer Rita Wilson, the wife of Tom Hanks, and the late actor and director John Cassavetes, whose father was one of the founders of the Panepirotic Federation of America in 1942
From left to right: Ioannis (John) Katsimbaris, Vice President, Nicholas Gage, President, Aleka Kaloudelis, Secretary General, Ambassador Yuri Kim, Menelaos Tzelios, former President
The board officers of the Panepirotic of America met with H.E. Ambassador Yuri Kim, U.S. Ambassador to Albania and discussed various issues concerning ethnic Greeks in Northern Epirus and throughout Albania. One of the topics discussed was the draft of the new property law in Albania. The Panepirotic Federation of America believes that while the law is not perfect, it is a vast improvement of the mess of regulations now in effect. It offers all Albanians, including ethnic Greeks, the best chance to gain title to their property in 30 years. In fact, the law was drafted with the advice of American legal experts including Simos Dimas, whose family comes form Himara, after consultation with Greek leaders in Albania including Himara as well as the Himara Society of America.