Today, members of the Donetsk Fyodor Stambulzhi Greek Society celebrated their past on the eve of the national holiday of their historical homeland… Greek Independence Day. Greek opera singer Medea Yasonidi, a Donbass native, attended the festive event. They held the festivities in the Electro-Technical School in Donetsk, beginning with a class in Greek dancing for all ages, with the Greek Folk Ensembles Panair and Terpsikhora taking part. Then, Yelena Prodan, the chairman of the Donetsk Greek Society, addressed the assembly, touching on the topic of the Greek War of Liberation against the Ottoman yoke in 1821-29:
Greeks around the world celebrate Independence Day, or Day of the Greek Revival, in honour of the heroes of the war of independence on 25 March.
It pleases me that, in spite of the hostilities, the Donetsk Greek society carries on.
Yasonidi graduated conservatory in Donetsk, and now gives classes at the State Academic Philharmonic. She plans to give further classes at the Sergei Prokofiev Donetsk State Music Academy. Today’s celebration involved more than two hundred people, including those taking part in Greek and Russian musical numbers, as well as a large tea party.
The Donetsk Greek Society began in 1990, named after its first chairman, the prominent local Greek Fyodor Stambulzhi (1953-2003), and has about 1,200 members. The Society has Greek youth and women’s groups, along with sponsoring folk ensembles. It started a Greek Sunday School and helped start Greek language courses in a number of secondary schools. The Donetsk Greek Society maintains close ties with Greek associations in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Krasnodar, and participates in folk festivals in different parts of Russia. During the hostilities, they’ve received humanitarian assistance from other Greek Associations in Russia.
The history of the Greek community of the Azov region dates back to the 1770s, when more than 30,000 Greeks, Armenians, and Georgians emigrated from the Crimea. At the request of Metropolitan St Ignaty Gozadinos of Gothhia and Kafa, who feared the complete destruction of his flock in the Crimean Khanate, the Russian Empire gave the Crimean Christians resettlement assistance. The tsar allocated the Crimean Greeks land on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov near Pavlovsk, which became Mariupol in 1978. The Greek settlements in 1980 numbered about two dozen villages around the Sea of Azov. At the time of the DNR’s declaration of independence and the outbreak of war in the Donbass, there were more than 90,000 descendants of Greek immigrants, the vast majority of them living around the Sea of Azov.
26 March 2017
DAN Donetsk News Agency