New York.- By By Prof. Asher J. Matathias
Twelve years ago, first and second generation Greek immigrants from Thessaly, specifically from the Prefecture Magnisias, which includes my, and Anna’s, native city of Volos, organized into the Association of Argonauts — latter-day followers of Jason who mythically sought the Golden Fleece.
This evening, amid wintry seasonal merriment, members and friends gathered at the Stathakeion Center of the Federation of Hellenic Societies, 22-51 29 Street, Astoria, NY. Nearly 200 people were treated to the music of the Golden Greek Orchestra, accompanied by the vocalist and Larissa-native Lazaros Paraskevas; a cocktail hour with nine hors d’oevres; a main course of either prime rib or salmon; featuring a variety of imported wines to go along with the collection of liquors given at an open bar, ending with an assortment of pastries, served with soft drinks, coffee, or tea.
Anna and I, in the company of our daughter Miriam and her husband Bradley Herman, felt the guests’ warmth on several levels: their welcoming spirit, even if we represented a component of a decreased Greek-Jewish minority (more than 85% of the Romaniote-Sephardi Jews of Greece perished in the Holocaust); the effort to satisfy our dietary requirements; the genuine invitation extended to us to become a more integrally involved; seating us at table #1, with Anna and Petro Milona — he, the very able master of ceremonies.
Other memorable dimensions of the event included: chatting with Maria Kalogiros who, as cafeteria staff at St. John’s University, always greets me as I make my way to my teaching assignment, and cashes in my contribution to her register; Anna’s emotion-laden reunion with elementary school classmate Lena Stamo; the singer ceding the microphone to me to lustily sing-dance an oldie but goodie favorite to the delight of all (fellow revelers even showered dollar bills while Anna and I were spinning on the floor)!
As the function was reaching a crescendo, after dignitaries (secular and clerical) made perfunctory but meaningful appearances — I was happy to be introduced to His Eminence, the Metropolitan of Demetriados and Almyros Ignatius, who new well my childhood haunts — there was a concluding “anxiety” to endure: the drawing of raffles, I was given the honor of picking the first, for the award of eight gifts (restaurant dinners, to certificates for jewelry and foods, a DVD player, a 27″ color TV, to the final, grand, prize of a return ticket to Greece donated by Olympic Airlines). The aforementioned Maria, with husband Kosta helping to deliver it, was the television winner!
In the wee, early hours of the morning the four of us exited to return home, effusively thanking the maestros who engineered this enjoyable glendi, affair: president Apostolos Zoupaniotis, editor of the newspaper Greek News, past president, dinner chair, and newly-betrothed Apostolos Skotidas (his father Alexandros serves as secretary), and committee associates Efstathios Natsis, Meta Kalambroka, and Socrates Savveilidis. Kudos for a job well done! Yasas, ke panda me hares! To your health, and always for happy occasions!