Mattituck, NY.- By Catherine Tsounis
On Sunday, June 30, the Association of Asgata “Cyprus”, held a memorial service at the Transfiguration of Christ Church for the fallen heroes of the 1974 Turkish Invasion. The service was conducted by V. Rev. Fr. Archimandrite Ignatios J. Achlioptas. Guests included Cyprus Consul General Alexis Phedonos.. The President is Peter Loukas. Vice President is Effie Antoniou. Cypriot refreshments were served by the Ladies Division of the Association of Asgata “Cyprus”. An outdoor picnic followed with souvlaki barbecued .
Archimandrite Father Ignatios said “American, Greek and Cypriot flags fly in front of a small church in Long Island farmland. It is the only Greek Orthodox Church in New York to remember three countries in this unique fashion. We support The Cyprus Federation and Asgata Association in holding on to their Greek Orthodox faith, Greek heritage and the independence of their island.”
Loucas has spearheaded numerous events to help his hometown. “I came today with my grandchildren,” he said. “We must keep our island culture alive. I have my country home in Mattituck since 1986. I am president of St. Demetrios of Merrick, Long Island. Every summer my kids spent their time in Mattituck. They are now in their 40s. Their children are now coming out to enjoy the Long Island Sound. Orthodoxy and Hellenism go together.”
Nick Neocleous was the first organizer of the Asgata Association memorial service and picnic 40 years ago, as president. The Association of Asgata “Cyprus” is exceptionally strong. It was established in 1934. Early immigrants came as early as 1900. The association was one of the founding members of the Cyprus Federation of America. For more information, visit www.cyprusfederation.org.
“This is the second time I am in Mattituck,” said Consul General Phedonos. “impressed with Asgata Association accomplishments from 1934. We need the support of Cypriot American community. Our Diaspora keeps the Greek Cypriot identity alive with new generations. Externally, the Diaspora keeps alive our cause with the US congressmen, senators and government. I lived in the United States for three years My father was a diplomat at the United Nations. From 1983-1986, from the age of 10-13 year old, I played full right back in Pancyprian Eleftheria division. I was born in Nicosia. My father is from Larnaca and mother from Famagusta (occupied Cyprus). We have challenges with Turkish nationalism and expansionism.” Give the Turkish government credit: Nationalism is not a sin as the US news portrays it in the national media.
“This year we celebrate 85 year Anniversary of Asgata Association,” said President Peter Loucas, a former US veteran who served in the Vietnam War. “My main goal is to pass on to the next generation a love for Asgata and their Cypriot roots. My legacy ? To pass the torch to the next generation. If I don’t accomplish this goal,, I did not accomplish anything during my 22 years’ time as President of the Asgata Association. We honor the recipients of Asgata university scholarship winners with a celebration at the Central Lounge on January 10, 2019 in Astoria, New York. We keep our young with us.”
Themistocles and Manny Constantine’s family, who are from Asgata, were the first Greeks in 1950s Mattituck. Harry Constantine, the grandfather, was one of the founders of the Transfiguration Church. “I served in the Korean War, which was the worse time of my life,” he said. “I am an artist in retirement creating oil paintings.” His son Manny and family are active church members.
Neophytos Cyprus, of the former Cyprus Air Conditioning Company, shared his views on his trip to Russia. “I have been a member of the Asgata Association for fifty years,” he said Chase Bank manager and Vice-President is Chris Theodorou, whose father is from Cyprus. “I am here to serve the community, understanding their culture and traditions,” he explained.
The Transfiguration of Christ Church in Mattituck was founded by Cypriot immigrants, second generation Greek Americans and immigrants from Asia Minor and the Aegean islands. Cyprus lies at the gateway to the Middle East. The islanders have held their Greek Orthodox faith and traditions in the face of constant invasions. A fervent belief in Greek Orthodoxy is part of their DNA makeup. They were not the rich who built this church. They were hard working furriers and restaurant businessmen of the 1960’s. Many worked six or seven days a week. Their enthusiasm led to donations of land, foundation, architectural plans and interior iconography without a mortgage. Many were from the town of Asgata.
Honoring the Cypriot and Hellenic heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of Macedonia in 1912 was commemorated in a unique lecture and ceremony on Sunday afternoon, October 30, 2005 at the Pan-Macedonian Studies Center, Inc., 149-14 14th Ave., Whitestone. “Cypriot fighters from Asgata, Paphos and other areas played an active role in the Balkan Wars and the Macedonian struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912,” said Consul General Martha Mavromatis. “They fought with valor and went back to Cyprus to relate their experiences.” His Grace Bishop Philotheos of Meloa added, “Cypriots and Macedonians are united. They have political power through unity.” June 30th was a day to remember the contribution of Cyprus in America and Greece.