By Catherine Tsounis
Drama! Excitement! Violence! These are the key elements of the Greek Primetime series “Maheri tis Karthias” (Knive of the Heart) on Greek satellite television throughout the world. Men and women in black attire on the island of Crete are thrilling Greeks in the summer of 2007. There is more to t he Cretan spirit. Omonoia and Minos Cretan Associations of America and the linguistic work of Dr. Christoforos Charalambakis of the University of Athens are giving America a different perception of their island culture and cuisine.
The Omonoia dance group under the direction of Jimmy Bobolakis entertained all at numerous exhibitions in the tristate area. Their intricate dance steps thrilled the audience. Valerie Vasilakis of Omonoia Cretan Association said, “You will love our dance group. Listen to our Lyra player who is exceptional.” Her enthusiasm was catchy. Serafim Tsokas, Secretary General of the Region of Crete indicated that “2500 projects are in progress…….and provide incentives to increase investments in new startups or in existing enterprises. Crete has all the qualifications to constitute the technological and economic center of Southern Europe.” An excellent website is www.crete-region.gr.
Dr. Christoforos Charalambakis, an outstanding linguistics professor of the University of Athens and European Union, remembers his island. “I come from a large family that worked in the North Rhein Industrial complex of Germany. My older brother Stelianos Charalambakis gave me the opportunity for higher education by working in a polluted atmosphere in Westfalen, northern Bavaria, near the city of Wupperal. His wages were minimal. He inspired me to succeed. Setlines would say, ʽyou are good and must finish college.” I finished my Ph.D. in 1971 through a unique scholarship offered for t he first time to a non-German resident.
The dedicated linguist is working at the Academy of Athens on a new Greek dictionary modeled after the best English editions. “Our dictionary will have examples on how to use words,” he said. His team of graduate assistants and doctoral candidates are using computer technology to create a dictionary that will leave its impression on learning Modern Greek. Dr. Charalambakis is a soft spoken person who says, “when I believe something is wrong, I say no. I tell my twin sons that a good man is never lost.”
Hospitality and excellent cuisine are trademarks of the island culture. Thy Minos Club of New York has a fabulous barbecue at the Transfiguration church in Mattituck, L.I. on Sunday, July 8th on the church grounds. This is our second picnic on the North Fork,” said Aristides Garganoudakis, president of Minos Club.
Our members like to have a barbecue at the Greek Orthodox Church picnic grounds. It is a time for us to get together. We are here from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., listening to music, playing ball and swimming at breakwater Beach. Many of us came from Astoria, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties.” Aristides son, Emmanuel, came with his mandoline to play Cretan tunes. Maria, his wife, and children Maria and John were mingling with us visitors to make them feel welcome. The Minus Board includes: Aristides Garganoudakis, president; Emmanuel Kallergyis, vice-president; Pantelis Sampouris, secretary; Frangiati Sampoutis, treasurer; Manolis Anastasakis and board members Manolis Soumbasakis, Lefteris Stylianoudakis, Nikos Somarakis and Stefanos Stefanakis.
The Omonoia and Minos Clubs are planning to host a unique social at St. Johnʼs University in February 2008. An “evening of Cretan Dance and Cuisine” is tentatively planned for Thursday evening, February 21st, 2008 at 7 p.m. in council Hall. The award winning Omonoia dance group will perform in traditional Cretan costumes. The Minos Club will present Greek cuisine. The event is free for the community. “All doors and all hearts are open for you,” said Nikos Kazantakis about the people of Crete.