New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
“It has been my greatest honor to serve the Greek American community as Consul of Greece for the last 4 years…I depart from New York being more of a patriot and more religious than when I arrived.” With these words, outgoing Consul of Greece to New York, Manos Koumbarakis, closed his speech at the farewell dinner given by the Federation of Greek Societies of Greater New York at the Stathakeio Hall in Astoria two weeks ago. Mr. Koumbarakis has been reassigned to Ethiopia, and the Stathakeio Hall was packed with well-wishers.
The General Secretary of the Federationof Greek Societies of Greater New York, Nomiki Kastana, presented the event. All those who took the floor to bid farewell to the outgoing Greek Consul spoke with love and respect, emphasizing his ethos, professional diligence, constant presence with public statements, patriotism and love towards the Greek American community, and, above all, the smile with which he faced all situations. The Greek American community will miss Mr. Koumbarakis’s vigilant attention to all, and his gentility.
“Thank you all for your good words; they form a great and precious reserve that will always accompany me no matter in what country I will serve our “patrida”. On my departure,there is no greater place to be honored than in Astoria, my second home, where the heart of Hellenism beats,” said, Mr. Koumbarakis, whose post of Consul of Greece to New York has been assigned to Mirella Rufanis.
It was a great honor for the Foreign Ministry to assign him to New York, a post that was equal to “a great school”, said Mr. Koumbarakis, ”I found myself in a Greek American community of thousands, with thousands of organizations, clubs, schools and communities. It was a great challenge, and I would not be able to do it without your love and your sympathy. I will be forever grateful to you for all that you did for me and my family, welcoming us so we felt this is our home.”
He said that the Greek American community is lucky to have Consul General of Greece to New York Dr. Konstanine Koutras, whose presence at the Greek Independence Day Parade was notable.
“One of the greatest moments of my tenure in New York was hearing the Greek National Anthem on 5th Avenue in the presence of the Evzones of the Presidential Guard,” said Mr. Koumbarakis, “Our national parade is a privilege we have inherited from previous generations and we have the obligation to bequeath it to the next,” said Mr. Koumbarakis, inviting the Greek American community to not forget that the Greek American community, when it began, at the end of the 19th century, and where the community is today, constitutes a paradigm in American society, saying, “our guide should be the history of the Greeks in America”.
Federation President Petros Galatoulas said that Manos Koumbarakis served the diplomatic service and the Greek American community with love, humiliation, and humanity. He emphasized that it was an honor for the Federation to organize this event to honor Mr. Koumbarakis, describing this as a two-way expression of love, in that Mr. Koumbarakis “was a ubiquitous, untiring presence at events, and showed particular interest in the preparation of the Greek Independence Parade, giving his presence to the Greek American community.”
Mr. Koumbarakis patriotism, love for the Church and for the Greek American community were celebrated by Bishop Efkarpia and Abbot of the Chrysovalantos Monastery Ierotheos, who wished that Mr. Koumbarakis will continue to serve his homeland equally as well in all other places to which he is assigned.
Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, head priest of Agios Dimitrios, Astoria, referred to Consul Koumbarakis’s love for the Greek American community, his kindness and his smile. “It was an honor that we had you here and we wish you would stay”. “Bravo Mano, you did it well,” said Dr. Ioannis Euthimiopoulos, Director of the Education Office of the Holy Archdiocese.
Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA and Pancyprion, conveyed greetings from the Cypriot Parliament and stressed that “today, when Greece and Cyprus are going through difficult times, it is important to keep the flag of the race high. And we need people like Manos Koubarakis to inspire us with their value and their industriousness.”
Words about the honored guest were also spoken by Councilwoman Aravella Simota, the Director of the Greek National Tourism Organization Greta Kamaterou, the Consular Coast Guard Fotis Kiamos, the Presidents of the Pambandian, Dodecanese and Ionian Federations, Kostas Tsilfidis, George Andriotis and Nikos Bardis, Kostas Gonias and Stavros Chaviaras from the Xenia Federation, Manolis Christodoulakis from the Cretans, Eleni Psara and Dr. Anastasios Kasapidis.