NEW YORK – As any successful person who is a parent would inform, the acknowledgement of peers is a wonderful thing, but there is nothing sweeter than expressions of appreciation from one’s children.
That is how Antonis H. Diamataris, Publisher-Editor of The National Herald, and members of its staff felt during the special presentation of the schools of St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria in honor of the newspaper’s 100th anniversary.
Schools’ Director Anastasios Koularmanis served as Emcee and set the tone for the afternoon as he spoke of the special relationship between the newspaper and its readers that began with its first edition on April 2, 1915.
“Our grandchildren will read about Greek-American history, and TNH will be part of that history…panta axoioi – worthy always – may you celebrate 200 years,” he said.
Diamataris later noted that of all the honors he has recently experienced, this one was the most touching.
After the Very Rev. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Dean of the Cathedral, led the chanting of Christos Anesti, the festivities began with the choir led by Evangelos Haziroglou, which delighted the students and guests who filled the auditorium with songs like “Aspra Karavia – White Boats,” and “Mono Agapi – Love is All We Need.”
The excellent video presentation of the history of TNH and its contributions to the community written and produced by Dr. Dimitra Kamarinou, who oversees the schools literature classes, Rita Syntilas. Dr. Augustinos Sykopoulos, and Aggeliki Aga was enhanced by its musical accompaniment and narration in perfect Greek by five students.
The audience heard the oft-spoken observation “TNH is not just a newspaper, it is a school,” for its readers, Greek- and American-born, through the decades.
School Board President Nick Andriotis, the man who spearheaded – against opposition at the highest levels – the creation of the only Greek high school in America, spoke about TNH’s importance in his life and his 50 years in the United States.
Like many who came to New York with the proverbial “suitcase, no language, no money, a shirt and one pair of pants,” he said “I grew up with TNH. I could not read the New York Times, and not even the Daily news,” but the paper kept him informed.
He then turned to the students and said “it is important for you to know” the stories of the immigrants and the achievements of Diamataris and the TNH staff.
The noble stories were told that day in well-produced and presented skits created by Christina Makrides and Peggy Simakos.
The first scene consisted of a family and friends joined by the village priest sitting at a table outdoors They are bidding farewell to a young man who is embarking for the New World. At one point a girl takes him aside and says “take my picture to remember me,” and the boy responds “I will return; wait for me.”
Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t.
As the ship’s horn sounds, the boy’s mother hugs him and says “Be careful. Write as soon as you arrive.”
Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. The tough life in the New World was overwhelming at first, but as the next skit showed, some Greeks looked out for their countrymen.
As the strains of “New York New York” sounded, the young man is seen seated in a coffee shop. “Would you like some coffee” the waitress asks. “No English. Greek,” he replied. “You are Greek,” she exclaims, “let me call the owner!”
His countryman’s greetings included informing him of the existence of the Ethnikos Kirix – “in it you will find everything you need” – and being offered a job.
Koularmanis and Andriotis congratulated Diamataris and thanked him not only for the paper’s wider contributions to the community, but for its support for St. Demetrios’ schools and for helping establish relationships with grand benefactors, like the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Diamataris, visibly moved, said “there is nothing for me to add,” to what the students presented, adding that the quality was worthy of Carnegie Hall and Broadway.
He thanked Fr. Papazafiropoulos, Koularmanis, the teachers, and the parents for the tribute. He then acknowledged the talent, hard work and dedication of the newspaper’s staff, and added “TNH is founded, however, on all of you,” and expressed his optimism for the future of the community.
Diamataris then praised the hosts for their achievements at St. Demetrios, and noted how happy he was to offer the newspaper’s support when he was first told about the dream of creating a high school, “which is absolutely necessary for the community…without it, these beautiful things we witnessed today would not have existed.”
In congratulating Diamataris, Fr. Nektarios said “our purpose in life is to leave the world a better place than we found it, and to present it to the younger generation,” and he said all those involved with the parish and school feel that way about the people at TNH, which “unites us through news about our community and Greece.”