The 25th of March

Today, Marrh 25, 1952, is the 131st Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Greece. It is therefore both fitting and proper that we, of Greek birth or ancestry, observe this day which marks the beginning of the revolutionary war in 1821. that ended (with the battle at Petra) on September 12. 1829 when Demetrios Ypsilanti decisively defeated the last remaining body of the conquerors -- the Turkish Empire. The end of that revolutionary war which lasted for eight long years (1821 -- 1829), brought at last freedom and liberty to the Greek people on the mainland, after a period of nearly 400 years of slavery, -- or since 1453. (Constantinople fell on Mav 29. 1453 and with it soon all of Greece).

This day therefore -- the 25th of March -- is to the Greek world what the 4th of July is to the American people.

In every Greek community, all over the world -- and it must be stressed that there are Greeks in every place of the world -- this dav and this occasion is properly and fittingly observed with church services, and eloquent addresses, paying tribute and honor to those ancestors of ours -- those warriors of 1821 and their heroic achievements during that strenuous struggle against heavy odds. And in this country, there are no doubt, some orators who will -- in all seriousness -- try to compare that epic with the revolutionary war of 1776 in the American colonies. It is far from being parallel! Here, on this continent, the American colonists well entrenched at home, rose in arms to fight Britain's hired mercenaries, thousands of miles from England, while the Greeks completely surrounded by the conqueror rose in arms within the well established Turkish Empire to shake off the bonds of tyranny. Here in America was an armed effort to establish political, social and economic principles -- there in Greece the struggle was to break the shackles of 400 years of slavery and oppression.

In the spirit of this significant day and under the influence of the environment associated with it, many of us who lived and enjoyed early youth under the clear Grecian skies, should be forgiven as we are reminiscing of this day back home. And we live all over, and recall once again -- how we marched from school to church in body, carrying the "Blue and White" flag, and singing the soul stirring songs of the great poet Rigas Fereos.

The eyes of all of us become moist and our hearts beat faster, as we recall with mingled emotions the "reciting" of the poems in church, in front of the altar, nervously but with pride, and it is with difficulty or in vain that we hold back a tear as we can almost hear once again.

And there comes a lump in our throats we hope and wish that our younger generation here, could understand, react and feel the same way as we do, about this glorious period in the history of the Greek People.

Adversities and Sacrifices

Let us digress for a while and cite some instances in the history of civilized peoples, and nations, that justify beyond any argument why we the descendants of the Greeks of 1821, should not only always remember. respect and commemorate, but also exalt with pride for this date in history -- the 25th of March -- the day which belongs to Hellenism!

The Great Pericles in an address to the Athenians said to them: "Convinced that Happiness lies in Liberty and Liberty in Courage, you must face firmly all the dangers of War."

Human attainments have never, in all history, been possible except by a path or a source which led through adversities and sacrifices. Were it not for the Exile of the Jews into Egypt, Moses would not have arisen to lead his people into Israel and to establish their Kingdom. Without the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, the Crucifixion that followed, and the persecution of his early followers, the Christian Church would never have come into being. The Reformation and its Protestantism could have arisen only from the torture chambers of the Inquisition and the iniquities of the then Church of Rome. Except for the injustices imposed by Britain upon the North America Colonies and the use of armed force against them, these colonies would never have united to form the United States, nor would this government have been born without the agonies of the Revolutionary War. Yes, we may even say that, without the Civil War, we would not have our strong Federal Government nor the civil rights and safeguards we now enjoy. The persecution of the Jews through the ages, climaxed recently in the atrocities committed upon them by Hiller’s Germany materially hastened and crystallized the formation of the nation of Israel in Palestine.

Neither lime nor this brief occasion permit now, that I should go into the detailed activities and manifestations that glorious period of 1821, nor do I fail to realize how weak my voice is and how limited my abilities are to coment on it. As members of or descendants of the Greek race, however, we can feel exalted with pardonable pride when we recall how a mere handful of men -- ill-fed, shabbily clad, uneducated, poorly armed -- fought -- yes, guerrilla fashion, and won a long war against the most powerful and richest nation of the time, the Turkish Empire, with its well-armed, organized, well-equipped thousands of trained soldiers.

Tremendously proud of their old lineage, Hellenes in spite of 400 years of the most bitter and cruel tyranny and slavery, capable of the highest expressions of devotion and enthusiasm, yes -- even arrogant to the extent of not doing anything by halves, never wavering from their goal, these hardy forefathers of ours, fought in a superhuman manner against every kind of odds -- for Liberty and Freedom! How they fought! How they suffered! How bitter and thorough were the enemy's efforts to exterminate the entire Hellenic people! How these people commanded the admiration of the entire civilized world, is an event the like of which is not found anywhere else in the history of the world! And it must be remembered that it was the United States, then an infant Nation, that first, among nations, recognized the justice of this struggle and encouraged the Greeks with material and moral aid -- food, supplies, medical assistance and moral as well as political pressure in the Diplomatic capitals of Europe for recognition. This was in 1821!

Another Glorious Day: October 28, 1940

Then came another day -- October 28, 1940 -- within the vivid memory of all of us. And we saw once again just a few years ago how a mere handful of inspired Greeks exploded the myth of the Invincibility of the Axis and changed the course of history, by rising, as if possessed, to fight and drive back the Italians in Albania and then turn around and hold back the invading Germans long enough to give- life and courage to the allies and thus give them time to reorganize and stiffen their resistance that eventually led to victory. You are all familiar with all that, and the newspaper headlines are fresh in your memory eloquently describing the deeds of these present-day Greeks -- when the occasion arose to render sacrifices and to fight for liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness, unhindered and unafraid! The entire civilized world pointed with admiration to this gallant nation, and recognition and eulogies were heaped upon these Heroes, by the leaders of all the nations, including the enemy, who acknowledged genuine heroism, and paid tribute to patriotism, and valor.

Mr. Churchill, then speaking for the British Empire, paid the highest tribute to the Greeks when he stated: "We always said the Greeks fought like heroes. It is more appropriate to say –Heroes fight like the Greeks."

Then another miracle took place. These very same People, apparently tired, beaten, spiritless, and worn out from four years of axis occupation, as their treacherous Balkan neighbors assumed -- -turned right around and were the first nation to "take on" the Communists in a battle that drew the admiration of the Western Democracies and particularly the United States who rushed in with substantial moral and material aid, in the first major successful effort by a nation to resist Communist aggression.

It is such eternal resistance to aggression -- heroic resistance, full of sacrifices and agonies -- that is more than just a glorious episode in the Life of a Nation. Rather it is a guarantee of that Nation's Survival.

The pertinent question arises, "How can a mere handful of people rise to such heights of heroism, and defeat armies of such greater numbers?" The answer lies in the fact that when these soldiers faced the enemy, they were supported by a glorious heritage, tradition and history of over 3,000 years, and by the invisible armies of countless heroes that fill the pages of the Hellenic history. The enemy -- Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany -- did not just face the army of a few million people only!

The enemy faced -- suddenly and unexpectedly -- an army of 8 million -- all the population of Greece. The entire Hellenic Nation -- those in Greece as well as those settled or scattered throughout the world -- men, women and children -- automatically, willingly and instantaneously responded, mobilized themselves in a united solid front at the sound of danger from Mother Hellas, and rose in indignation to constitute this Army of Freedom!

The Invisible Phalanx

But this army was not all! It was augmented by the invisible never-ending phalanx -- out of the extensive, unbroken and eternal National Horizons cd the Hellenic Race -- of three thousand years of heroes and martyrs -- with their glorious national principles and traditions, with their faith and loyalty in Hellenism and its mission, with their love and reverence for the Grecian mountains and valleys, the indescribable sea, the clear Grecian sky, the Parthenon and the symbol for which it stands! The twelve Olympian Gods were there at the battle front! So was Achilles and the heroes of the Illiad, and the army of Marathon and Salamis, and Leonidas with his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. The Byzantine Emperors, with all the Patriarchs of our glorious Orthodox church, backed by a thousand years of dignity, religious splendor, and noble traditions -- all were there, flanking to the right and left and backing up the fighting evzons!

Paraphrasing the immortal Lincoln, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did there."

All this was in the Past -- from 1,000 years B.C. to date. For 3,000 years, it has been the task of the Greek People to stand Guard for Freedom and Democracy, at the gates of Europe.

The question now is -- what are we the present day Greeks, doing to carry on this heritage and these traditions? We are the descendants of these people, the challenge is upon us, the younger generation of Greek ancestry, to live up to these expectations.

The United States is our country now. How can we best serve it. Our fathers and mothers came here a few short years ago, with limited education, no money, no luxuries, no training but with the greatest asset of all -- a healthy body, a disciplined mind and the thought that the eyes of their ancestors and the world, were upon them and had to make good! And they did make good! In the short space of fifty years they became part of this glorious and hospitable land, they applied themselves earnestly, worked hard, built homes, raised families, prospered, helped their mother land materially, and are most useful and valuable citizens and still proud of their ancestry!

Now it is up to us to make good, and live up to the heritage of our race and of our ancestry. Is the goal too high? Are we big enough and capable for the challenge?

Are we content to stand still, resting on the laurels of our ancestors or of our parents? The Greeks have been known to go into new lands, accept its best traditions and standards, but are not content until they contribute the best that is in them to improve upon what they find. They do not attempt to change things, except by the substitution of something better, proved and acceptable to the people.

Are we after wealth only? Is material success our main goal? No statues have ever been built for the wealthy, no one remembers or hears about them after they pass on. Wealth dies with its owner. King Midas the fabulous Persian is only known because of his tribute to Solon, the wise man of Sparta; Alcibiades the Athenian, because of his friendship for Socrates.

Memorials are raised only for the Servants of Humanity. It is the names of heroes that resound in the Halls of Fame. And the Greeks have been just that eternal servants of Humanity, champions and guardians of Liberty, Freedom, Democracy! They never questioned the cost of the sacrifice, they were always prepared for it, they were disciplined to it, and cheerfully and instinctively offered it when the occasion arose. That is why the name of Greece and the Greeks has been a sacred name, an honorable name, a name spoken with admiration and respect throughout the ages. Let us aim to keep it such forever!

The Challenge of the Future

You will ask, "What do you recommend or suggest?" How can we prepare ourselves to live up to these expectations? What concrete plan do you propose?" The problem is not easy, it is difficult to offer a specific answer. It takes generations many years -- for civilizations to develop, materialize and create a noticeable effect on everyday life. It may take many more years before the names of Greek origin stand out prominently in the American life, as the names of men and women leaders in Industry, Politics, Society, Civic Activities, Art, Letters, Athletics, Music, Medicine, Professional, Educational. Scientific and other outstanding achievements. Many Greek names are there now, others are to come from us and from you!

Thirty years ago Greeks of college training could be counted in the few dozens, today they are in the thousands -- that is significant! During World War II there were (estimated) nearly 5,000 officers -- men and women -- of Greek extraction in the Services -- Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force -- from 2nd Lieutenant up to full Colonel!

I can only suggest this; Retain and be proud of your Hellenic names, and respect the best Hellenic traditions. Maintain always, friendly, tolerable and unalterable, Moral and Spiritual bonds with things Hellenic. Learn and know your History well and the things for which your ancestors are pointed out by the world. Be proud of your origin, but be modest! Whatever you learn, learn well and thoroughly! What you study, study earnestly! What you do, do well -- better than the other fellow! Discipline yourselves by constant effort and application and let the material reward be only incidental means to an end not your main goal in Life! Remember, you are of Hellenic Birth, the eyes of the World are upon you! We depend on you!

The earth will feel light, their smile will be proud and happy, if these fore-fathers of ours could see us from the Elysian Plains, the Eternal Resting Place of all Heroes, and feel certain that we are worthy descendants and torch-bearers of that Immortal Race, that has been fighting civilization’s battles at the gates of Europe for over 3,000 years. It is up to everyone of us to CARRY 0N for the glory that WAS that IS and WILL FOREVER BE -- GREECE!

© Order of AHEPA

About Major Arthur A. Karkalas

Arthur A. Karakalas was born in Vlahokerasia, Arcadia. Order of Ahepa Brother Arthur came to the United States in 1914 at a very early age and settled in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, with his uncle. He is a graduate of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Electrical Engineering and of Duquesne Law School with a degree of LLB.

Initiated into Ahepa Aristoteles Chapter No. 34 of Pittsburgh in 1926. Brother Atrhur served the chapter as Secretary and President; District Governor of Power District No. 4 (1939-1941) and Supreme Governor for one term.

At present affiliated with Philadelphia Chapter No. 26. Since 1942, Brother Karkalas has been with the United States Army and at the present he is stationed at Squier Signal Laboratory, Fort Monmouth. N.J as Technical Operations Officer. His present duties have to do with research and development of Electronic Equipment.

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