Upper Darby, PA – The Pontian “Akritai” of Philadelphia hosted the annual Genocide memorial service yesterday, at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. The commemoration started with a memorial service during the church liturgy service. It was followed with a procession outside to the Pontian monument where several hundred members of the Greek-American community also assembled in support of the day of remembrance.
Dance group members dressed in traditional folk attire and recited a scripted lament for their loss of homeland and genocide. Lira player, Christos Tiktaktipanidis accompanied them in the background as the somber moments brought tears to many. 353,000 was the number written on the monument. The Pontians of the Ottoman empire were systematically killed along with Assyrians and Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s been acknowledged as genocide in many countries around the world. But two major holdouts, the US and Israel continue to ignore the historical facts due to geopolitics and economic relations.
Several other speakers including, Dimitris Molohidis, President of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada, addressed the guests, along with Dr. Vassilios J. Theodorides, D.V.M., Ph.D., an authority on Pontian history and a key figure that led the effort to build the Pontian monument. Both spoke on the history of their ancestors of Pontos and reflected on a continued effort to find acknowledgment of the genocide by the Ottomans.
But what resonated most, again, was the carved words that sit below the Eagle on the monument. “We Will Never Forget,” was echoed in conversations amongst the 2nd and 3rd generation of family survivors. Those words continue to inspire and unite the Pontian community that forges ahead with a love of culture and honoring their lost loved ones.