February 17th, 2013. Philadelphia – “Today is a great day in history, not only for the people from Ioannina, but for all Greeks and freedom lovers all over the world”, declared President Kostas Kravaris of The Epirotes Society of Philadelphia “The Omonia”. With those words the afternoon event honoring the “100 years of Independence of Ioannina” began. Hosted at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Philadelphia, members of the Greek community of Philadelphia listened as guest speakers from all over the Delaware Valley took turns and spoke on behalf of this historic day in Greek history.
Following Sunday liturgy service at St. George Greek Orthodox cathedral and a brief swearing in of several new year board members; Pastor Costas of St. George reflected on the glorious and long history of the region, Epirus. He spoke about Ioannina’s contributions to the world and Greece in general. “During the 18th century, every author of the Greek world, was either from Ioannina or was a graduate of one of the city’s schools”, said Father Kosta. He followed with, a brief description of the “Greek Enlightenment” era (1647–1830). Ioannina’s inhabitants were known for their commercial and handicraft activities which allowed them to trade with important European commercial centers, such as Venice and Livorno, where merchants from Ioannina established commercial and banking houses. The first three Greek owned printing presses that were operating in Venice and published thousands of books for the Ottoman ruled Greek people were established by members of the Ioannite diaspora, he added.
He also said, freedom was made possible by the contributions of our fellow brothers Hellenes. The countless dedicated Greeks from Cyprus and Crete who joined forces and fought with their fellow Hellenes to liberate the city of the Ottoman yoke.
Following lunch in the main hall and a short black and white historical film about Ioannina the singing of the national anthems of Greece and America – sung by Maria Angelis and Kosta Angelis of St. George, initiated a series of speeches. Kravaris introduced several speakers from the Greek-American community who spoke on behalf of Hellenism, both in Greece and the various diasporas.
Local chapter President of the Cretan Society, George Chronakis and President of the Cyprus Society, Dr. Stelios Tsinontides both came forward and were awarded plaques by the Epirotes Society of Philadelphia “The Omonia”, in honor of those who fought in the liberation of Ioannina.
President Kravaris closed out the day with an emotional thank you to all of the members who attended and participated in celebrating the 100 years of independence of Ioannina.
Ioannina was incorporated into the Greek state on 21 February 1913 after the Battle of Bizani in the Balkan Wars. The city’s formal name, Ioannina, means “Town of John” in Greek. There are two name forms in Greek, Ioannina being the formal and historical name, while the colloquial and more commonly used Jannena or Jannina (Greek: Γιάννινα) represents the vernacular tradition of Demotic Greek.