Campbell turns blue and white for Greek Independence parade



Six-year-old Fotini Pizanias may not know a lot about the history of Greece’s occupation during much of the Ottoman Empire and the 368 years of hardships and oppression that resulted.

But she did know that being part of an effort to celebrate the country’s liberation was fun.

“No, I’ve been here a lot,” she said when asked if it was the first time she had taken part in an annual Greek Independence Day parade.

Sunday’s yearly parade began at Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, 401 12th St., and was to rejoice and celebrate the country’s return to democracy and freedom. In 1453, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks, and Greece was under Ottoman rule until 1821 and the start of the country’s War of Independence.

March 25 is Greek Independence Day and is in conjunction with the Feast of the Annunciation, a religious holiday in which many Greeks worldwide celebrate their freedoms.

Fotini wore a traditional Greek costume called a kavathi and proudly carried two small blue-and-white Greek flags. Accompanying the girl were her mother, Irene Pizanias; 3-year-old sister, Efimia Pizanias; and her brother, Pantelis Pizanias, 11.

“This parade brings us back to our roots and helps us remember why we have our freedoms,” said Irene, a lifelong Archangel Michael church member. “It keeps the traditions alive for the kids.”

Speaking during a program that followed the parade were Bishop Metropolitan Savas Zembillas, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh; Phil Passas, St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church council member; Dr. James Pantelakis, a surgeon and a Campbell Memorial High School graduate; and Judge Lou D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

“We’re Greek not just by blood, but by spirit,” Bishop Zembillas said, noting that Greece was the birthplace of democracy and that Greeks have made numerous contributions to mathematics, the arts, music and dance. “Our feast is not just for Greeks, but for the world.”

Passas noted that from 1821 to about 1830, many Greeks bonded more closely with one another as the country emerged from slavery and oppression. The thrust toward independence inspired many people around the world, and the church was “a caretaker of hope” during a “dark and challenging period,” he explained.

The Ottoman Empire began in 1362 with the capture of Adrianople and lasted until about 1924. On March 25, 1821, the revolution against the Turks got underway.

Calling the Turkish occupiers “the last existing caliphate,” Pantelakis compared them to the Islamic State, saying that many Greeks were brutalized. Sunday’s parade also was to honor Christians, Muslims and others in Syria and Iraq who are oppressed, he continued.

Greeks also have made tremendous contributions to philosophy, chemistry and medicine, so it’s vital that children and young people know they, too, can have a positive impact on the world, Judge D’Apolito said.

Also during the program, Maria Katsadas, a Poland Seminary High School senior, read aloud the Tommy Lee poem “Proud Greek Souls.”

Fotini Koullas, a Campbell Memorial High ninth-grader, offered her rendition of a song titled “Tzivaeri” (precious stone or treasure).

Also part of the event was a large bay-leaf wreath to honor veterans of all military branches.