Off the Beaten Trail: In Search of St. Nicholas in Russia

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Velikoretsky St. Nicholas icon, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow



Santa Claus is not from the North Pole. He is based on Nicholas, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Myra, Lycia. This Greek/Byzantine city today is called Demre, in the Antalya province of Turkey.

            I had the unique opportunity of visiting Russia in late September through early October 2015, seeing the Byzantine Orthodox civilization of the North.  I visited sites of  Byzantine civilization in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novgorod, the birthplace of Russian Orthodox Christianity. At Christmas 2015, there is a worldwide travel alert to Russia for a possible risk of travel due to increased terrorist threat (November 23, 2015).1   I managed to get out of Russia in safety.

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The Tretyakov Gallery has a St. Nicholas icon from the 12th-early 13th century.

A whopping 72% of the  Russian adult population identified themselves as Orthodox Christians in 2008.Every Greek family has a member or friend called Nick. Russian iconography that stems back to the 10th century gave me a new perception of this ethnically Greek saint.

My search for St. Nicholas began at St. Basil’s Cathedral (Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat)  Museum in Red Square, Moscow.  St. Nicholas of Velikoretskoye was in an illuminated case. It is a 16th century tempera on wood icon It shows St. Nicholas with scenes of his life.  In 1555 the icon was brought from Vyatka to Moscow. The name Velikoretsky  means “of the big rivers”.  St. Basils Cathedral is divided into ten inner churches. The southern church was consecrated in honor of  the Velikoretsky  St. Nicholas  icon.

St. Nicholas of Zaraisk, Tretyakov Gallery

We did not have the time to visit St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is associated with the Russian Navy and has two churches. The lower St. Nicholas church is located on the first floor. The main shrine has a 17th century Greek icon of St. Nicholas with a relic.8  The Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood has an 1890’s St. Nicholas the Wonder worker icon. Our main focus in St. Petersburg was the Hermitage, Peterhof Gardens and Catherine the Great’s Palace.

The Tretyakov Gallery has a St. Nicholas icon from the 12th-early 13th century, Tempera on Wood. This is the earliest surviving Russian icon. This is the Novgorod icon painting style, when Christianity was beginning. St. Nicholas of Zaraisk with scenes of his life is of the Rostov-Suzdal School of the late 13th-early 14th centuries. The only full length fresco of St. Nicholas with an open gospel, 1108-1113 A. D.  is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery.

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Only full length fresco of St. Nicholas with open gospel, 1108-1113 A. D., Tretyakov Gallery.

On a visit to the “Decorated Icon Exhibit” at Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow, and jeweled St. Nicholas icon was exhibited at the Fine Arts Center. The Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. There is a side chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker with a prominent wall icon. “It is located in the south part of the gallery, for the country where St. Nicholas lived. Christianity came to Russia from the south, so the paintings in St. Nicholas’ side chapel illustrate the history of Christianity from the 3rd to the 9th centuries AD, before Russia’s’ conversion to it. It is here that one can see…..the theme of the Seven ecumenical Councils. St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, an ardent defender of Orthodox Christian doctrines, took part in the first Ecumenical council. That’s why these subjects are to be found next to those concerned with his pious life and Christian virtues in his chapel.”3         

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A jeweled St. Nicholas icon, Fine Arts Center, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow.

  The art of the Moscow goldsmiths in the 16th century is displayed in the Armory, Moscow Kremlin Museum. The art of fine enameling with large uncut stones is displayed in icons. “The folding icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker…is silver, but its cover is gold decorated with gems and pearls.”4

                We did not have the time to visit St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is associated with the Russian Navy and has two churches. The lower St. Nicholas church is located on the first floor. The main shrine has a 17th century Greek icon of St. Nicholas with a relic.5  The Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood has an 1890’s St. Nicholas the Wonder worker icon. Our main focus in St. Petersburg was the Hermitage, Peterho  Gardens and Catherine the Great’s Palace.

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Side chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow.

            An eight hour round trip from St. Petersburg took us to Novgorod, near the Swedish border. “The Novgorod State Museum’s collection of early Russian painting is unquestionably one of the finest in the world…Highlights from the earliest period (11th to 13th centuries) include ..St. Nicolas of Myra in Lycia (St. Nicholas of Lipno). These are prototypical images of the 14th and 15th centuries. ‘St. Nicholas of Lipno’ icon painted by Aleksa Petrov in 1294 is the earliest dated Russian icon. The fact that it bears the artists’s signature gives it unique historical significance.” 6  A circular icon of St. Nicholas that is dated 13th-14th century? possibly 16th century is the first icon that came into view when we entered the icon section.The site shows St. Nicholas icons from the middle 13th to end of 16th century.

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Folding St. Nicholas icon, 16th century, Armory, Moscow

            Early Russian painting was one of the most significant achievement of this civilization. Byzantium with its capital in Constantinople had a unique splendor of artistic Christian art that impressed the Slavic tribes. The early Russians believed that they “knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere on earth. We know not how to describe to you. The only thing we are certain about if that God makes His dwelling among the people there and their service is better than in any other country. We can not forget the beauty.”7 The Russian icon for centuries has been striving to reflect the ideal beauty of the heavenly world. 8

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Circular icon of St. Nicholas that is dated 13th-14th century, possibly 16th century, Novgorod State Museum.

Nicolas, Bishop of Myra, has always been the most admired saint, according to the book, “The Russian Icon” by the editorial Board of the Russian Orthodox Church. He prays for all Christians, helps people in misfortunes, protects travelers and quickly defends those to whom injustice has been made. His veneration in Early Russia was almost as great as that of Christ and Mary. Numerous churches were dedicated to St. Nicholas. A large quantity of icons were created in his memory. Russian proverbs show a deep faith in his power.9 Our roots are in Greece, a country plundered by conquests. My 2015 Russian trip showed me that our Byzantine inheritance lived on after the fall of Constantinople with, as the next generation of my family says, “with the Greeks of the North”.


  3. “Cathedral Of Christ The Savior (Ivan Fiodorov Printing Company: Russia, 2005), pp. 25-9.
  4. S. Goncharenko and V.I. Narozhnaya, “THE ARMORY: A guide” (Red Square Publishers:Moscow, 2012), PP.36-9.
  6. N, Grinev, “NOVGOROD THE GREAT” (Ivan Fiodorov Art Publishers: St. Petersburg,2004), pp. 48-50.
  7. Editorial Board of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Russian Icon” (P-2 Art Publishers: St. Petersburg,, 2011) p. 1,
  8. “Russian Icon”, pp. 2-3.
  9. “Russian Icon” p. 9.

Links: Tretyakov gallery


On the Road in Italy: Baroque Costumed Opera in Venice

A costumed usher gave us a warm welcome with a program. Photos by Despina Siolas, Md/PhD



Costumes, formal etiquette from the baroque era (1600-1759) made a classical concert exceptional. “Baroque and Opera” at the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro in Rialto, Venice in late October 2017 was a once in a lifetime experience.

A banner of St. Theodore of Amasea hung at the entrance.

“Baroque and Opera” was the second opera we saw dedicated to Venetian composer Vivaldi at the main hall of the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro by the Orchestra I Musici Veneziani in Rialto. The hall was designed by Baldassare Longhenaith 17th and 18th century paintings. The hall reminded us of the Nikolaevsky Palace, known as the Vodka Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. A costumed usher gave us a warm welcome with a program. A banner of St. Theodore of Amasea hung at the entrance.

Despina Siolas, MD/PhD with concert administrator.

Selections were from the following composers and operas: Cimaros; Offenbach, ‘Barcarola’; Rossini, ‘Barber of Seville’; Verdi ‘La Travita’, ‘Rigoletto’; Puccini, ‘Tosca’, ‘La Boheme’ and other pieces. The costumes were lavish. Cooperation between the orchestra and singers was noticeable. Each enhanced each other’s performance. The Baritone gave a fabulous performance. I do not know why he has not been discovered like Bocelli. The singers’ names are not listed in the program.

– Orchestra I Musici Veneziani

The Sola Grande Di San Teodoro is named after the Saint Theodore of Amasea (Greek: Θεόδωρος) who is venerated as a Warrior Saint and Great Martyr in the Eastern Orthodox Church.”St Theodore was the patron saint of Venice before the relics of Saint Mark were (according to tradition) brought to the city in 828. The original chapel of the Doge was dedicated to St Theodore, though, after the transfer of the relics of St Mark, it was superseded by the church of St Mark….

Baritone gave a fabulous performance, Orchestra I Musici Veneziani

There were 15 churches in Constantinople dedicated to St Theodore, who was a Greek saint, specially venerated by the Eastern church.1 Professor Father Nicola Madaro of St. San Giorgio dei (“Saint George of the Greeks”) Church in Castello, said “Venice originally had been a subject city of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire). The Venetians saw St Theodore as a symbol of their subjection to Constantinople. The adoption of St Mark as their patron helped to establish their independence.” his statue on one of the two columns at the San Marco square.2IMG_6483

Concert Finale, Orchestra I Musici Veneziani.

Scuola Grande di San Teodoro was the confraternity of San Teodoro founded in 1258. The members were mainly merchants and artisans. The Scuola was first based at the Augustinian priests before it moved to the San Salvador church. It was originally a scuola piccola and it was granted scuola grande status in 1552. The construction of the current building started in 1579 by the architect Tommaso Contin and was finished in 1613. Throughout the 17th century, the building was enlarged and decorated with paintings by Vassilacchi, Jacopo Palma il Giovanna, Balestra and Bassano.

The Scuola di San Teodoro began as a charity offering education and training before it became a warehouse. Afterwards, it had distinct roles such as a dormitory for homeless, an archive and a movie theatre. In 1960, the Scuola was reconstructed and it is now used as a venue for cultural events such as exhibitions, meetings and concerts. Since 1999, I Musici Veneziani perform their concerts in the beautiful setting of the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro.3



Leaving the music hall and walking to our hotel, the Bizansio (Byzantium) near St. George Church, showed us the beauty of night time Venice. The store windows had festive costumes to appeal to the tourist. Opera evenings in Venice for only 25 to 38 euros ($30-$40) is an experience a tourist must enjoy.


  2. Wikipedia/St. Theodore

Links: buy tickets.

Photos by Despina Siolas, Md/PhD


Photo1 – A costumed usher gave us a warm welcome with a program. Photos by Despina Siolas, Md/PhD

Photo 2 – A banner of St. Theodore of Amasea hung at the entrance.

Photo 3- Despina Siolas, MD/PhD with concert administrator.

Photo 4- Orchestra I Musici Veneziani

Photo 5 – Orchestra I Musici Veneziani

Photo 6 – Store windows had festive costumes to appeal to the tourist.

Extraordinary Act of Heroism Revealed at 111th NYPD Meeting


“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A 16-year-old youth went out on the ice in Little Neck Bay the evening of January 6th, ´said 111th Precinct, Deputy Inspector William McBride, Commanding Officer at the Community Council meeting located at 45-06 215th Street, BaysideNY. “The nearest cop on duty was officer Constantine Saoulis. The teenager knew Greek. Officer Constantine Saoulis, who knows Greek, began talking to him in Greek calming the youth down. The ice was not frozen solid. The teenager boy fell through the ice and started swimming frantically with arms stretched upward. Officer Saoulis jumped into Little Neck Bay to save him.”photo2

The thought that came to Officer Saoulis mind, a 35-year-old father of three children, was “I saw a young boy like my son. I felt I had to save him.” He saved the drowning youth, taking him out of Little Neck Bay. Officer Constantine Saoulis was awarded the “Cop of the Month” Award for January by the 111th NYPD Community Council. A filled room heard of this unique NYPD rescue. I have been attending the 111h Community Council Meetings for 37 years since 1991. This was the first time I heard of an NYPD officer being a capable swimmer, like a lifeguard, saving a drowning youth.

“So, you know Greek,” I asked Officer Saoulis in a packed room. He looked at me with a focused penetrating look. Impressive, determined and proud of his Greek heritage inspired him in this rare act of heroism.

In a personal interview, Officer Saoulis said “I almost didn’t make it.” I had flashbacks of an eighteen-year-old student with the same name who studied Advanced Greek in my class. Officer Constantine Saoulis was my student at St. John’s University, under the internally famous Chairman Dr. Gaetano Cipolla and Dean Salvatore Spizziri. The January 2018 “Cop of the Month” awardee is from a town near Sami, Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea. His sister, Attorney Katerina Saoulis, was one of my first students. They are both graduates of the St. Demetrios of Astoria elementary and high school system, stressing a Greek, western civilization curriculum, that is not politically correct.

Officer Saoulis is a former New York City educator with two Master of Arts degrees in Education and Special Education. “My education background motivated me to be a police officer.” Officer Saoulis was a thoughtful, quiet, sensitive, independent free thinker in my Modern Greek class. These unique traits contributed to this extraordinary act of heroism. I am honored, as an American, to have witnessed Deputy Inspector William McBride, a 2001 World Trade Center hero, award hero Officer Constantine Saoulis.

Originally established in the 1940’s, Precinct Community Councils are forums that provide on-going, direct communication between the police and community.  Community members meet regularly with the precinct Commanding Officer and Community Affairs Officers to discuss and find solutions to public-safety problems in their neighborhood.

There are councils citywide, one in each precinct.  In addition, Police Service Areas serving city housing developments convene resident councils.

Meetings are held once per month and open to the public1





Photos –

Photo1 –  Officer Constantine Saoulis (Left) with 111th Precinct, Deputy Inspector William McBride.

Photo 2- 111th Precinct, Deputy Inspector William McBride (left) with Officer Constantine Saoulis and family.


Dimitris Filippidis: A Man of the Moment

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Journalist with Dimitris Filippidis

The February 4, 2018 Athens rally opposing the SYRIZA government’s policy of allowing FYROM (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) call itself Macedonia is causing a rewriting of history in Greece. Mr. Dimitris Fillipidis on February 13th Hellas FM broadcast reported Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris wants to rename the city’s airport, currently named Macedonia Airport. Official news outlets claim 140,000 persons attended the Athens rally. Journalist Fillipidis, who was there, said it was one and a half million persons. The Mytilenian Society of America in Astoria awarded Mr. Fillipidis and Vikentios Malamatenios awards for courage and heroism in mobilizing Greek and Greek-American opposition to the renaming of FYROM to Macedonia by the current SYRIZA Greek government’s consent on Sunday, February 11th.

“I do not spare anyone chestnuts,” Filippidis quoting a Greek saying in his broadcast on February 12th. “The only weapon is the protest of the people against the established government. The Greek government is promoting disunity, looking out for their interests and not the interests of the people. FYROM can not get a national identity by claiming other nation’s heritage, namely the GREEKS. I lived an unbelievable existence during the Athens rally…The government must respect the Greek first. I am for a Greek patriotism. Greece first and let anyone call me a fascist. Two million went out in the streets February 4th peacefully.

The people will not allow the selling of our national spirit. Turkish military boats are cruising illegally in the Greek Aegea. The Greek government says nothing. They want the rest of Cyprus, the Aegean islands, Epirus and Macedonia. One day we will awaken and see that they have taken Kavala and Thessaloniki. Greece is being threatened and the Greek government is not protecting national security.” Mr. Fillipidis sounds like the 2016 United States elections with the slogan “America First”. His bravery is commendable.

Malamatenios, Fillipidis and Hellas FM have stated they “will not be bought by money. We follow the road of patriotism and love for our country.” REMARKABLE. March18, 2018 a rally is scheduled at 2 p.m. in front of the United Nations to protest the naming of FYROM to Macedonia.

Dimitris Filippidis, reporter of HELLASFM had a strong influence. In a time when persons are selling off their country of Greece, one person is standing in their way: Dimitris Filippidis. In his broadcasts, he says” We are lucky in the US to have the church’s support through the leadership of Archbishop Demetrios, who is backing the March 18th rally outside the United Nations at 12 p.m. to protest the naming of FYROM to Macedonia. We are giving Macedonia to our children. The holy soil of Macedonia is Greece and Greece is Macedonia. Turkish military boats are cruising illegally in the Greek Aegean. Greece is being threatened.”

Memorial for the Late Educator Constantine Parthenis Held


Opening prayer with Very Rev. John Antonopoulos, Prometheus Board and guests.


The Greek Teacher’s Association “Prometheus” in cooperation with the Hellenic News of America held an event in honor of the late educator Constantine Parthenis, first President in 1975, on Sunday February 11th at St. Catherine’s Church, Astoria, New York. A memorial service at the church was followed with a reception in St. Catherine’s Church hall. The event was held in conjunction with the celebration of “The Three Hierarchs, Fathers of Greek Education” and “International Greek Language Day” on February 9th. An exceptional education program followed with a luncheon in Memory of the late Barbara Triantafillou, spouse of President Demosthenes Triantafillou.

The late Constantine Parthenis family and Board.

The program included: Prayer and cutting of Vasilopita, Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral and Very Rev. John Antonopoulos; Welcome, Prof Alexander Colombos; Welcome Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou, “Prometheus “ President; Greetings by Dr. Thalia Chatzigiannoglou, Education Consular of the Greek Consulate of New York; Mrs. Maria Makedon, Director of the Direct Archdiocesan District Office of Education; Mr. Paul Kotrotsios, Founder and President of the Hellenic News of America and Hermes Expo; Remarks, Timoleon Kokkinos; Prof. Alexander Colombos; President Demosthenes Trianfillou of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”; Dimitrios Kontolios, President of Panchiaki Korais Society; Keynote speaker Very Rev. John Antonopoulos of St. Demetrios Cathedral, Astoria and PowerPoint presentation of the education by Mrs. Anna Sakkis.

Filled hall.

“Mr. Constantine Parthenis worked for the advancement of the cultural and educational life of the Greek-American community,” explained Prof. Alexander Colombos. “He was the first President of ‘Prometheus’. He served as Principal of the Department of Education of St. Demetrios Greek Parochial School and the Greek Afternoon School of Astoria. Mr. Parthenis educated students who have distinguished themselves in American society.” Education Consul Thalia Chatzigiannoglou believes “he helped the children of Astoria learn Greek well, remembering their Greek heritage.”

Director Maria Makedon “I worked with Mr. Parthenis for many years seeing him build the curriculum of the Greek parochial schools with devotion and an outstanding degree of professionalism.” President Triantafillou said “2017 workshop series for Teachers of the Greek Language were held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New York and the Ascension School in Fairview, New Jersey through the cooperation of Director Maria Makedon and Dr. Thalia Chatzigiannoglou, Education Consular of the York. This Pedagogical Program was the child of our proposal at our 40th Honorary Luncheon of PROMETHEUS.


Keynote speaker Very Rev. Antonopoulos explained “I worked with educator Parthenis from the 1970’s, seeing him mold our Greek-American youth. Long Live his Memory.” Very Rev. Antonopoulos has written three books on the Greek Orthodox Churches of Astoria, New York. Mr. Timoleon Kokkinos, retired principal of the Greek Department of St. Demetrios of Astoria Greek Parochial School, said “Mr. Parthenis worked with dedication to teach his students Greek. Everyone learned because of his high standards, not only for the students, but himself.”

Mr. Dimitrios Kontolios explained “Mr. Parthenis was known as ‘The Teacher’ in Chios. He was tough, stern and everyone had respect for him. He worked tirelessly for the Panchiaki newspaper ‘Chiaka Nea’. “

Honored guests in photos

“Mr. Parthenis was one of the great Greek-American educators,” stated Prometheus President Demosthenes Triantafillou. “He was instrumental, along with Mr. Timoleon Kokkinos, in helping me build St. Demetrios High School in New York. His Children and grandchildren are here today with us. His great strength was his family, who supported him in all his projects.”

Mrs. Sakkis explained “ has spent endless hours of work to keep people united to the common cause of the Greek language and Hellenism. We appreciate President Triantafillou, the Prometheus Board and members who are working tirelessly towards this goal. United we can re-awaken this spirit to the new generation of Greek children. Inspire them to love and embrace our beautiful language, timeless history and rich culture.”

President Triantafillou expressed his “appreciation of your (Mrs. Sakkis’) magnificent work for Hellenism. What a wonderful presentation of a promising new program of learning Greek! The general testimony of all the attendees to the Prometheus Event today was an exuberant affirmation of the excellent work you have initiated with your program of website!  As the President of the Prometheus Board, I am expressing their deep appreciation to you for your presentation and for your contribution of the $ 500.00 to the recently founded Greek Teachers Pension Fund.


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Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou Is 2018 Educator of the Year

Prof. Triantafyllou with Veta Diamataris Papadopoulos

Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou was honored as “Educator of the Year” in 2018 by The Ethniko Kirikas, a Greek Media outlet. A filled room with diplomats, businessmen, educators and parents came to honor Prof. Triantafillou for his unselfish, dedicated work in Long Island City New York.IMG_8980 - Copy

“We all came from New Jersey for Educator Demosthenes who believes in Hellenism,” said Father Christos L. Pappas, protopresbyter of the Ascension Greek Orthodox Church of Fairview, New Jersey. “He has given to our church school. We are blessed with a very advanced and accomplished Greek afternoon school with classes ranging from kindergarten through ninth grade. We would not have the school we have if it was not for him.”

Prof Demosthenes Triantafillou with award, Father Christos L. Pappas, protopresbyter of the Ascension Greek Orthodox Church of Fairview, New Jersey with parish members and Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”.

Prof. Triantafillou in his acceptance speech explained “Our Ascension has a complete Junior-High Gymnasium Program with grades 7, 8 and 9.IMG_8979IMG_8960.JPG

In 2007, the School Board decided that graduation will be taking place at the end of 9thGrade. The NY State Regents Exams are recommended to be taken at the end of the 9th Grade. Students who complete the 9th Grade can also take the Ellinomathia Level I and II Exams. Our goal is to give our youngsters of our community the chance to learn advanced Greek in the upper grades!  It is a privilege!” Over twenty persons attended from the Ascension Church.IMG_9010

Principal Triantafillou is one of the most fascinating, enthusiastic and humorous educators I ever met,” said Kosta Koutsoubis, a parent at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Saviour in Rye, New York. His communication skills with students and peers are exceptional. He is a man of humility who gives merit to persons of achievement without self-interest. This is the type of man who encourages Hellenism.”IMG_8929

Fanny Zicopoulos, retired educator, recalls “Principal Triantafillou built St. Demetrios High School. I was honored to be selected as one of the creators of a kindergarten book for the Greek program. At the time, in 1979, materials did not exist. We created the first book with on of Principal Demosthenes Triantafillou, ” The book is entitled “Mathaino Ellinika”( I Learn Greek): First Book for Kindergarten. It was part of a series of three books.

Prof Triantafillou’s experience as an educator includes tenures as a public school assistant principal – he is licensed as a principal and a superintendent in New York State – and he is currently the director of the Greek schools of the of the Ascension Church in Fairview, NJ and of The Church of the Savior in Rye, NY.

Mathaino Ellinika”( I Learn Greek): First Book for Kindergarten. It was part of a series of three books, that was first of its kind in 1979.

He is President of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”, who attended in full force. “We have a new vision: stabling a Pedagogical Greek Teacher’s Center in a NYC university. I am committed to having the Association take the lead in establishing a pension fund for its members.”

Prof. Triantafillou has worked closely with the Hellenic News of America. He believes “

The Greek American community of the United States will be celebrating a milestone in journalism history. All will join together to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Hellenic News of America newspaper. Mr. Paul Kotrotsios has injected enthusiasm in the soul of this extraordinary newspaper.”

“We must keep Hellenism and our ethics alive,” you believe. “The business and education sectors must help us at Hellenic News of America and the annual Hermes Expo International to keep our heritage alive. We must not assimilate. Today, more than ever, we need to work more intensively towards the perpetuation of our traditions.”

”On behalf of the Board of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” allow me to state that I very rarely meet heroic personalities dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Greek Language and Culture like your dynamic and committed personality. You have become a legend in the Greek American Community! The above is an understatement of your heroic leadership and assistance in making the honorary Luncheon for Prof. Catherine Tsounis Siolas such an enormous success on Sunday, September 24, 2017!IMG_9012

We thank you for all your financial support and enthusiastic participation. We have received your $ 500.00 of the Hellenic News of America, as well as, the $ 500.00 for the Hellenic Paideia of America Association. Moreover, we express our gratitude for the participation of the Hellenic American National Council and for its contribution of $ 1,000.00. The collective effort and mutual support wrote another golden page in the Annals of the history of Greek Education in New York City and the USA. The Board of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” appreciates your support and is looking forward to more activities of such a meaningful mission!”

The evening can be summarized by the 4th century B.C. orator Demosthenes who said, “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprise.”IMG_9014IMG_8931


A Woman Who Shaped the Lives of Youth: Maria Athanasiades

Reprint from




tsounisathanschImage2adjA Woman Who Shaped the Lives of Youth: Maria Athanasiades
by Catherine Tsounis


“Costas Athanasiades could not achieve so much without the full support, cooperation, help, love and encouragement of his devoted wife, Maria,” said Christos Tzelios, businessman/philanthropist of the Athanasiades Cultural Foundation, Inc. “She has been taking care of her husband, especially his diet, cooking healthy only. Mrs. Athanasiades was working while her husband was publishing the non-profit Cambana newspaper. She is a fair and just person. They do not come like her anymore. A patriotic, courageous woman, she comes from the Pontos. Mr. and Mrs. Athanasiades live a frugal life and are environmentalists. They care for the people and the earth.”

“It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of MARIA ATHANSIADIS on 7/7/09,” said Mr. Tzelios with deep emotion. “Mrs. Athanasiadis was a co-founder of the Athanasiades Cultural Foundation, Inc. and dynamic patriot.She was active to the last minute of her life and passed away in peace. Her memorial service was held at Antonopoulos Funeral Home, Ditmars Blvd at 38 Street, Astoria, NY, on Thursday, July 9, 2009. The visiting hours were from 2 to 8 p.m.”

The Athanasiades Cultural Foundation has awarded scholarships to outstanding students for sixteen years. Their elegant Awards Ceremony held every Thanksgiving weekend has promoted a positive self image among participating college students.

Vivi Tzelios, a close friend says, “Maria lived her entire life religiously. The athanasiades’ helped persons obtain their American citizenship papers and green cards so they could contribute to American society. They never asked for anything in return. They gave with their heart.” The folk proverb from the Aegean islands is “Do good and then forget it by throwing it into the sea”(Kano to kalo and petaxe to sto gialo). Stelios Panagopoulos, a neighbor said “Maria performed many philanthropies. I deeply admire her and Kostas for speaking the truth of all injustices.”

Maria Athanasiades roots were from the Black Sea coast of Pontos. She grew up in Thessaloniki, fluent in Pontiaka, an ancient Greek dialect. She immigrated to Australia. In 1959, she married Kostas Athanasiades. She was an educated woman in the Health Care Sciences as a nurse. She continued to practice this skill when she immigrated to the United States.

I personally heard about the Athanasiades as I grew up in Astoria. They were folk heroes to the first and second generation Americans. Everyone felt a celebrity walked the street of 37 Street between 31st and 30th Avenue, when Kostas Athanasiades and Acrchimandrite Germanos Polyzoides (the founder of St. Demetrios Cathedral) appeared. I personally became friends with Kyria Maria through Christos and Vivi Tzelios, who adored the Athanasiades couple. They literally gave away a fortune to college students in the United States, Greece and Greek Epirus, Albania.

She particularly loved the Modern Greek St. John’s University scholar Keily Abreu, a Caribbean-American student, who delivered a speech in Modern Greek at one of their socials. She aided many, middle class students, who are forgotten in society, because they are neither rich nor poor. They changed the scope of Greek-American scholarships by not looking at the income of the students, just academic record and their dedication to Modern Greek language and culture. Today, the middle class is suffering, paying taxes and receiving little assistance from the government and college institutions. Maria and Kostas understood the injustice of all governments from the left and right. Their Athanasiades Foundation is a beacon of light to students. Elegant, aristocratic, a woman of few words but monumental works, Mrs. Maria Athanasiades will be remembered by the college youth she aided and are taking their place in society.


(Posting date 17 July 2009

HCS encourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL, especially fine articles penned by Dr. Catherine Tsounis and press releases about the Modern Greek Studies program at St. John’s University at the URL



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Widow of WWII Hero of the Remagen Bridge Passed Away

Mrs. Fotini Aneson

Mrs. Fotini “Fay Aneson, the widow of WWII hero of The Remagen Bridge, the gateway to victory in Germany, passed away. Her funeral was held Thursday, February 15th, 2018 at the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, Mattituck, NY. Fr. Ignatios Achlioptas performed a moving funeral liturgy. Mrs. Aneson was buried at Sterling Cemetery, Greenport.

Her niece, Kathy Hatzi, who watched over her through the years, recalled “Aunt Fotini was a philanthropist. She was always helping her neighbors. She encouraged her husband, the late George Aneson, who was a WWII hero, to help their neighbors in their island of Imbros, that now belongs to Turkey.” Mrs. Aneson was in the background, helping her husband aid the Christians of this Middle Eastern country, who faced persecution. His story was her story.

The following is a reprint of the late George Aneson’s heroic act at the Remagen Bridge Germany during WWII, from Greeknewsonline, December 1 2003 entitled “George Aneson Honored for W.W. II Heroism”.

“Your unique contribution to the United States during W.W. II is appreciated by your country. George Aneson, you are a role model for our youth. We will pass a resolution honoring you in the State Assembly,” said Patricia Acampora, State Assemblywoman and Chairperson of the Suffolk County Republican Party. A representative from Congressman Timothy H. Bishop’s office and Elias Neofytides, Public Broadcasting producers/community leader, honored the Peconic, L.I. resident. The awards program was presented at noon, on Sunday, April 4th, at the Fasolada social in the hall of the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Mattituck, L.I. The Ladies Philoptohos Society sponsored the event. Mr. Aneson is an Archon (Defender of the Faith) of the Greek Orthodox Church. He has helped the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in numerous projects throughout New York City and Long Island area. Rev. Dionysios Marketos, Parish Council president Peter Gourlidis and Ladies Philoptohos president Andrea Gourlidis honored him for his contribution to the Transfiguration Church.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I appreciate the opportunity to join the long list of individuals who have commended you for your heroic actions during World War II. Your act of bravery saved the lives of many American men after the collapse of the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen, Germany,” said Congressman Bishop in a letter read by his representative, Leah Sullivan.

Congressman Bishop continued saying that “all of the men and women in our armed services are heroes the moment they dress in the military uniforms of our country. The strength of our nation and the rights we hold dear to us are secure because of individuals such as you. It gives me joy knowing that your courage did not merely save the lives of the American engineers in Remagen, but it allowed these young men to return home to create families of their own. Your heroism is infinite; as your story will be retold by each generation surviving the men you saved in 1945. Each time a child is born to these families, they will thank you, in thought and by word.”


He added, “I extend to you my gratitude and appreciation. You represent the finest of American’s that have served this country. Our nation will always be grateful to you and all of our young military men and women at arms and in peace.” Congressman Bishop representative Leah Sullivan presented an American flag that flew over the Capitol to Mr. Aneson.1





Memories at The Trinity Church on Sparrow Hills

View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills



“Napoleon stood atop Sparrow Hills, the highest point in Moscow, and looked down upon the city as his Grand Armee entered. Tolstoy writes in War and Peace, ‘The view of the strange city with its peculiar architecture, such as he had never seen before, filled Napoleon with the rather envious and uneasy curiosity men feel when they see an alien form of life.” – James R. Holbrook.

The Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills

We saw autumn flowers on Sparrow Hills on the way to the Trinity Church in a recent trip to Moscow, Russia. A beautiful pastel green church, with beautiful outdoor mosaics, attracted our group’s attention. “This is the highest point in Moscow,” said our guide Irina. “I went to Moscow State University that is called one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ of Stalin. We would stop by the Trinity Church as college students.” Outside, we saw an impressive mosaic of St. Alexander Nevsky (savior of Medieval Russia from German and Swedish invaders) kneeling and asking for a blessing. Would we see this where we come from in 2018? The icon of St. Panteleimon, an early Christian doctor, reminded me of my church’s similar icon in The Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox church of Mattituck, New York. The altar and church interior give one a feeling of calmness and spirituality. Sparrow Hills has a natural beauty.

View of Moscow from Sparrow Hills

Sparrow Hills was an inspiration for Russian poets and writers. Sparrow Hills is a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River and one of the highest points in Moscow. On top of the hill, 85m above the river, is the observation platform which gives a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Travelers used to climb on top of the hill to enjoy the view and to see the final point of their destination: Moscow. The name ‘Sparrow’ – in Russian ‘Vorobyovy’ – was originally the name of the village that was located nearby.

Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills

Standing on the observation platform you can see almost all central Moscow: the Luzhniki Stadium (where the 1980 Olympic Games took place); the domes of Novodevichy convent; the Kremlin churches; Christ the Savior Cathedral; and the Seven Sisters, Stalin’s high-rise buildings. Sparrow Hills attracted not only visitors to Moscow but also Russian architects. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was originally planned to be built here. While that didn’t happen, later in the 20th century another temple was put up on Sparrow Hills. It was a temple of knowledge: the famous Moscow State University. It looks spectacular at the top of the hill and thanks to its location the University can be seen from afar.2

photo 5
The icon of St. Panteleimon, an early Christian doctor. Trinity Church, Sparrow Hills.



would never have gone to Russia, if I had known what is surfacing in the U.S. press. I am glad I was ignorant. I saw the splendor of a civilization that has Byzantine Orthodoxy alive in the Russian Orthodox Church. “Nearly four-in-ten of the world’s Orthodox Christians live in a single country – Russia.”3 In this time of “Russian phobia”, the government and Russian people are rebuilding their Christian monuments destroyed by the atheistic communist regime. The majority of Russians have a lifestyle below the standards of our public assistance families and the stipends given by the EU to refugee/immigrants. Seeing Sparrow Hills and The Trinity Church, through the eyes of a university graduate of the communist regime, showed me the spiritual faith of a people whose Christian heritage remained, against the political correctness of an established government.


-Mosaic of St. George, Trinity Church exterior, Sparrow Hills.
An impressive mosaic of St. Alexander Nevsky (savior of Medieval Russia from German and Swedish invaders) kneeling and asking for a blessing.




  1. – Moscow Memoir: An American Military Attaché in the Ussr 1979-1981 by James R. Holbrook.