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


Ivan Aivazovsky Lecture at Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs

3. Battle of Navarino, 1848,

“Ivan Aivazovsky: Remembering Armenia and the Eastern Roman Byzantine Heritage” PowerPoint program was presented by Prof. Catherine Tsounis on Wednesday, April 24th, at 1:15 p.m. to a filled church auditorium of the Women’s Guild of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, New York. “Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us,” said the leaders of the Women’s Guild to the speaker. “It’s always wonderful to expand one’s horizons. You have enabled us to do that today.” Father Abraham Malhasyan is the pastor. Co-Chairs were Zarmi Megherian and Carol Loshigian. The program co-ordinator was Carol Anastasian.

Speaker. Photo by Mardo Anastasian

“Our speaker has a Master of Arts degree in Byzantine history from Queens College,”
said Carol Anastasian in her introduction of the speaker. “She is a journalist, educator, writer of Greek language and culture. A photojournalist from 1974 in internet, magazine and newspaper mediums, Prof. Tsounis was inducted into “Who’s Who Among America’s teachers in 2002 and 2005. She had outstanding contributions to the New York City and the Greek community. She wrote many books of Greek American Experience and is active at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Flushing, NY. Prof. Tsounis will present an in look of the Armenian-Russian artist who produced 6,000 works.”

Speaker with community

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence- is the key to unlocking our potential -Winston Churchill. This describes Ivan Aivazovsky, a man educated in Byzantine history that combined this knowledge as an Armenian-Russian painter of the Late Russian empire,” explained Prof. Catherine Tsounis. “Two years in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, I saw paintings of the sea and Constantinople of an artist with a name beginning with ai, a Byzantine root. When I came back to the United States, I discovered he was the greatest Russian artist and one of the greatest marine artists in history, who promoted the Greek revolution in his paintings. He was baptized Hovhannes Aivazian of an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in the Crimea. His brother was the Armenian Catholic bishop Gabriel Aivazian.”

Carol Anastasian

The speaker showed 60 slides of his work, ranging from the sea, Constantinople, Greek battle scenes, Greece, Crete and the Crimea. His art is on stamps of Central Africa, Burundi, Moldova, Romania, Russia and European countries. They hang in private collections, Armenia, Russia the USA and Europe.

“Ivan Aivazovsky’s childhood was spent in poverty on the outskirts of the city facing the beautiful Feodosia Bay and the ruins of an ancient Greek fortress,” she explained.  Young Ivan was mesmerized by the grandeur of the view and the heroic stories told about the Greeks and the famous battles of the past. This love of Greece and Constantinople are prevalent in his art.”

The speaker showed his painting of Lord Byron meeting the Armenian monks at San Lazzaro island in Venice. “Lord Byron published the first English/Armenian dictionary, before he left for Greece to fight in their revolution,” she said.

“An oil painting of the Brig Mercury Attacked by Two Turkish Ships, 1892, showed he knew the sea and loved it. He developed a unique way of capturing its changing moods. Instead of copying directly from nature, he limited himself to pencil sketches. Coupled with his most important gift, an amazing visual memory, this enabled him to reproduce states of nature. He was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. Aivazovsky had close ties with the military and political elite of the Russian Empire and often attended military maneuvers. He was sponsored by the state and was well-regarded during his lifetime.IMG_9496

‘The Battle of Navarino’ is shown in Greek textbooks, newspapers and websites. Aivazovsky painted the decisive battle that Gave Greece its Independence. Scholars told me this Russian drew paintings showing Greek naval battles. I saw this oil painting in a book by the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle. He was awarded numerous medals by the Greek government.”

Prof. Tsounis displayed a slide of  “A Panorama of Constantinople, 1856 that shows the love of one of the greatest cities of history, coveted by the Russian empire for centuries. The sun shining gave the viewer a positive impression. He died in 1900 as his beloved country was being torn apart. He was buried at the courtyard of St. Sargis Armenian Church. A classical Armenian saying is engraved on his tombstone which translates: “He was born a mortal, left an immortal legacy”.

The speaker continued saying that “Mardo and Carol Anastasian inspired this information on the Armenian contribution to the Byzantine Empire. Dr. Peter Charanis of Rudgers University said the important role played in the history of Byzantium by that talented minority, the Armenians, has been generally unrecognized. Dr. Charanis, Greek-American Byzantine scholar and immigrant from Lemnos, Greece, was associated with the Dumbarton Oaks research library.  He believed these people (Armenians) appear, of course, were thoroughly Hellenized. ..Yet it may be asked whether their Hellenization was not unaffected by their original background, whether in being absorbed they did not modify the culture which absorbed them.IMG_9500

For something like five hundred years, Armenians played an important role in the political, military and administrative life of the Byzantine Empire. They served as soldiers and officers, as administrators and emperors. In the early part of this period during the seventh and eighth centuries, when the empire was fighting for its very existence, they contributed greatly in turning back its enemies. But particularly great was their role in the ninth and tenth centuries when as soldiers and officers, administrators and emperors they dominated the social, military and political life of the empire and were largely responsible for its greatness.

So dominant indeed was their role during this period that one may refer to the Byzantine empire of these two centuries as Graeco-Armenian; ‘Graeco’, because as always, its civilization was Greek, ‘Armenian’, because the element which directed its destinies and provided the greater part of the forces for its defense was largely Armenian or of Armenian origin. It was a role, moreover, of world-wide historical significance for it was during this period that the empire achieved its greatest success, when its armies triumphed everywhere, its missionaries spread the gospel and with-it civilization among the southeastern Slavs, and its scholars resurrected Greek antiquity, thus making possible the preservation of its literature.

Herein lies perhaps the most important part of the legacy of the Armenians to civilization. But while all this may be true, the point should be made and made with emphasis that the Armenians in Byzantium who furnished it with its leadership were thoroughly integrated into its political and military life, identified themselves with its interest and adopted the principal features of its culture. In brief, like many other elements of different racial origins, as, for instance, Saracens, Slavs and Turks, who had a similar experience, they became Byzantines.”1 One face, one race. Ivan Aivazovsky knew this and incorporated themes, looking toward the civilization of Constantinople.

Brig Mercury Attacked by Two Turkish Ships, 1892,

SPECIAL APPRECIATION was expressed: Mardo and Carol Anastasian; Queens Gazette; Kosta Koutsoubis of New York Physical Sports Rehabilitation, 44-02 Francis Lewis Blvd., 2nd Fl., Flushing; Mark of Bayside Hills Shoe Services; Madelene of Creative Cuts; Lara Ciamician for photography; Technical Assistance from Holy Martyrs Armenian Church, to Microsoft – Anant, technician, Adobe, Deepah, technician, Dell Connect engineers and Dr. John G. Siolas and Dr. Despina C. Siolas for their inspiration.

Panorama of Constantinople, 1856,

“The starting date of the Armenian Genocide is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Ankara 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The cleansing continued during and after World War I resulting in the massacre of millions of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians of Anatolia.

On April 24, 1919, prominent figures of the Armenian community that had survived held a commemoration ceremony at the St. Trinity Armenian church in Istanbul. Following its initial commemoration in 1919, the date became the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.

Yet, ever since the horrific events of 1915, Turkey is methodically denying the Armenian genocide. But despite Turkish denials, it is unanimously verified by the International Association of Genocide Scholars and accepted by nations that uphold moral responsibility above political purposes.”2




Links: slide program article – album


  1. Brig Mercury Attacked by Two Turkish Ships, 1892,
  2. Panorama of Constantinople, 1856,
  3. Battle of Navarino, 1848,
  4. Prof Catherine tsounis (2nd from left) with Father Abraham Malhasyan .













On the Road in Greece: KEM Bags Make a Statement


Finding a stylish leather bag in a New York retail store is difficult. The most stylish bags are synthetic. Handbags have been essential to fashion history ever since people have had something precious to carry around with them and only the items have changed over time. I enjoy window shopping in the provincial city of Tripoli. High fashion is prevalent. Tripoli is a European city that takes fashion seriously. Appearances count.IMG_3927IMG_3904

KEM Tripoli has the latest styles in synthetic and leather handbags. I make it a point to buy multi-colored leather bags that are very difficult to find in New York. This past year, KEM Tripoli had pastel colors that caught one’s eye. I bought KEM bags as souvenirs. The online bags do not show the diverse collection that I found in KEM Tripoli. It makes a difference shopping in person at a retail store.IMG_3920 I took photos and emailed them back to the states. I had members of my family select bags for purchase I like romance leather, picking a navy-blue bag.  Shoppers in malls ask me where I bought my bag. The handmade bags in leather and synthetic fabrics stay new, even after a few years. Shop in key cities of Greece. I shop at Tripoli store at Ethnikis Antistaseos 28, tel. 2710 227471IMG_3945


Astoria Community Supports Enthusiastically NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

Comptroller String (4th from left) Honorees, political and community leaders


Loud applause greeted NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and fellow politicians at the Greek Community Breakfast sponsored by his office on Friday April 27, 2018 in the Stathakion Cultural Center, 22-51 29th St., Astoria. The NYC State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and Councilman Costa Constantinides, clergy, federations and societies representative of the Astoria area attended. This is the Golden Age of Greek elected representatives in the area. Father George Anastasiou, the pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ in Corona, Queens, and HANAC under the directorship of John Kaiteris were honored. A filled audience with standing room only was present.

Honoree George Anastasiou and his teacher Dr. John G. Siolas

In this age of a distrust for Washington, D.C., only positive feeling was present for NYC Comptroller Stringer and fellow representatives of the Democratic Party. I have never seen applause for anyone. It began with Assemblywoman Simotas who greeted every table with humility and smile. State Senator Gianaris entered and the enthusiastic applause continued for this historic figure who opened the doors for Greek-Americans to enter po0litics. The momentum continued with Councilman Constantinides, who was praised for his dedicated work on the budget. This led up to the entry of NYC Comptroller who received strong, unanimous applause from.IMG_9533

“I am from Washington Heights near St. Spyridon Church,” said the Comptroller. “I understand small businessmen and the aspirations of the Greek-American middle class that plays by the rules. We know how family means to the Greek-American community. I am watching NYC funding. We are helping everyone not just the elite. I know what it is to be a New Yorker.” I am glad I live in New York City with a Comptroller who cares about the middle of the road Democrat.

Honoree Rev. Anastasiou remembered his years at the Washington Heights Sts. Anargyroi Church Greek American afternoon school. Dr. John G. Siolas, the honoree’s Sts. Anargyroi Church Greek School teacher said “I am honored to have taught you. We are all proud of you, Father George.”

This was an exceptional Greek Community Breakfast. Excellent American and Greek continental morning cuisine was offered. Elaine Xiaojiang Fan, Queens Borough Director of the City of New York Comptroller’s Office of Scott M. Stringer and her staff accomplished an outstanding public relations effort with the silent majority of middle class Greek-Americans of not only Astoria, but the entire New York City. Personally, I was impressed that NYC Comptroller Stringer cared about us, the persons, who work, follow the laws and don’t expect handouts. At the April 27th, 2018 Greek Community Breakfast, we were all proud to be New York City Democrats for a country who cares for its American citizens.

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Greek Americans from the city attended

Link: – album


HERMES EXPO 2018 Hosts a NYC Event “A Taste of Greece”


Celebrating its 27th year in 2018, the Hermes Expo International continues its mission to build and solidify business ties between Greek-American business owners, Phil Hellenes, regional and international businesses through networking, enabling and facilitating partnership opportunities and strategic alliances.

Paul Kotrotsios and guests

The Hermes Expo International and the Queens Chamber of Commerce sponsored A Taste of Hellas: A Mediterranean Palette Trade Portal on April 25th, Thursday evening from 5-7 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Ave., New York. Distributors of Greek Specialty Food such as Megas Yeeros, Manufacturers of the Original Yeero; Oinos Wine Importing Company, Gyro World and others attended. Sample food and wines were provided by sponsors.

Aphrodite Korotsios

The moderator was Hermes Expo Coordinator Paul Kotrotsios. The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) President Lou Katsos gave the introductions. Awards were given to prominent members of AHEPA and leaders of the community.IMG_9504

Paul Kotytrotrios and Crisouls Zikopoulos, Director of the epirus Museum, Astoria, NY

An exciting concert followed. “This is the third year that EMBCA, with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce is having the much-anticipated fun concert bringing together great cultures and friends for a unique musical experience,” said EMBCA President Lou Katsos. “I am the President of EMBCA and an Executive Board Member of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. We added the Havana musical beat to this great Greek and African American Blues/Jazz event. We will be  featuring this year: The Hellenic Music Ensemble, with Julie Ziavras (soprano); Spiros Cardamis (pianist) and Kostas Psarros (bouzouki) presenting a special musical program capturing the lyric expression and the rich, deep texture of the Greek spirit and culture; Alyson Williams, a fabulous well known Harlem Jazz & R&B recording artist withFriends and The Feeling Collective Band under the leadership of Miguel and Mariang Valdes, with a dynamic group of extraordinary Cuban Musicians.

Greek american businessmen

Founder and president of Hermes Expo, Mr. Paul Kotrotsios reflects that “For the past quarter century, the Expo’s purpose and reason for being has been to connect people and businesses.  That is why we take care to create an atmosphere and environment that makes it easy to network, explore partnerships and discover new opportunities.  Helping others form business alliances and partnerships in today’s unpredictable and uncertain economic environment is of paramount necessity.  Over the years, we are pleased to be able to point to many examples where, through The Hermes Expo, long-lasting and profitable business relationships began.  As we pass this milestone and look ahead, we continue to look for ways to enable, facilitate and explore new ways and possibilities to promote Greek products and services in the United States.” For more information, visit




Devotion for Country Expressed at NYC Greek Independence Day Parade




He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy. Socrates
Greek Americans in New York City joined together to create the most attended Greek Independence Day Parade in History. Support from churches, societies of the Northeastern states showed they are fighting for Greece’s Independence, showing a sign of strength to politicians. e Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York under the leadership of Petros Galatoulas and Board of Directors with the support of the Pan Macedonian Federation, galvanized the momentum created at the March 17th UN Rally opposing the name of FYROM as Macedonia.IMG_9218

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios showed strength and a dominant presence at the 197th Greek Independence Day Celebration. His support of “Macedonia is Greek” is his legacy, impressing on politicians the historic role of the Greek Orthodox Church in promoting Greek Independence. The Grand Marshals were New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, and businessman and philanthropist Pantelis Boumbouras. The New York City police (NYPD)had excellent police presence, securing public safety. Television, radio and internet coverage showed “Greece will never die”.

A remembrance of the two captive Greek soldiers in a Turkish jail, and the late aviator Captain Giorgos Baltadoros of the 331 Air Force Squadron who was lost in the Aegean were remembered on the honored guest podium. “Greek Americans have integrated into the American community, encouraging ethnic, charitable and educational projects,” said Demetrios A. Filios, Vice President of the Geros Tou Morea Chapter #1 of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America. Dr. George John Tsioulias, former President of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York, believes the viability and future of the Greek Diaspora heavily relies on the activities if its professional societies.”

Greek flags flying along 5th Avenue showed the “Greeks Overseas”  promote their homeland. This message resonated along 5th Avenue on April 22nd NYC Greek Independence Day Parade.

In Byzantium’s Footsteps: The Coming of St. Mark to Venice


Transfer of St. Mark in Procession to the Basilica. All Photos by Despina Siolas, M.D./Ph.D.

Every city and Christian empire had a saint as their symbol. Venice on its road to becoming a republic dominating the East and West needed a saint. Where were they to go? To the East, the center of the Byzantine Empire, that was conquered and now part of the Moslem lands. Moses Viero, our guide of San Mark’s Basilica, unfolded an incredible story of intrigue and adventure on a pleasant day in late autumn Venice.

St. Mark’s lion

San Marco Square is notorious for pick pockets. We were all vigilant. Nothing happened. I dropped my sweater and a member of guide Viero’s staff found and returned it. Walking numerous bridges and having to pay 31/2 euros per person to sit was our main problem in Venice.

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St Theodore was the patron saint of Venice before the relics of Saint Mark

“I have spent a large part of my life studying in the library of San Marco,” he said. “The transportation of St. Mark’s remains from Egypt is an incredible story. St. Mark was an evangelist from Jerusalem. He lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria was one of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Ptolemy, a general of Alexander the Great, built the city. The Library of Alexandria, the depository of the Ancient world’s learning.”

Abduction of St. Mark’s relics.

St. Mark was the oldest of the evangelists. He joined St. Peter in Rome. St. mark’s gospel was written in Rome after 50 A.D. at the request of Peter or the Christian community, who wished to retain a record of Peter’s preaching. Mark returned to Alexandria where he was martyred on April 25, 68 A.D.

St. Theodore and St. Mark’s symbols in San Marco Square.

It is difficult for a 2018 person to understand this concept of patron saints, while statues of our past are being torn down because of the 21st century view of political correctness. 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.”1

There were 15 churches in Constantinople dedicated to St Theodore, who was a Greek warrior saint like Sts. George and Demetrios, especially venerated by the Eastern Orthodox church. 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.”

Arrival of St. Mark’s body in Venice.

“Pizzetta di San Marco (San Marco Square) marked by two large granite columns carrying symbols of the two patron saints of Venice. The first is Saint Theodore, who was the patron of the city before St Mark, holding a spear and with a crocodile to represent the dragon which he was said to have slain. This is made up of parts of antique statues and is a copy (the original is kept in the Doge’s Palace). The second (eastern) column has a creature representing a winged lion — the Lion of Venice — which is the symbol of St Mark. This has a long history, probably starting as a winged lion-griffin on a monument to the god Sandon at Tarsus in Cilicia (Southern Turkey) about 300 BC.[9]The columns are now thought to have been erected about 1268.”2

St. Mark’s symbol of winged lion.

In the 8th and 9th centuries, the legend of St. Mark’s peaching in the Venice lagoon was formulated in Aquileia, a trading town on the Mediterranean whose first Christian Bishop Ermagora, was a disciple of St. Mark. Two Venetian merchants Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello travelled to Alexandria on business in 828 A.D. They went to venerate the saint’s relics in he church dedicated to him. The monk Staurazio and priest Teodoro, church custodians, said the church had been profaned by the Muslims, who were plundering Christian churches to build mosques. The two merchants removed the remains of St. Mark in baskets of pork and vegetables. The Arabs saw the pork, which is prohibited their religion’s diet laws, and fled. After a voyage full of dangers, they were received by Dodge Giustiniano.3 The Venetians were cunning and plundered the Byzantine Empire during the Crusades with one purpose: become the greatest Maritime Republic. They succeeded. Now they had a world class saint to catapult them to greatness. The influence of Greek and the Byzantine empire is stamped throughout the African continent from Egypt, the Nubian Desert, Ethiopia to Axum.5

St. Mark Martyrdom

The mosaics are portrayed in the exterior and interior of St. Mark’s cathedral. During the construction of the third basilica, the saint’s remains had been so well hidden, no one knew where to find them. In 1094, Doge Vitale Falier, patriarch and population prayed, and the relics reappeared inside a pillar. Religious and civil values were in the cult of St. Mark in Venice. The city is identified in history with the symbol of the winged lion, that symbolizes the image of St. Mark the Evangelist. Venice’s banner, churches, palaces, ships and lands it conquered were marked with the lion’s symbol.

St. Mark taken prisoner

How was this possible? “The Venetians came from Aquileia,” said our Aquileia guide Giovanna Strigher Di Robilant. “Their people have a tragic history. The Aquileians had a Roman civilization with theaters, forums and wealthy farmland. They had no walls. They were Romans. They never thought anyone would invade them. Invade they did. The Lombards destroyed, looted, raped and destroyed. The remaining population found refuge in the swamps of Venice.” People who were wealthy, became destitute or refugees. They had a drive to rebuild the affluent life they ancestors enjoyed. This motivating factor can explain the Venetian drive to succeed with business cunning. Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli in “The Prince” said “So if a leader does what it takes to win power and keep it, his methods will always be reckoned honorable and widely praised.”

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St. Mark’s dream

Moses Viero is an authorized Venetian guide at and, phone 349/7142372. He comes from an Italian, Catholic background. He presented the view on the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire that is in Greek sources. In simple terms: Mr. Viero said the truth, not what is politically correct. He has spent many hours researching in the Old Library on the west side of the Pizzetta facing the Palazzo Ducale in San Marco Square. Dr. Despina Siolas amazement of Viero’s description of San Mark’s Cathedral as “Byzantine and, a Greek Orthodox Church” can not be explained. We were lucky that we picked Viero’s tour from TripAdvisor and got a true explanation of the Byzantine influence in Venice. We were fortunate to have authorized Aquileia guide Giovanna Strigher Di Robilant at who showed us the Roman and Christian roots of the Venetian nation. All photos by Despina Siolas, M.D. /Ph.D.





  1. Da Villa Urbani, Maria, “St. Mark’s Basilica” (Italy, Kina Italia/L.E.G.O.), pp.22-23.



Principal Demosthenes Triantafillou Legacy: Immortality Through Unique Achievements

– Principal Triantafillou (7th from left) with PTA, School Board and Clergy of the Hellenic School at the Church of Our Saviour , Rye, New York and Greek Teacher’s Association “Prometheus”. Photo by PT Kosta Koustoubis.

Three hundred persons attended the Testimonial/Dinner Dance in honor of Principal Demosthenes Triantafillou by the PTA of the

Dr. John Antonopoulos with the honoree’s late wife Barbara

on Saturday, May 5th in the church hall. The Greek parody artist Sotiri and student performances entertained all. PTA Marynella Mantas Kourounis worked several months to make this event a resounding success. Chef Mike Kourounis with associates John Lambros and John Pappas donated their time to create and outstanding dinner buffet. Parish Council President is Nicholas Balidis. Father Elias Vilis is Proistamenos (priest).

Principal Triantafillou, School Board and Clergy of the Hellenic School at the Church of Our Saviour , Rye, New York. Photo by PT Kosta Koustoubis

“It is a joy and privilege for me to celebrate and honor our beloved Principal Demosthenes Triantafillou,” said Father Vilis. “He is a man of great passion for Greek education and love for our students. Those who know him can attest to his creativity, his desire to always offer his best and his will to always do more. Our Hellenic School has earned marks of respect from our Archbishop and neighboring parishes because of his dedication… Thank you, Mr. Triantafillou for your love and dedication for our students and families. It is a privilege to work with you. Be assured of my sincere prayers for the continuing scholastic achievements I know you will earn.”1

Principal Triantafillou (3rd from left) with Father Elias Vilis and students. Photo by PT Kosta Koustoubis

The PTA Board believes the honoree “has dedicated his life to promoting Hellenism…He has influenced thousands of Greek-speaking children spanning two generations. Mr. Triantafillou was chosen to lead our school (k-8) nine years ago. Since then, he has been a continuous source of inspiration, guidance and innovation in the teaching of the Greek language, values of the Greek civilization and Orthodoxy to our students.”2

In the Hellenic School at the Church of Our Saviour , Rye, his achievements are as follows: 1. Introduced conversational one-hour courses with great success;Started graduation with caps and gowns in June of 2010;Color Year Books in June 2010; 4. Introduced thematic dialogues on the beginningof classes; 5. Developed Curriculum Outlines for all grades; 6. Incorporated sports and mini Olympics in the curriculum; 7. Organized student trips to Astoria and ColumbiaUniversity; 8. Promoted the installation and use of modern technology as an instructional tool in the classroom; 9. Initiated HW emails to parents by Teachers; 10. Started the celebration programs For the Greek Letters Day with Ancient Greek Tragedies and contemporary Greek Comedies. 11. Introduced the Ellinomatheia exams and participation in the Dr. Papanicolaou Student Essay Contest.

Principal Triantafillou with Parish Council President Nicholas Balidis. Photo by PT Kosta Koustoubis.

Principal Triantafillou’s exceptional education accomplishments include: Organized the first pedagogical programs for training Greek Teachers at the School of the Ascension Church in Fairview, Connecticut with Dr. Thaleia Chadigiannoglou, the education director in the Greek Consulate, New York; 19 Annual Summer Education Programs in Greece-Athens-Dodecanese Islands of students and teachers. The programs were organized by the Dodecanesean Institute of Dodecanesean Studies that he founded; Established the Dr. Papanicolaou Student Essay Contest on the life and work of Dr. Papanicolaou; Founder and first Principal of St. Demetrios of Astoria Greek American High School from 1973-1982; the first Afternoon Greek Gymnasio from grades 7-9 in September 2006 at the Hellenic School of the Ascension Greek orthodox Church, Fairview, New Jersey; Organized the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus 40th Anniversary Honorary Luncheon in Terrace on the Park, Flushing. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios honored all the presidents of Prometheus for their dedication and service. More than 250 educators and friends attended; Principal Triantafillou honored by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and Greece’s Minister of Education Dr. Th. Pelegrinis at the February 24, 2016 40th Anniversary Luncheon with his late wife Barbara by his side. He serves as President of the Greek Teacher’s Association Prometheus from 2013-2018.DSC_9018 (1280x848)

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. He served 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. He is President of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”. He has a new vision: establishing a Pedagogical Greek Teacher’s Center in a NYC university. The educator is committed to having the Greek Teacher’s Association “Prometheus” take the lead in establishing a retirement fund for its members.

He was born in Nisyros and grew up in Rhodes, Greece. He has been living in New York and New Jersey. His late wife Barbara inspired him. He attended three of the best Universities: New York University, Fordham University and Columbia University majoring in Greek Philosophy, and literature, History of Science, School Administration and Supervision and Pedagogy in the Graduate School of Education of Fordham. He is a licensed School

Bachelors, two Masters, and Doctoral Studies, ABD. His Master’s thesis at The Graduate School of New York University was: ” The historical development of truth in Greek thinking from Homer to Aristotle.”

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Principal Triantafillou with late wife Barbara (3rd from left) with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Minister Pelegrinis and educators at the 40th Anniversary of the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus.

At Columbia University he studied the American involvement in the Greek Revolution of 1821″; some of his research at Fordham School of Education was Educational Leadership, Teaching Methodologies and Teaching Greek using etymology. His Educational Experience in American public Schools, parochial schools and private nondenominational Schools:IMG_9458

  1. Principal of the Ascension Greek School at the Ascension Church in Fairview , N. J. ( Administration and Teaching); 2. Principal of the Hellenic School , Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour, in Rye, N.Y.( Administration and Teaching); 3. Principal of the Day School of St. Demetrios in Astoria from 1973-1982. ;4. Assistant Principal at the High School for the Humanities ( Administration and Teaching); 5. Assistant Principal at the Stuyvesant

High School, summer programs ( Administration and Teaching); 6. Teacher at the Henley College Prep; 7. Part time instructor in Philosophy at L . I. U.

In addition to his program biography, Prof. Triantafillou accomplished the following: first Bilingual Greek/English Nursery School “The Sun” in its own building in Astoria, 46th St. and Broadway; Demosthenes Academy, first as a bilingual and High School Academy and later rented classrooms at the Henley College prep in Jamaica Estates, where he was teaching, to start the first Greek American High School; worked as a research scientist at Columbia University Research Center in Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, publishing scientific papers in “Biochemistry” and “Clinical Nutrition”.

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Principal Triantafillou with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios

His publications include: . ” My First Poems” , 1964; . ” Poetry: A Path to Immortality”, 1974; ” History of the Dodecanesean Societies in America and Canada”. 1987; . 10 educational articles in the Greek Newspaper ” Proini”, 1981; . Three books with the title ” I am Learning Greek”, with a team of Teachers at St. Demetrios School, 1979; 21 Educational articles in the Greek Paper ” National Herald”. 1978-79; . Publication of the bilingual magazine ” Dodecanesa”Publication of the newspaper; ” Greek American Education”, 1979; Many articles on the life and scientific works of Dr. George Papanicolaou, Discover of the PAP Test; The involvement of America in the Greek Revolution of 1821: The beginning of the Greek American Relations” Research Paper; ” The triptych plan of establishing a Center for the training of Greek Teachers in a University in New York”; Commemorative 40th Anniversary of Prometheus, FEBRUARY 28, 2016; ” The Founding of the First Greek American School: A paradigm of Educational Leadership in the Greek American Community”, research paper at Fordham University School of Education; Greek Curriculum Outlines for Grades K-9 at the Ascension School in Fairview; School Discipline Code at the Ascension School in Fairview; Examinations in Dodecanesean History , 2002; “Scientific discoveries and Serendipity”, the Dr. Papanicolaou symposium, Cornell Medical Center, York Hospital, 2010; ” he idea of freedom in the works of Nick Kazantzakis”, research paper at the Graduate School of Arts and Science, NYU, 1968; ” he immortality of the soul in Plato’s Philosophy”, research paper, School of Philosophy , N. Y. U. 1967 and “Language and reality: The Aristotelean theory of truth as Correspondence”, research paper, School of Philosophy, NYU, 1972.

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Demosthenes Triantafillou with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, past presidents and Board of the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus.

On Thursday, May 10th at 6 p.m. at the Dr. George N. Papanicolaou Symposium, in the Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City, the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” under the leadership of President Triantafillou gave 12 scholarships of $250 each and academic award to winners of the Dr. George N. Papanicolaou Essay contest. The scholarship amount total is $3000. These unique scholarships were initiated by President Triantafillou.

Information and photographs for this article was provided by PT Kostas Koutsoubis. For further information and highlights of Prof. Triantafillou’s career, contact for a program.

References: album

  1. Dinner Dance Journal, Hellenic School of the Church of Our Saviour , Rye, New York May 5th, 2018.
  2. Dinner Dance Journal.
  3. PTA Dinner Dance Program, Hellenic School of the Church of Our Saviour , Rye, New York May 5th, 2018.



On the Trail in Greece: May Day in Nafpaktos


Trade unions and organizations marked the May Day labor holiday on Monday with marches and rallies held in cities around Greece. They stressed the need to fight for and defend fundamental labor rights rolled back under memorandum policies. May Day marches and rallies were also held in Patras, the third-largest Greek city, Agrinio, Messolonghi, Pyrgos, Aigio, Nafpaktos, Chania and Iraklio in Crete, and Larisa.1 Retired professionals Pitsa and Christo Macarounis did something different. They left Tripoli, the provincial capital of Arcadia in the Peloponnese, and went to Nafpaktos. Nafpaktos (Greek: Ναύπακτος) is a town and a former municipality in Aetolia-AcarnaniaWest GreeceGreece, situated on a bay on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth.


They went to Centro Porto café/bar on the seashore for dinner. The restaurant was filled with persons enjoying life for the moment. Beautiful wreaths adorned the premised. Spring flowers with a rock inscribed “Welcome” gave a sense of Spring watching the boats in the harbor is a relaxing pastime, giving one a spiritual peace. The menu prices were reasonable, ranging from 6 to 15 euros.


Centro Porto, one of the first in the central part of the historic Venetian harbor of Nafpaktos, was transformed into a cafe-bar-restaurant with modern aesthetics and design. It is now an all-day dining, coffee-brunch and entertainment venue, a meeting point for friends and acquaintances. Fine coffee, fresh homemade desserts, clean beverages, good prices, tasteful food, but also its distinctive location overlooking the port of Nafpaktos and Rio-Antirio bridge “Charilaos Trikoupis”, make Centro Porto unique. Separate events are organized continuously, fully satisfying their patrons and visitors, since the cover all tastes and musical types.3 Think positive. Enjoy life for the moment. This is the key to survival of the Greek nation.IMG_1681


















 Gives the Flexibility of Online Learning


Education is now media oriented. No more taking notes or writing. All curriculum centers around web learning. Choosing a foreign language-learning website is an individual choice. Parents want a program that’s right for his/her child’s language education level, whether a total beginner or an experienced speaker. is an excellent website that can teach a child a language. is available for a reasonable monthly fee. It works well whether a child is a beginner or has knowledge of the Greek language.

Project Director Anna Sakkis has an exceptional interface. Short, down to the point knowledge makes learning Greek in short study sessions. Students are motivated by games, songs, videos, mythology and history activities. appeals to the student’s imagination. An online language study website that is causing a sensation.photo2 has a first rate, steady system, that runs smoothly from one lesson to the other. It is repetitive, using the deductive learning method. It stands out as being outstanding in its field. The lessons are exactly the correct length that will keep the child’s attention span. The learning experience is independent. Students can quiz themselves on lessons, that focus on learning concepts of the Greek language, mythology, history and culture. Students can access from many locations on their laptop or iPad.

There are many benefits to being bilingual. Being able to speak more than one language is a unique asset in school. Learning Greek is not easy. But gives the flexibility of online learning that makes it easy and inspiring. motto is ‘αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν or Ever to excel”. is a learning website for Greek Diaspora students. It is based upon the latest education games and research. Interactive, relevant and entertaining in every way.

Mrs. Anna Sakkis with President Triantafillou of the Greek Teacher’s Association “Prometheus” (left to right) and Publisher/Founder of the Hellenic News of America.

Mrs. Anna Sakkis, Project Manager said “we have a passion for Greek language and culture. Technology can make Greek fun to learn. It will not replace a good teacher. focuses on children’s desire for fun and play. We have positive feedback from parents and students. We have a responsibility to spread Hellenism and keep Greek alive among the young.”

“Studies show that a bilingual child succeeds academically more than other children,” she said. “Greek is a precise language whose roots are in the English language. Knowing Greek aids students in exams and state-wide examinations. It is really very easy to subscribe.  Go to There is a button inviting He/she to start your free month. When he/she clicks it, the person enters email and information, validating subscription. The prices are as follows: Lite, free; Basic, $9.99 and Premium $19.99. Educators receive a 30% discount in two plans. We have produced videos on Greek Easter, animal series and new games. We listen to what our customers tell us, and act.”FBpost_LP_Theseus_v2

“We created songs, games, videos, Heroes and Monsters, Pegasus, Theseus, the Labyrinth in a work of love in 40 lessons and a curriculum, the Project Director explained. “We have a staff of twenty persons working on website materials. Children love music. photo1They learn around songs. Greek culture in short stories grabs their attention. Our purpose is not to let Greek civilization die. Word of mouth is spreading interest among schools. A school of eight hundred students in Sidney, Australia are interested.”FBpost_LP_Odysseas_v2

Mrs. Sakkis gave details that they “have designed a new customized list for each child which we refresh every week. We tell the kids to do two activities each day. The wonderful thing is that they do many more. Greek school once a week must be reinforced with frequent exposure daily. There is no other site in Greek with our many activities. We know our work is copied. But they cannot compete with us. Each day our group of educators, illustrators and designers devise new web content. Talented persons are on our team They develop new material daily.”FBpost_LearningPathThemes_noTitles

The Project Director gave an exciting power point presentation at the Greek Teacher’s Association “Prometheus” event in cooperation with the Hellenic News of America in honor of the late educator Constantine Parthenis, on Sunday February 11th at St. Catherine’s Church, Astoria, New York. “We at has spent endless hours of work to keep people united to the common cause of the Greek language and Hellenism,” she said. “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.”FBpost_Innovative_WayPresident 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. Hellenism is getting stronger in America with people like you who have vision and a moral commitment to the support of the Greek Teachers.”BoardGame_v6_Select-Player

Mrs. Sakkis replied that “it is I that must thank you and I do from the bottom of my heart for preparing this celebration and bringing so many people together and for your warm endorsement of the Ellinopoula platform. Not many people realize how much effort and work is needed to organize such an event, but I do and again thank you.  I also recognize that it takes endless hours of work to keep people united to the common cause of the Greek language and Hellenism and you are one of the few people who has been tirelessly working towards this goal. I do hope that united we can re-awaken this spirit to the new generation of Greek children and inspire them to love and embrace our beautiful language, timeless history and rich culture.” Meeting a humble, brilliant businesswoman promoting website opened a new way of using technology to teach Greek.