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



AHI Board Honored HNA and Paul & Linda Kotrotsios 20171112-CMP_6362

AHI president, Nick Larigakis and the Board Members of AHI presented with a Citation to Paul Kotrotsios, Founder and Publisher of the Hellenic News of America on the 30th Anniversary Celebration stressing the importance of the Greek American Media in Print.

L- R Dimitri Halakos, Dr. George Tsetsekos, Leon Andris, Linda Kotrotsios, Dr. Spiros Spireas, Costas Alexakis, Paul Kotrotsios holding the Citation, Nick Larigakis, Gus Andy, Louis Katsos and Aphrodite Kotrotsios, Co-Publisher 



Chairman & Honorees and Sponsors cutting the Cake HNA 30th 20171112-CMP_6437

Cutting the Cake from Yiayia’s Bakery    L-R Dr Micharl Papaioannou, Nancy Papaioannou, President of Atlantic Bank NYCB, Loui Katsos, MC of the Evening, Aphrodite Kotrotsios Co _Publisher of the Hellenic News of America, Paul and Linda Kotrotsios, Dino Vogias, Chaipersons of the event and Benefactors, Drs. Amalia and Spiros Spireas, Dr. Konstadinos Plestis, Sophia Stavron, Dr Thomas Phiambolis and Jimmy Athanasopoulos of the LIBRA Group.

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Honoring Dr, Thomas Phiambolis a fine cardiologist of Lankenau Heart Institute with All the Doctors present at the Milestone Event.

L-R  Dr. Aris Michopoulos, Dr. John Paitakes, Dr. Panos Stavrianidis, Dr. Ilias Iliadis, Dr. Angelo Karakasis, Dr. Anthony Skiadas, Dr. Maria Caras, Dr. George Galanis, Dr. Panayiotis Baltatzis, Lou Katsos, MC of the event, Dr. Spiros Spireas, Chairman of the event, Paul Kotrotsios, Founder & Publisher , Dr. Thomas Phiambolis, Honoree, Dr. Konstadinos Plestis, Dr Maria Plestis, Dr Roxane Hionis, and Co – Publisher of the Hellenic News of America Aphrodite Kotrotsios

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HNA Founder and Publisher Paul Kotrotsios












By David Bjorkgren, Editor

Special to the Hellenic News of America    

Elegance ruled the evening as guests gathered Sunday, Nov. 12, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hellenic News of America.

It was a feast of the senses, a fitting tribute to the newspaper, the man and the family that have helped link the Greek American community together for three decades.

Delicacies from Greece and fine dining greeted guests as they talked about their common heritage within the beautiful interiors and the formal European style designs of The Merion Event Center in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The evening concluded with music by Greek musician Dimitris Basis.

Guests came from Greece and all over the United States, from all professions and business backgrounds to share in the newspaper’s success, a demonstration of the networking energy and determination of founder and publisher Paul Kotrotsios.  Assisting him along the way has been his wife, Linda, and his three daughters; Aphrodite, who is a co-publisher; Stavroula and Ioanna.

“Continuing the Hellenic legacy” was the theme of the anniversary gala.  The formal ballroom buzzed with the energy of that idea. People came to celebrate the newspaper but they also celebrated themselves.

“This night is very special to my heart as it marks 30 years of dedication, faith and perseverance of my family’s oath to the Greek Diaspora of the United States of America,” began Aphrodite. “Hellenic News of America is more than just a newspaper covering the news of our community. It’s a platform where Hellenism comes to life.”

The newspaper was the first monthly bilingual newspaper of its kind. From its 12-page humble beginning in 1987 serving the tri state area, it has grown to 64 pages, reaching an international readership in print and on line.

“It’s so hard to believe that this newspaper that was brought to life in my parent’s basement has developed into a unifying force for Hellenism.  It is such an honor to work alongside my father as he undertakes this herculean task of uniting, promoting, informing and inspiring the Greek diaspora in America,” Aphrodite said.

Paul Kotrotsios came to the United States from Greece in 1979 with a degree in economics from the University of Thessaloniki. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in business from St. Joseph’s University in 1984. His parents endured war, starvation and migration, working three jobs a day so he and his late sister could receive a good education with hopes of a better future.

“Along his course, he realized there was a communication gap between Greece and the Greek Diaspora in America, so he sought several ideas on how he could pay it forward and connect the two countries,” Aphrodite said.

Working in the 1980s as a general manager of a Greek radio network, Paul met with Dr. Michael Papaioannou who was a business associate at the time. “I vividly remember our first discussion with Paul in starting a paper. Topics to be covered? How to keep the Hellenic ideals in America. How to recognize and inform the Greek American community and how to educate the non-Greeks on who we are… ”, Dr. Papaioannou told the gala crowd. Soon after, the Hellenic News of America was born.  “From that time I had no doubt that Paul’s passions, enthusiasm and education would make this dream a reality and he did it.”

Dr. Papaioannou was one of nine Greek Americans honored at the gala by the Hellenic News of America for their accomplishments. Today, Papaioannou serves as an expert at the International Monetary Fund and is a visiting scholar and professor at the LeBow School of Business, Department of Economics at Drexel University.

Chairman of the anniversary event and keynote speaker was Dr. Spiros Spireas, Ph.D., owner, founder, chairman and CEO of Sigmapharm Laboratories in Bensalem, Pa.    Dr. Spireas, who has also served as past president of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation, came to the United States in 1985 from Kalamata, Greece. He spoke of the importance in continuing the connections between Greek Americans. “The question is, is the new generation going to continue that?” he asked. “Somehow we have to keep institutions like newspapers, Greek TV, churches. We have to keep these organizations alive and the challenge we have as a community is to do that. To you Paul and your family, I wish you another 30 years,” he said.

Other voices weighed in.  Guest speaker Appo Jabarian, publisher and editor of USA Armenian Life Magazine who traveled from California talked about the common bonds between Greeks and Armenians.

“As a founder and publisher and managing editor, I feel with Mr. Kotrotsios and I know what kind of challenges the publisher goes through in order to keep his publication going like Duracell batteries,” he joked.  The Lebanese Armenian American talked about growing up with Greek and Armenian music in his household. “Now I continue to grow up with issues concerning our two peoples, cousins, Armenians and Greeks,” he said, referencing the problem of Turkish-occupied territories in their two countries.

“I am a deep believer that Hellenism, like Armenism, has a world mission so we must keep the torch lit in the hearts and minds of the Greek Americans and the Armenian Americans together and we must continue the journey together,” he said to applause.

The night also offered many philanthropic opportunities, silent auctions and a paddle raise, all to generate funds for the New York Ronald McDonald House, Greek Division; the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Scholarships, AHEPA’s Hellenic Relief Fund and the Disaster Relief Fund: Lesvos, Greece.

The Hellenic News of America and the Mid-Atlantic Greek American Foundation also continued a tradition of giving away scholarships at the gala to high school and college students of Hellenic descent who presented winning essays this year on two themes:   “The significance of the ‘OXI DAY’ for the Greeks and the world” and “The importance of the Greek American Print Media as the intercommunication means to our communities.” Six students received scholarships to help them with their education and offer opportunities to study abroad for a semester in Greece.

Louis Katsos, president of the Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance in Queens, New York, served as master of ceremonies for the evening.  Katsos introduced the nine Hellenes and Philhellenes that were honored for outstanding work in their fields.

This year’s recipients included Professor Marina Angel, Temple University Emerita for her work to improve social justice for women and minorities. Judge Ourania Papademetriou of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, a former student of hers, accepted the award on her behalf.

“My best wishes to the Hellenic News of America on this important anniversary. Enjoy yourself. I’m sorry I’m missing a great party,” Professor Angel relayed in a message read by Judge Papademetriou.

“I just wanted to add that Professor Angel is a leader in legal education. She has educated generations of attorneys by example that have gone on to the highest level of legal profession throughout the country,” Judge Papademetriou added. “We are honored to have her part of our Hellenic American community.”

Eleni Bousis received the Philanthropist of the Year award for her dedication to providing quality care programs for elders and their families. She relayed her greetings to the crowd in a pre-recorded video.

“To my dear friend Paul Kotrotsios, congratulations for your foresight in perpetuating Hellenic principles, ideas, faith and culture and being the voice of truth. Thank you for enlightening us with the inside stories within our communities in philanthropy, education, political reviews and individual triumphs and accomplishments,” she said in the video.

Archon Michael Psaros was named Person of the Year in Business and Philanthropy for his dedication to the Orthodox faith and his philanthropic interests. Psaros is co-founder and managing partner of KPS Capital Partners, LP who also serves on the Board of Directors of Georgetown University, creating the “Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair in Business Administration” at the university. He also serves as treasurer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the board of trustees of Leadership 100. He is a benefactor of the St. Nicholas National Shrine in New York City at Ground Zero and The Washington OXI DAY Foundation.

    “My family and I are blessed, honored and humbled to receive the Person of the Year in Business & Philanthropy from the Hellenic News of America.  We congratulate all of the distinguished award recipients, including my dear friend and brother Archon, John Koudounis. AXIOI!  I congratulate the Hellenic News of America for celebrating its 30th Anniversary. The Hellenic News is truly a unifying force for Hellenism and Orthodoxy throughout the United States and for our omogenia worldwide.  I commend Paul and Aphrodite Kotrotsios, and the entire staff of the Hellenic News of America for their vision, faith, philotemo and commitment to our people.  May Almighty God grant the Hellenic News of America another 30 years of excellence and service. Me sevasmo, elphitha kai agape,” shared Mr. Michael Psaros.

John Koudounis received the Investor of the Year award for his dedication to investing in Greece.  He is CEO of Calamos Investments with over 28 years of experience in financial services.

Nancy Papaioannou, president of Atlantic Bank, NYCB received the Women in Leadership Award for her dedication and leadership in banking. She is the first woman to lead Atlantic Bank since its inception in 1926.

“We have treasures that follow us,” she told the crowd in accepting the award. “We are Greeks and this, no one can take it from us. We need to be united because one cannot go far but together we can go far. We can work together and make Greece the best country in Europe.”

Dr. Michael G. Papaioannou was awarded for his dedication to the world economy. He was the Deputy Division Chief at the Debt and Capital Markets Instruments, Monetary and Capital Markets Department of the International Monetary Fund until July 2017. While there, he served as a special adviser to the Governing Board of the Bank of Greece.

Dr. Thomas Phiambolis received the Distinguished Professional of the Year award for his dedication to the advancement of heart health. Dr. Phiambolis established a Cardiac CT Angiography program for Main Line Health and now is the director of that program. More recently, he has established the Advanced Lipid Clinic for Main Line Health and initiated the new cholesterol program with PCSK9 therapy.

Chris Diamantoukos, AHEPA Supreme Governor Region 3 received the AHEPA of the Year award.  His AHEPA Initiation was in 1999, serving as president and secretary of Camden Chapter No. 69 before joining the 5th District Lodge.

Markos Papadatos was recognized for his role as a senior editor and power journalist and has been a vital part of the Greek American music and entertainment community in New York.  He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music including Aerosmith, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Dame Vera Lynn, Olivia Newton-John, Donny and Marie Osmond, and Martina McBride among countless other noteworthy individuals in the United States and in Greece. Other interviews include Olympic caliber athletes, actors, and magicians, including Greek-American magician Criss Angel.  In 2017, Markos won “Best Twitter Account from Long Island” for @Powerjournalist in the Arts & Entertainment category in the “Best of Long Island.”

“A journalist is only as good as his reading audience,” he said, thanking Paul and Aphrodite for giving him a platform and paying tribute to his work. Then he added, “I wanted to thank my biggest inspiration in life, my biggest champion, my mom who is here tonight. Thank you for raising me as a valuable member of the Greek American community.”

Toward the end of the evening, Paul Kotrotsios was presented a citation from the American Hellenic Institute and the American Hellenic Institute Foundation. Board members assembled to present the citation.

“Paul Kotrotsios and his team at the Hellenic News of America certainly exemplify the principles in order to do this in the Greek American community for 30 years and that means to have integrity, to have passion. You need passion to work on any issue, especially in the Greek American community. And he does it with excellence. That and so much more, we tip our hats to you tonight, to congratulate you because you do provide an invaluable service to the community. It’s been a great pleasure to work with you and your team for all these years…” said Nick Larigakis, president of the American Hellenic Institute.

The founder of the Hellenic News of America had the last word. . .

“Honored guests, thank you.  What is written remains. What is said is forgotten. For 30 years, in the Greek American community, we feel very proud to have contributed to the cultural shape of our community by promoting our Hellenic heritage and writing the history of Omogeneia. This venue that started 30 years ago is solidly based on the support of its subscribers, advertisers and sponsors and friends like you,” he told the enthusiastic guests. He described the newspaper as a “mirror” of the Greek American community and American society in general. He pointed to its successes, using the annual Hermes Expo to bring together American and Greek businesses. “In 2018, the US will be the honored country at the Thessaloniki Fair and the Hermes Expo and the Hellenic News of America will play a role again in organizing not only a trip to Greece but making sure our American compatriots will be engaged with business people in Greece and the region,” he said.

“In our 30 years of commitment to the Greek American community, we hope you will join us in solidifying the presence of the newspaper into the next decade and beyond.  Thank you for helping us contribute to the historical vault of the Greek American Community, by promoting and empowering the ideas and traditions of Hellenic American friendship. Thank you for sharing the dream.”

Listen to coverage from our friends at COSMOS FM NEW YORK


Following Byzantine Footsteps: Wedding at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice

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Beaming Bride Alexandra Georgios with her groom on her wedding day at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice.

“The beginning is the most important part of the work” – Plato.

Our positive beginning of following Byzantine footsteps in Northern Italy began at a Greek Orthodox wedding at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice, known as San Giorgio dei Greci. We arrived in Venice on Saturday October 14th, staying at the Bisanzio Hotel in San Zaccaria station, near the church. A sunny, autumn day was our introduction to a Greek Orthodox Cathedral with a bright colored icon of Jesus in ancient Greek clothing stretching his hand to all who enter the doors with Greek columns. Alexandra Giorgios from Vrakas (Central Greece), explained “we wanted to be married at St. George Church in Venice. My family came to witness our marriage.” Niki, her sister, and best friend, Viki, were part of her bridal party. Rev. Nicola Madaro with the church cantor performed an inspiring service in Greek

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The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice, known as San Giorgio dei Greci.

“The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice is the oldest and historically the most important church of the Orthodox Diaspora. For centuries it has been one of the most splendid Orthodox temples in the world.

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The impressive Venetian canal by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of San Giorgio dei Greci

Despite the close ties of Venice to the Byzantine world, the Greek Orthodox Rite was not permitted in Venice for centuries. Finally, in 1539, after protracted negotiations, the Papacy allowed the construction of the church of San Giorgio, financed by a tax on all ships from the Orthodox world. The church was completed in 1573 and became the center of the Scuola dei Greci, the Confraternity of the Greeks in Venice. Since 1991 the church of Saint George has served as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the new Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe.”1




Links: Venetian, Florence, Ravenna excursion album by Dr. Despina Siolas.





On the Road in Italy: Venice during the Oct. 22nd Referendum




The Catalonia separatist movement was on the minds of Venetians from Oct. 15th to Oct22, 2017 in Italy. On our way to the Bisanzio Hotel at San Zaccaria station, blue collar Venetians expresse3d their views on the upcoming Referendum. “Catalonia, Spain, is correct to want independence from the central government in Madrid. Venice has tourism that brings in all tax funds. We give the most taxes to Rome. What do we get in return? Nothing! We want more of our tax money to stay in the Veneto region. Our tax money should be used more to improve Venice. We do not want independence like Catalonia. We want more autonomy. And a say in our economy.” This was my introduction to the Venetian point of view.

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Venice Italy with Church of Saint George (San Giorgio Maggiore) on the Venetian lagoon.

Spain has moved ahead to suspend Catalonian autonomy after a referendum vote. The week prior to the Oct. 22nd Referendum, we heard “This is Venice! Everyone wants to be here.” Wherever we shopped for cell phone sim cards and eating in a restaurant with a 3-euro service sitting charge, excitement was building up over the upcoming Referendum vote. On October 23rd we were staying at the Olimpia Hotel Venice. The white-collar hotel staff described the election results accurately.

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Mariners on ALILAGUNA water shuttle expressing viewpoint of Venetian autonomy. Photos by Despina Siolas, M.D./Ph.D.

“Veneto President Luca Zaia hailed the results, which were delayed slightly by a hacker attack, as an institutional “big bang” …Turnout was projected at around 58% in Veneto, where support for autonomy is stronger, and just over 40% in Lombardy. The presidents of each regions said more than 95% of voters who had cast ballots had, as expected, voted for greater autonomy…”

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Venetian lagoon.

The two regional presidents, (Lombardy and Veneto regions) both members of the far-right Northern League, notably plan to ask for more say over infrastructure, the environment, health and education. They also want new powers relating to security issues and immigration – steps which would require changes to the constitution.” 1 This is the sentiment expressed by Venetians.

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Venetian mariner wants more control of taxes from Rome.
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Oct. 23rd Olimpian Hotel staff, Venice, explaining Referendum results.



  1., Venetian, Florence, Ravenna excursion album by Dr. Despina Siolas.



On the Road in Greece: Museum of Asian Art of Corfu


Understanding and cooperation between Asia and Europe in 2017 is furthered by an unlikely country. Greece has the finest Asian museum in Europe on an Ionian island.  The Museum of Asian Art of Corfu is in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George in Corfu, Greece. I understand my Asian neighbors’ culture in New York City, because of a remarkable visit in May 2017.

The main exhibit the summer of 2017 was “Japanese Culture and the Arts of Asia”. I visited the Chinese exhibits, learning about the art of porcelain. Exhibit sign information is never completely on the internet. A person must research books or go in person. I took photographs of signs for later research. Colorful replicas and original porcelain gave the onlooker the impression of porcelain’s “beauty, rarity and luxury. Chinese porcelain became known as White Gold and has developed through a lengthy process of time a variety of products of lustrous body, elegant shape and solid quality. The current exhibition “New Silk Road” is displaying more than forty pieces of porcelain works.”1

I noticed that a benefactor was Charilaos Chiotakis (1915-1998), who following the destruction of Asia Minor, his birthplace, fled as a refugee to Greece. He went in 1929 to Utrecht, Netherlands, where he traded fur. He acquired a large art collection that he donated to the Museum of Asian art. Throughout Greece, I saw that the major benefactors were from Epirus and Western Anatolia.

My interest is in the Byzantine or Eastern Roman empire’s contacts with Asia. During the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) overseas commerce with the cosmopolitan Chinese court and Persian and Byzantine delegations. HeracliusByzantine emperor 610-641 AD., coins were found in Chinese tombs. In the early 14th century, the Chinese were taught indirectly by the Byzantines, through artists who worked in the workshops of Armenian and Georgian monasteries, the cloisonné technique of working with inlaid enamel.

The main exhibit “Japanese Culture and the Arts of Asia” showed us “The Dawn of Japanese Art” from 1350 B.C. to 552 A.D. on the second floor. Interactions with Korea and China triggered a renaissance of Japanese Buddhism in religious architecture and sculpture. Tea was imported to Japan from China in the 8th century. Green tea became popular in 12th century. The Samurai (Warrior class) adopted the Tea Ceremony called Chado, that spread to all levels of society. Ceramics 17th – 19th century, art on screens and fans and the Edo or 19th century Tokyo period gave an insight into Japanese life.IMG_5051 (1280x691) (640x346)

The Samurai exhibits by the Michael Marks Charitable Foundation reminded me of Darth Vader from a Star Wars movie. The Japanese swords exhibit was impressive. “The Samurai were the military elite that dominated Japanese politics, economic and social policies.

They had the bushido honor code that called for blind obedience to their lord. They first appeared in historical records about the 10th century. The samurai were expert in archery, swordsmanship and horseback riding. They were patrons of Buddhism, poets, calligraphers, collectors of paintings, supporters of No and Kyogen theater and sponsors of the construction of beautiful temples and gardens in Kyoto, imperial capital of Japan.” One must go to a museum to see the concept of loyalty.      “Powerful warriors of the Momoyama era (1573-1615) inherited these interests and added to it a love of grandeur and splendor…Their castles became the central symbols of the age.”2IMG_5098 (696x1280) (348x640)

Collections include: China (Neolithic to 19th century): ceramics, bronzes, lacquer, painting, textiles, wood sculptures, items of precious materials, jewelry, etc.; Japan (4th-19th century): ceramics, bronzes, lacquer, painting, prints, textiles, everyday life items, Kabuki theatre masks, musical instruments, wood sculptures, glass and precious materials items, Samurai armor and weaponry, etc. Korea (19th – 20th century): ceramics, paintings, Balluch carpets and textiles;IMG_5107 (690x1280) (345x640)IMG_5102 (698x1280) (349x640)

India (2nd century BC to 19th century AD): stone, wood and bronze religious sculpture, miniature painting; Afghanistan-Pakistan (2 century BC- 5th century AD): Gandhara grey schist Buddhist reliefs;

Nepal – Tibet (17th – 19th century): bronze religious sculpture and painted votive banners

Some Southeast Asian sculptures.3IMG_5140 (653x1280) (327x640)

                  Corfu’s Museum of Asian Art gives an understanding of Asian culture in a context that can be understood by the average tourist. Greece is supporting cooperation between East and West. Hara Armeni of Charitos Travel agency in Corfu arrange my four-day excursion.



  1. The Museum of Asian Art of Corfu, 1st floor.

2.Corfu Museum of Asian Art. “Samurai Japan”. 2017.


Links: Chinese exhibits Japanes Collection





Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” Memorial In Memory of Educator Barbara Triantafillou By Alexander Colombos




Τα μέλη του Δ.Σ. του  Συλλόγου Ελλήνων Εκπαιδευτικών «Προμηθέας» που εδρεύει στην Αστόρια της Νέας Υόρκη, εκφράζουμε τα θερμά μας συλλυπητήρια στον άξιο και δραστήριο Πρόεδρο μας, κ. Δημοσθένη Τριναταφύλλου, για την πρόσφατη απώλεια της πολυαγαπημένης του συζύγου Μπάρμπαρας Τριανταφύλλου.  Αφοσιωμένη πάντα στα συζυγικά της καθήκοντα, ταπεινή, σεμνή και αξιοπρεπής «έφυγε» αθόρυβα και με αξιοπρέπεια, όπως και έζησε.  Μακριά από κάθε μορφή αυτοπροβολής και κοσμικότητας σε αντίθεση με πολλά γνωστά πρόσωπα του εκπαιδευτικού χώρου και της Ομογένειας!  Με λαμπρές σπουδές στο Teacher’s College του Columbia University ήταν και εκείνη εκπαιδευτικός και δίδαξε αγγλικά και σε ημερήσια ελληνικά σχολεία, αλλά και σε αμερικανικά δημόσια, προτίμησε όμως να αφοσιωθεί στην οικογένεια της και στον σύζυγο και την μονάκριβη κόρη τους.  Υπήρξε η μούσα του που τον ενέπνευσε σε πολλές επιτυχίες του, όπως και στην ίδρυση του σχολείου του Αγίου Δημητρίου Αστορίας και το Συνταξιοδοτικό Ταμείο των Εκπαιδευτικών.  Λένε ότι πίσω από έναν σπουδαίο άνδρα κρύβεται και μια σπουδαία γυναίκα και είναι όντως αληθές.   Της ευχόμαστε ολόψυχα καλό Παράδεισο και να είναι ελαφρύ το χώμα που την σκεπάζει.  Θα μας μείνει αλησμόνητη και θα ζει μέσα μας, μέσα από την ιστορική μνήμη, καθώς οι άνθρωποι πεθαίνουν μόνο όταν κανείς τους ξεχνά.  Είθε ο Μεγαλοδύναμος να χαρίσει δύναμη και κουράγιο στον πεφιλημένο μας  Πρόεδρο και την οικογένεια του για να αντέξουν την ανυπέρβλητη αυτή απλώλεια!!!

Αιωνία και αξιομακάριστος η μνήμη αυτής!


The Board of Prometheus Greek Teachers Association wishes to express the deepest condolences and sympathy to our industrious and diligent President, Mr. Demosthenes Triantafillou for the recent loss of his beloved wife Barbara Triantafillou.  Having always been a dedicated wife, she lived with dignity and humility and kept a low profile away from the flashlights and any form of self-promotion unlike others from the Greek-American community and especially the field of education.  Barbara received an outstanding education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and she was a teacher herself.  She taught English in Greek parochial Day Schools and public schools alike, but she chose to dedicate herself to her husband and her beloved daughter.  She was his muse who inspired him for so many great achievements, including the foundation of the first Greek HS in New York, St Demetrios HS and the Greek Teacher’s Retirement & Pension Fund.  There is a saying that “behind every great man there is a great woman” and it’s so true!   May the Lord rest her soul in heavenly peace!  May the memory be eternal.  May the Lord may give strength to our beloved President and his family members to bear this irreparable loss!

Visitation hours will be at Barrett Funeral Home in Tenafly, New Jersey,  Friday,  November 3rd 2-4 & 7-9 PM. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, November 4th, 10:30 AM at the funeral home.

Interment will be at George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus, New Jersey. Donations for Barbara to be announced (TBA).


Photo: Barbara and Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou (

On the Road in Greece: Corfu City

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“My childhood in Corfu shaped my life. If I had the craft of Merlin, I would give every child the gift of my childhood.”
― Gerald DurrellMy Family and Other Animals


I wanted to go to Corfu and take an excursion to Agia Saranta and Greek Epirus in Albania. I wanted to understand the roots of Billy Litos and former students. I opened a line of communication with Hara Armeni of Charitos Travel agency. She took personal care of my itinerary, giving me the best price. Hara arranged a stay at the Cavalieri Hotel in front of a beach in Corfu town. Hara personally arranged my airline boarding passes. Travel agent Hara and her network watched over a senior citizen travelling alone. She visited me at the Cavalieri Hotel for coffee. “My son, Panos Giochalas, is studying the clarinet as a musician in Athens University,” she said. She personally answered all my needs.

The miniseries “The Durells in Corfu” was filming in Corfu City in late May. I toured the major sites of Corfu city, such as St. Spyridon Church, saw a religious procession, the Asian Museum, Mon Repos and other sites. Shopping at Sophia Foka’s store with Presvitera Krina Elena was a cultural experience.
I had a minor incident at a Kiosk. The owner did not give me back my cheap phone, claiming it was hers. Beware of kiosks and only deal with authorized cell phone dealers. The Wind store dealer helped me. The young Greeks have a respect for tourists aiding them in all incidents.



Sofia Foka Shop, 41 St. Spyridon St., Corfu, Greece, tel. +302661041748

travel agent Hara Armeni,,


Sofia Foka Shop, 41 St. Spyridon St., Corfu, Greece, tel. +302661041748

travel agent Hara Armeni,,

30th Anniversary of Hellenic News of America


HNA-30-email-signature-web-newYour response to the Hellenic News of America (HNA) is the engine that compels our commitment to inform, enlighten, inspire, and unite the Greek American community.  The success of the newspaper is due largely to the need for a voice in America. The paper provides a forum where Greeks can inform and be informed; uniting the Greek consciousness in America.  You have empowered us to continue our mission; working together with the community to maintain the legacy and tradition for another thirty years and beyond.

The HNA has inspired many and contributes largely to the preservation of the Hellenic identity and tradition in America.  Greek Americans have a strong desire to come together and be heard as a community. This desire stems from the innate instinct to maintain and propagate the Greek heritage and identity.  Thus, the HNA has emerged as a focal point for networking and cohesion as a community. Through this forum, the HNA covers and promotes the community events pertaining to the arts, business, religion, community and more.AHI Dinner HANC Galanis Costas Sophia Erika Dr Pallas Kotrotsios Chris and george BP2_3273-(ZF-0515-92390-1-001) 2

The internet and social media age has changed the standards and form of reporting, but the Hellenic News of America maintains the gold standard.  It has true reporting of community events and topics of human interest.  The paper has also adapted its form to include on-line reporting and Facebook platform; allowing for digital access as a supplement to our true print form. Additionally, the articles are published both in English and in Greek.  These features contribute to our expanded readership and popularity.  It is important however, that in-depth reporting and commentary remains the most important criteria and that has always been our number one attribute.AHEPA Grossomanidis Panagopoulos Kotrotsios AHI LarigakisIMG_1291

The Hellenic News of America and the Hermes Expo are responsible for many great developments and achievements.  These platforms have served as a launching point for international trade.  Through HNA and Hermes Expo synergy, the city of Thessaloniki, Greece and Philadelphia, PA have signed Cultural and Business Exchange agreements. This agreement has enabled thousands of Greek and American businesses to conduct trade between the two sister-cities.  This effort has allowed for culture exchange, partnerships, and access to goods and services abroad.1 KOTROTSIOS 2 DSC07840web (1)

An equally significant attribute of the Hellenic News of America was the establishment of The Mid-Atlantic Greek American Foundation.  Through this foundation, we have established a scholarship fund with endowments to assist high school, undergraduate and graduate students from fellow Hellenes.  We have also partnered with the University of Connecticut’s Hellenic Studies Program, “Paideia”, to offer scholarships for students to study abroad for a semester in Greece.  Furthermore, The Mid-Atlantic Greek America Foundation organized three events in 2016 in Philadelphia, New York City and Baltimore in order to raise funds for non-profit institutions that are in need of aid in America and in Greece.  These funds were donated to “Kivotos tou Kosmou” orphanage, The Elderly Home in Konitsa and to the restoration of the Holy Monastary Sosinou in Epirus, Greece._Howard Kyle Kotrotsios Kokolis Horiates Appo Jabarian Yiannis Sianis Nick Larigakis DSC5784 (1)

Since our inception, we have sponsored several fundraisers for Fellow Hellenes and Philhellenes running for office (John Sarbanes(D-MD), US Presidential Candidates Mike Dukakis and Paul Tsongas, Mike Pappas(R-NJ), Steve Corodemus, Zach Space(D-OH), Lou Raptakis, Paul Sarbanes, Kosta Alexakis(D-MD), Charlie Christ, Curt Weldon(R-PA), Robert Andrews(D-NJ), Frank Liobiondo(R-NJ), Ed Rendell(D-PA), Mario Civera(R-PA), Gus Bilirakis(R-FL), Bill Matsikoudis(D-NJ), Lynn Abraham, Stavroula Kotrotsios and many other Hellenes and Philhellenes).  We were one of the first families to open up their home to host a fundraiser in honor of His Eminence Evangelos of the Metropolis of New Jersey for the needs of the Metropolis House.  We had partnered with Deborah Hospital Foundation, Ronald McDonald House’s Greek Division, Hellenic Cultural Center of the University of Connecticut and many other Hellenic and Phil Hellenic organizations promoting the arts, science, history and other disciplines.

Nevertheless, our success and the continuation of our publication relies on our supporters, readers and friends.  First, we would like to ask you to continue sending letters to the editor, community news, invites to cover community events, any commentary on articles that we publish, concerns and recommendations.  Remember, we are your voice! Secondly, our continuation heavily depends on your generous advertisements and subscriptions and sponsorships of events and programs.  Together, we can continue to deliver informative and empowering news to our Hellenic and Phil-Hellenic readers.  Thus, as our community’s voice, we are able to positively contribute to the perpetuation of our Greek language and cultural identity in America.

Together, we can help write the history of the Omogeneia of Greek America.  As a whole, we are stronger.  We can help many more institutions in request of financial aid, send more of our students to study abroad in Greece, help many more Greek Americans achieve office in the political area, keep our Greek language, culture, traditions and Hellenic Spirit alive.  Together, we can do more.
Join our mailing list, like us on Facebook, check us out on the Web and LinkedIn or drop us a line. We greatly appreciate your supporting our efforts to organize and present events engaging the business community.

We have worked tirelessly to sustain our cultural identity in America for you and our future. Let’s continue the Hellenic Legacy together.