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

The Legacy of Rev. Constantine Makrinos of the Transfiguration Church Mattituck, NY


Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

Summer residents of Queens and Nassau counties enjoyed the services of Rev. Constantine Makrinos of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church of Mattituck, NY.  His fluency in Greek is exceptional for a Greek-American priest. He was reassigned on August 1, 2017 to t. George Church in New Britain, Connecticut. “We all join in wishing Father Constantine success in his new parish,” said Parish Council President Mrs. Irene Markotsis in a community letter.

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

A priest of over 30 years, Rev. Makrinos’ spiritual journey has led him from Detroit, Mich., to Newark, N.J., to Ocean City, Md. Rev. Constantine Makrinos was bestowed the honor of Protopresbyter (Very Reverend) by His Eminence on August 6th, 2010. This is the highest rank for a married priest in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

The honor is bestowed upon a Greek Orthodox clergyman after twenty-five years of service. Very Rev. Makrinos is from Kardamyla, Chios. “It was a great honor to receive this title from His Eminence’s hands,” he “I prayed to receive this honor from his hands. On August 6th, 2014, I completed twenty-nine years of my ministry, performing all church services and sacraments. “We welcome young people,” said Rev. Makrinos. “Since I have been here, I have been trying to bring youth in church and on the parish council board. August 6, 2015 service, by C. Tsounis I try to add English in my service when I see younger people in church. I hold a Masters of Divinity in Theology from Holy Cross Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts. St. Theona, St. Iakovos the Monk and St. Anastasia are our relics. They were given to our church in 1976 when Archbishop Iakovos consecrated the Transfiguration of Christ Church.”1

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

He is the son of a Greek immigrant who worked as a coal miner in the hills of West Virginia. Rev. Makrinos completed eight years of service to the Transfiguration Church on July 15, 2017. The Libraries of the Town of Southold presented a series of community conversations in honor of the Town’s 375th Anniversary on Sunday, June 28th, 2015 at the Mattituck-Laurel Library meeting room a Sunday Story Hour on the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church was held with Very Rev. Constantine Makrinos.

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

He was interviewed in analytic, sharp questions of who, what, when, where, and why. This Sunday Story Hour took place because of his energetic drive. He inspired all by saying ‘we will do it together.’ For three months, he announced the event at Sunday services. The Sunday Story Hour, inspired nieces and nephews of deceased members to come. He completed thirty years of his ministry in August 4th, 2015. Very Rev. Constantine Makrinos is to be congratulated in making this event happen.2

August 6, 2015 service, by C. Tsounis

On Saturday, August 20th, 2016, a traditional Greek wedding procession through Mattituck’s neighborhood streets led to the ceremony performed by Rev. Constantine Makrinos at the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church on Breakwater Road. This is the first time such a wedding procession has been celebrated in the rural hamlet of Mattituck, located on the East End of Long Island.3

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.







On the Road in Greece: Stemnitsa Afternoon

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A taxi or car is the easiest way to tour Stemnitsa, a traditional village in Arcadia, Peloponnese. A late spring day with greenery made this a comfortable excursion. Urban Greeks are rediscovering their roots in village life. Tour buses frequent the town. We had lunch at the café Gerousia, with traditional taverna atmosphere. The Greek feta salad, with country bread and a frappe with grilled chicken was fresh, prepared on the spot. My favorite pastime is having a Greek iced coffee frappe with a view of the Manalo mountains of Arcadia.

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Wandering the streets, we saw an old fashion water fountain and traditional village homes on our way to the Silversmith School. Stemnitsa is part of the municipality of Gortynia in Arcadia. Theodore Colocations, the 1821 Greek Revolution George Washington used the town as a protective shelter. The town is southwest of the Manalo mountains, that is treeless. The local viewpoint is that the Turks cut the trees down in the 1821 Revolution.

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The Silver & Gold Smithery School staff was pleasant, showing us their exhibits. It was founded in 1976 by Lambis Katsoulis, an accomplished silversmith, awarded for his work by the Academy of Athens. Stemnitsa was a famous metallurgical and silversmith centre since the post-Byzantine period and produced worthy craftsmen up to the recent past.

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The School is public and free of fees. It teaches students from all over Greece. It consists of a two-year training course in handmade or productive jewelry. The Silver & Gold Smithery School of Stemnitsa continues the area’s rich tradition but it is also mainly orientated in combining traditional techniques with contemporary design aesthetes-tics. In the past few years, the School is constantly raising its educational standards: by collaborating with exceptional craftsmen and professionals in a seminar basis, by organizing the specialized seminars “Silversmiths’ Spring Gathering” and by participating in numerous exhibitions. During the past years, it has received various distinctions in Greek and International competitions.1

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Gerousia café

Silver filigree silver necklaces, bracelets, precious stones, gold filigree pins and crosses, belt and rings were in exhibits. Shops were closed in the afternoon. I have a pair of costume, gold tone earnings from 2013 that have not tarnished. Unfortunately, only persons who are affluent can afford fine crafted jewelry. More persons prefer the mass-produced items from China. One Taxi cab driver felt the students were wasting their time, or looking for a boyfriend. The economy is changing the Greek outlook on education. On the other hand, learning a trade is better than being unemployed.  The Silver & Gold Smithery School of Stemnitsa is free. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Stemnitsa.





Links: taverna – album


Photo1 – Greek feta salad, with country bread

Photo2 – Stemnista

Photo 3 – an old fashion water fountain

Photo 4 – Jewelry.

Photo 5 – Jewelry.

Photo 8 – Gerousia café

Photo 9 – Frappe, Gerousia Cafe
















111th Police Precinct Community Night Out Enjoyed Community Success


111th Police Precinct Community Night Out Enjoyed Community Success

Clear skies made the early evening of August 1st a success for the 111th precinct of the NYPD. The event was held in Douglaston Shopping Center, located at the corner of Douglaston Parkway and Horace Harding Expressway, New York. The community joined together with NYC political leaders to show appreciation. Beverages, hot dogs, hamburgers and novelties by businesses were given out. Police lines and barricades were set up and held by NYPD forces. The purpose was to secure the area for safe entertainment for the community, providing maximum security.

Police line.

The 111th Police Precinct encompasses St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the largest Greek community outside of Athens. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New York is expanding. Persons are drawn to the Northeastern Queens Church, because of its location in one of the best residential areas of a major city in the United States. The excellent quality of life can be compared to suburban areas. The 111th Police Precinct has made this possible.

Mrs. Irene Cheung, community activist , with Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein.



On the Road in Greece: A Stay in Metsovo


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View of Metsovo from balcony of my room at Asteri Metsovo Hotel.

“We cannot get hotels in Ioannina for our entire group,” said Kostoula Kapogiannis, group leader of the Kapogiannis Tours three-day excursion to Lefkada and Epirus. “We will be spending two nights in Metsovo June 3rd and 4th. Traveling through inland Epirus in late spring is totally different from the islands and the Peloponnese. Greenery, rich farmlands with the Pindos mountains in the background was breathtaking. The abundant forests, misty mountain passes, rivers and gorges unfolded an unforgettable experience.

Metsovo has stone houses with grey slate roofs. My room had a balcony with an incredible view of the Pindos mountains. The city was immaculate, devoid of all graffiti. It looked like Swiss alps skiing center. Epirotes are known for their pites, strudel leave pies with different fillings.

“Epirus means continent in Greek. Ancient Epirus was once a huge country that stretched from modern day Albania (an area the Greeks still call northern Epirus and one in which Greek is still spoken by large communities) bordered by the Ionian Sea to the west, the islands of Lefkada to the south and Corfu to the north…Epirus remained a part of the Ottoman empire until it became part of Greece in 1913. “We are all Epirotes,” explained Billy Litos, who is from Agia Saranta in Northern Epirus, Albania. “We spoke Greek in our homes and Albanian in the work place. Our syllogos (society) is ‘Anagenesis’ in Astoria.” The Society of Epirotes “Anagenesis” and the Ladies’ Auxiliary “Souliotisses,” is located at the Epirotan Cultural Center at 2514 Broadway (between. 29th St. & Crescent St.) in Astoria, New (6).jpg

We stayed at Asteri Metsovo. I had a balcony, single room overlooking the Pindos mountains. photo (8)Early dawn from the balcony gave me an incredible impression. Ouranea and Aristotelis are the owners. They were working long hours, with humility and a smile.

Metsovo is 3,300 feet above sea level. It is below the 6,069 foot Katara pass, that is the highest in Greece. Villages are fading away. Metsovo is designated a traditional settlement by the Greek National Tourism Organization. It is a prosperous, self-sufficient community with a growing population. The citizens are descendants of nomadic Vlach shepherds. They were Greeks trained by the Romans to guard the Egnatia Highway connecting Constantinople and the Adriatic Sea. Metsovo became an important financial center.  The city joined Greece in 1912. Important Greek families, such as Averoff and Tositsas became benefactors of Greece.1

We ate both evenings at “To Koutouki Tour Nikola”. Koutouki means “little box”. The best steak I had in Greece was here. Immaculate, with table cloths, the service was excellent, free of preservatives. In a rainstorm, they delivered meals to our hotel. Their work ethic and hospitality is legendary.  On our last day, we visited Agia Paraskevi Metropolis and Tositsa’s Museum.

Guns, Tositsa Museum.


The Tositsa family lived in Metsovo in a traditional way. The mansion was built in 1661 and renovated in 1954. No plumbing or bathrooms.  Fine carved woodwork, bright rugs and linens, and hand carved Vlach furniture decorated the interior.photo3 I noticed one item: GUNS. They were everywhere on the walls. Tositsa was a tough, no- nonsense family, with courage to protect their own. photo (4)One can help but admire persons with toughness in an age of political correctness. Cretan icons from the 1650’s were hanging, from the Cretan School.photo5 Guns and icons were part of life.  We were the first group present at 9 a.m. A guide was Thothoros an educator, who gave life to his narration.

Who were the Great benefactors? Epirus for the Greeks represented the “epitome” of a hardy, often inhospitable land that was unsuited for cultivation. Hard labor was needed to yield a livelihood. It was “eýandros”, the land of hardy, good men.2 Epirus produced a significant percentage of immigrants who amassed large fortunes. They gifted their wealth to the Greek nation either to fund the armed struggle against the Ottomans or to provide valuable structure for the creation of a new State. Epirotan Benefactors rebuilt (7)

These Benefactors included the following persons: Evangelos Zappas rebuilt the Panathenean Stadium and the Zappeion mansion; Asikis, who also served as foreign minister and prime minister of Romania, built a women’s college on Panepistimiou, the “Arsenio”; Tositsas built the Athens Polytechnic, scene of the famous uprising and the Eye Hospital; George Stavros founded and directed the National Bank of Greece; the Azoimides brothers built the Athens Numismatic Museum; Evangels Averoff, donated moneys towards the refurbishment of the Panathenaea Stadium, built the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, the military academy, a jail, horticultural schools in Larissa, the Athens Odeon and most famously, the warship Georgios Averoff, which saw service during the First World War, created schools, hospitals and churches for the Greek community of Alexandria, Egypt and Baron Sines built the Athens Astronomical Observatory. Their financial funding was astronomical. Most of these institutions are in operation today, because of the interest accumulated from the original cash deposit.3

During much of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, Hellenism served in the Balkans as an ecumenical cultural ideal, very much like the role it played in the eastern Mediterranean of the Hellenistic period and of late antiquity. Although not supported by military might as was the case in Alexander’s time, it attained enormous prestige. Indeed, Greek culture along with Orthodoxy and the Ottoman administration served as the three unifying forces in the Balkans. Hellenism expanded throughout the region because Greeks had dominated the four areas— religion, economy, administration, and intellectual life—that constituted the shared substratum of Balkan life (Tsourkas 1967: 212). Ethnic Greeks occupied positions of enormous prestige and influence in the Ottoman administration and served for decades as governors of Walachia and Moldavia. Greek had become the language of commerce and Hellenism the secular culture of the Balkans (Camariano-Cioran 1974: 15, 311). The economic and political power of the Greeks enabled them to have more contacts with Westerners than their neighbors, which explains in part their earlier attempts at modernization.4

“The ravages of World War II and the civil war, along with poor communications, non-sustainability of traditional livelihoods, and punitive government neglect, spurred massive emigration to North America, Germany and Australia. By the 1970’s, many Epirot villages were in an advanced state of physical and social decline. Numerous houses were left to decay while others sheltered a dwindled population of the economically in active elderly.”5photo (9)

“But matters have slowly changed. The government has acted to integrate the region into the national economy, with frequent flights to Ioannina and good roads, the Via Egnatia expressway and its tunnels through the Pindos. Emigration has slowed down. Village life with traditional architecture and methods now viewed less as stumbling blocks to economic prosperity and more as cultural heritage to be preserved.6

This trip was a success because of Mrs. Kostula Kapogiannis. Her narration of Epirus was historically accurate. She tried to help me negotiate a reasonable price for an evening delivery of dinner at Asteri Metsovo. When I needed assistance with my suitcase, she said “don’t worry! I will take care of it. Don’t spend money.” She personally took the suitcase from my room herself. Enjoy Greece with local residents who are gracious and hospitable.




  1. Fodor’ Travel, “Greece” (Random House: New York, 2015). pp. 347-349.
  3. (
  5. Insight Guides, “Greece” (APA publications, February 2017). p. 195.
  6. Insight Guides, p. 195.



Links:  – Kapogiannis Tours – Asteri Metsovo hotel




Photo 2 – Guns, Tositsa Museum.

Photo 5- Living room, Tositsa Museum

Photo 6 – Asteri Metsovo Hotel.

Photo 7 – Epirus

Photo 8 – Epirotan pita.

Photo 9 – Rich farm fields of Epirus.

On the Road in Greece: Patriotism in Tripoli’s Procession

Military in church state parade, May 22, 2017, Tripoli, Greece

The United States of America is a secular government. The Founding Fathers incorporated a distinct separation of church and state in the constitution. They came to America to escape the religious wars of Europe and a better way of life. On May 22nd, we witnessed a Church/State procession in the provincial city of Tripolis, Greece.  The memory of the saints “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” is remembered in an elaborate procession of education, military and non-profit organizations with bands. Politicians were prominently seen greeting all. Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis family explained the parade. Their friend, Kosta Vlassis of the Nea Democratia party, greeted us while he was marching.

Community marching

The parade began from the central Areos Square, where the courthouse stands, through the streets of the city to the Church of the “Neomartyr Paul”. On May 21st, the church was consecrated.

Icon of New Martyrs Dimitrios and Paul of Tripoli, Greece

We saw platoons of soldiers with arms next to the clergy marching with relics.  I witnessed a similar military presence at the Moscow’s Kremlin churches. The concept of the military and church united to protect the state is amazing.

Community marching

Who were the Greek new martyrs under Ottoman rule? The Tripoli “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” were a class of idealistic men who sacrificed their lives for their faith during this turbulent era, primarily during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Greek flag

The Russo-Turkish wars between 1760-1796 and Greek revolt for independence provided additional grounds and pretensions for persecution of Greek Christians, during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the new-martyrs came from the lower classes and the provinces. Their blood inspired and continues to inspire Tripoli today.1

Compulsory draft of all men exists in Greece

2017 Greece is threatened by the expansionist countries of the north and east. Germany and EU western countries are not the primary contributors to NATO. Believe it or not, Greece is the primary contributor of 2.38% after the United states at 3.61%, based on the 2016 figures.2 Greece gives to this military alliance, realizing her vulnerability in a two-front war. Compulsory draft of all men exists in Greece. They are given a marine training, taught to live off the land when supply lines vanish.

Kosta Vlassis of Nea Democratia party.

The Greek nation, that has a military history of valor and self-sacrifice to the state, from the time of the “300” over 2,000 years ago, is to be commended for their commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Patriotism and Nationalism is expressed by a small nation under siege. They are being devastated by the cutting of pensions the citizens contributed for thirty years, interest on ill-advised personal and government loans and an immigration of refugees and persons fleeing failing states. Young and old joined together to be proud of a national identity identified by language, culture and religion.

Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis family with Dr. John G. Siolas (third from left).



Links: – Album May 22nd festivities






On the Road in Greece: Shopping in Corfu City


Sofia Foka Shop, Corfu City



Leaving St. Spyridon Church in Corfu City May 24rh, I saw a group of Greek stores. Sophia Fokas’ Store was colorful, with icons, colorful silver and costume Greek jewelry, religious items and linens. I young woman caught my attention. Presvitera Krina Elena welcomed me and described the beautiful linens. I have Greek crochet work of the 1900’s from Tseme, Asia Minor, that my Greek family took or created in Chios. I was intrigued by the Byzantine designs.

Sofia Foka Shop, Corfu City

“I will take you to St. Spyridon Church to see the tomb of St. Spyridon,” she said. “We will pray for health and prosperity. Every first day of the month St. Spyridon Church blesses Holy Oil and Holy Water. ” Presvitera Krina Elena is Romanian who is married to Greek Orthodox priest Father George Doukathes, a Canadian Greek. Her kindness and thoughtfulness illuminated her personality. She explained “we have three children who must have tutoring for university entrance exams.” It appears public education is not doing its job.

Sofia Foka Shop, Corfu City

“Many Russians and Romanians visit,” she said. “They believe in St. Spyridon and St. Nicholas. Many signs have Russian and Romanian writings.” She showed me a photo of her husband in a procession. I was able to get Holy Oil from proprietor Sophia Fokas that is not accessible in New York City. Sofia Fokas’ Store is located at 41 St. Spyridon St. Hospitality and kindness to the stranger is what I experienced. Do not listen to the negative reports. Now is the time to go to Greece.

Presvitera Krina Elena (left) with Sofia Fokas and traditional linen.




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



travel agent Hara Armeni,,




On the Road in Greece: Comedy Presented in Tripoli

IMG_8548 (1280x690) (450x243)The Theatrical Group of the Primary Education Teachers Arcadia presented the comedy “Lies” or known as “The Lying Kind” by playwright Anthony Neilson at the Malliaropoulios Theatre from June 1 -15, 2017 in Tripoli, Arcadia, Greece. The theatrical group put their hearts into this performance in the mountains of the Peloponnese. The theater was filled with an enthusiastic audience. We were the guests of Professor Spiro and Evangelia Vardouniotis. They perform in different cities, presenting their creative skills.  The highlight of our trip to Tripoli is seeing their comedies, fairy tales and serious dramas. Their performances should be on u-tube for the Greek Diaspora to enjoy.IMG_8519 (1280x699) (450x246)IMG_8569 (1280x696) (450x245)

The dark comedy deals with extreme situations involving issues such as death, dementia, misunderstandings and complications showing how kind people who ‘lie” to remain kind. Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis, ENT surgeon, explained on Facebook “Arcadia’s teachers prepared their own “lie” in Malliaropoulio! The Arcadia Teachers’ Theatrical Team, after the end of the “Noah’s Family” performance, that was an enormous success, prepared for the premiere of their new production for adults this time. A few words about the project: Two police officers, “armed” English police, come to tell an elderly couple an unfortunate incident. It’s Christmas Eve and they are reluctant to uncover the unpleasant news. The whole issue requires special handling, but their kindness, the spirit of the days … things start to get confused. And as is often the case in real life, extraneous and improbable factors and events that we cannot predict lead our heroes to a series of terrible misunderstandings with sometimes moving and sometimes hilarious results …”

“Anthony Neilson’s comedy analyzes modern society with extreme precision, that has the audience laughing in unlikely situations,” said Dr. Vardouniotis. “The work is based on repeated misunderstandings that arise between the characters…. Through the laughter, the writer wants to convey the message that “Truth is always better than lie.” This is an explosive comedy, full of surprises and unexpected developments. The project is a structured game where every corner awaits you with a surprise. Through hilarious situations, intrigue and misunderstanding, the deepest truths emerge …”IMG_8675 (1280x693) (450x244)

The performers include: George Kazantzidis; Vasilis Chronopoulos; Yiota Karydis; Bessie Petropoulou-Leivaditi; Spiros Vardouniotis; Panos Iliopoulos; Christina Arvaniti; Anna Zaferopoulou and others. The production and public relations staff are Frose Hatzopoulou, Fani Ziazias, Vasilis Nastos, Melina Hatzopoulou, Takis Roumeliotis, Anna Mpramou, Anna Mpeta, Maria Syriou, Eleni Koutou, Evagelia Marini and Nikos Salapatas. All information was taken from the program.IMG_8731 (1280x693) (450x244)IMG_8732 (1280x693) (450x244)

The Theatrical Group has participated from 2003-2016 in some of the following works: “Youth for a Dime,” As. Gialamas-K. Prenteteris: “Looking for a Liar,” D. Psathas; “The Woman Cardplayer,” D. Psathas;  The Seagull Brings Babies,” M.  Repas, 2 years; “A Crazy, Crazy 50 Year Old Woman,” A. Sakellarios; “Dust in the Eyes,” E. Lamp is;  “The Dream of the Scarecrow” E. Trivia, 2 years; “The Magical Pillows,” E. Trivia; “Odyssevach” X. Kalogeropoulou; and “To Slavia” (The Son of a Slave),” X. Kalogeropoulou.

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Dr. John G. Siolas (left to right) with Mrs. Evagelia Vardouniotis of the Production staff, and actor Prof. Spiros Vardouniotis.

Special acknowledgement is expressed to The City of Tripoli for their donation of the Malliaropoulios Theatre, Christina Sarantopoulou, Vasili Mpita; EAS REGION Athletics Federation Peloponnese, Acadia 93.8, and


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On the Road in Greece: Capital of the Ionian Islands

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Corfu city or Kerkyra (Greek: Κέρκυρα) is a city and a former municipality on the island of CorfuIonian IslandsGreece.

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Since the 2011 local government reform, it is part of the municipality of Corfu island. It is the capital of the island and of the Corfu regional unit. IMG_4361 (350x196).jpgThe city also serves as a capital for the region of the Ionian Islands.

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The city (population 24,838 in 2011) is a major tourist attraction, and has played an important role since the 8th century. The city has become known since the Middle Ages as Kastropolis (Castle City) because of its two castles.IMG_4370 (350x195).jpgIMG_4374 (350x194)

In 2007, the old town of the city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The municipal unit of Corfu city has a land area of 41.905 km2(16.180 sq mi) and a total population of 39,674 inhabitants.IMG_4376 (197x350) Besides the city of Corfu/Kérkyra, its largest other towns are Kanáli (population 4,086), Potamós (3,840), Kontokáli (1,660), Alepoú (3,149), and Gouviá (838).1





Ttravel agent Hara Armeni,,  Charitos Travel,

66 Ethniki Palaiokastritsas,
Solari, Corfu, Greece 49100 Tel: +30 2661044611,