submitted by Peter Makarthis on 17.09.2011
Anargiros Vasslios Stratigos
Anargiros Vassilios Stratigos arrived in Australia from Greece on the Highland Princess disembarking at Sydney, NSW April 1946. This followed an announcement from Athens, 26 February 1946, to ‘confer the Freedom of the City of Athens’ to the Australian Minister of External Affairs, Dr. H. V. Evatt.The diploma and a commemorative medal for Dr. Evatt are being taken to Australia from Athens by Mr. Anargiros Stratigos, vice-chairman of the Athens Grecco-Australian League.
Mr. Stratigos is also taking an ancient Greek urn containing earth from the graves of Australians killed in action in Greece in 1941.
Mr Stratigos, a special envoy representing the Greek Regent, Archbishop Damiskinos presented a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia, the Rt. Hon. Ben Chifley, an ancient Greek urn containing soil from the graves at Phaleron War Cemetery of Australians killed in action during 1941 in Greece and an illuminated address from the professors and students of Athens University to the universities of Australia thanking them for the aid given to Greece. This presentation was made in the office of the prime minister at Parliament House Canberra on Friday 19 July 1946 in presence of a delegation including Dr. Vrisakis the Consul General for Greece; Rt. Rev.Timotheous Evagilindis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia and Mr. Arthur George, the president of the Greek community in Sydney.
The Ancient Greek Urn, a priceless object of Corinthian art, is 2,500 years old. It has been a museum piece in the National Museum of Greece for hundreds of years. Before being brought to Australia, it was consecrated by the Regent of Greece and Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos, in the presence of 1,500 people.
Mr. A. Stratigos, vice-president of the Australian-Greek League of Athens, who came from Greece specifically to make the presentation, told Mr. Chifley that this was the first time in history that Greece had presented Greek soil to a foreign country.
"Such an act from ancient times has been considered an act of capitulation," he explained.
"To-day, however, Greece presents it to the Australian people, who it regards as a brother people, and it is a small gesture and symbol of her gratitude and friendship towards Australia."
Mr. Stratigos, when presenting the urn, made his speech in Greek language and was translated into English by Mr. A. T. George, a Sydney Greek lawyer.
When he made the presentation, Mr Stratigos said: "This is a piece from the holy body of Greece, which the Greeks have ever denied to other races. But they now offer it to a brother people, Australia, as an official token of the most sacred and unbroken ties of unity."
He said, "This is a token of ever- lasting- friendship between two peoples. It is an expression of ever- lasting gratitude of the Greek people to the Australians who died on Greek soil. Greece will never forget the co sacrifices of the Australians."
Mr. Chifley, speaking on behalf of the Australian people, said Greece had done Australia a signal honour.
Warmth of friendship had existed between the two peoples long before the war and the war itself had cemented that friendship.
"I can only hope that the sacrifices made by your people will have their benefits and that calm will be brought back to them at an early date," Mr. Chifley added. "The urn will remain a treasure in the archives of the Australian people for ever or as long as the urn itself in the passage of time will last."
The Leader of the Country Party (Mr. Fadden) said he was head of the Australian Government when Nazi hordes were engulfing the country."I wonder how many people know that the order, was given to the Greek High Command that not one Greek soldier was to retreat until every Australian had reached his transport," he added.
This priceless urn and the sacred soil from the graves of Australian soldiers now repose in the Canberra War Memorial, where the Prime Minister (Mr Chifley) placed it, after receiving it from Mr Stratigos. It was a gift from the people of Greece to the people of Australia.
At a ceremony on Monday 20 January 1947 at Sydney Town Hall the Australian Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, was presented with the freedom of the City of Athens.
During the ceremony, at which the State Premier, Mr. Mc Kell, and the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Bartley, were present, messages between Athens and Sydney were read, addressed from Lord Mayor to Lord Mayor.
The message from the Mayor of Athens, Mr. Aristis Skliros, stated that Dr. Evatt represented a country which had given inestimable war aid to Greece in fighting strength and after the retreat of the invaders, in food and clothing and moral support.
Mr, A. Stratigos, presented to Dr. Evatt the scroll testifying that he was a free citizen of Athens, and speakers referred to the "oldest and the youngest democracies" cementing their union in the person of the man who had spoken most freely in defence of Greek national independence.
Dr. Evatt said he regarded the honour as a tribute to the Australians who had originally fought for the freedom of beleaguered Greece.
Peter C. Mc Carthy
aka' Skoulandris' Panayoitis Makarthis
Inverell NSW September 2011
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