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Lecture by Mrs Eva Dafaranos at the Hellenic Lyceum Symposium in Sydney (8 March 2013) on “Hellene Women abroad”
Hellene women abroad
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, as a prologue to my speech “Hellene women abroad”, I would like to recite for you, the “third letter” from my first book entitled “Maharani’s Letters” which was published in India in 2002, and closing my speech in the end, the “epilogue letter” from the same book of poems.
Τhe performance, the everyday routine,
the artist, art itself, the crystal ring
in your hand are all reflections of your earthly as well as divine existence.
Time, the unending hours of your silence
and the tiresome waiting of your shadow
on the naked watt of my memories.
Our steps plunged into the pond of order
and dull conformity.
The superior was sacrificed for the sake
of the inferior.
Darkness and tight embrace together in front of the speechless presence
of ancient statues.
The ceaseless struggle of balance.
Me and you, acrobats walking along
the tended rope of a circus
called … … … Life … … …
I was asked to speak about the above mentioned subject, which I found extremely interesting, timely, as well as with a broad perspective. Since we celebrate women’s Day, its an opportunity to pay tribute to the gender dimension of Hellenicity overseas. I would also dare to touch the importance of the women’s role in terms of cultural and social activity as leading and constituent part of civil society.
For a quite a number of years now, I have had the experience to reside in many countries as a wife of a diplomat; the experiences I got from Hellene women residing in these countries has enriched my knowledge in terms of how one woman can project her cultural background in the country where she resides.
I drew the conclusion that in all these societies the local interest for the Hellenic culture, is very intense, that’s why our roll in projecting Hellenicity is challenging and extremely important.
If one tries to see for example cultural diplomacy, it will be soon understood that in a relation between two states, let’s say Australia and Greece, a part from the pivotal dimension, that of two States, there is a number of factors which come in and contribute a lot. These factors are the business community and the civil society on either side. The business community can pursue profitable opportunities, but at the same time can promote tourism and culture as activities for profit; it can also be part of culture and play a significant role in this direction.
The civil society is composed of the citizenry of a particular society as well as of its organized forms such as the Lyceum and its Chapter in New South Wales.
It becomes in this way very clear that a particular moment, in a particular place, a person or a group of persons, can contribute in terms of projecting a cultural heritage they carry along as origin.
Especially in our times when globalization, communication, transport and information have reached an unprecedented level of technological advance and sophistication, it becomes evidently important the role women can play as dynamic part of the civil society.
And here I come to this interactive and cosmopolitan environment to make my point that Hellene women abroad can and do play a significant role in terms of culture promoting Hellenicity.
It is well known that as a nation with an ancient tradition of diaspora, we the Hellenes, women and men, have had the opportunity for various historical reasons, to disperse around many countries.
Carrying the genes of an itinerant nation, we have always developed spectacular skills of adaptation, learning foreign languages and cultures.
The Hellene with her / or his inherent talent and charisma, as modern Ulysses, has through the years developed skills to integrate and blend with the host society, becoming thus a domestic progressive force without losing the national identity and the radiance of her/his ancestry.
Hellene women play a strong and decisive role in terms of their influence within a family first of all, and especially in the case of mixed marriages, where they instill in their own unique way the seeds of Hellenicity together with cosmopolitanism, which comes from a rich heritage such as the Greek – Australian.
Cultural contributions vary. It is not necessary, it is not even possible all of us to be artists or intellectuals; It is though possible to carry within our life cultural messages such as preserving and promoting Greek civilization.
We can speak about important things in easy and simple ways:
For example when we invite Australian Friends for a traditional culinary experience, it is obvious that we promote our culture.
The same applies when we invite a friend to a Greek music performance, or when we take them to visit a Greek festival, art exhibition or when we offer them an interesting book; it can be the classics, it can be modern literature, especially a known Greek Film, it can be also our personality, our values, our code of conduct which can make a positive impact about Hellenicity to our foreign friends.
But dearest Ladies, who are the real protagonists in the global effort to create philellene sentiments, apart from the established and famous Hellene women abroad?
It is the older generation, the unknown heroines, to be congratulated; your mothers and aunts, who made a considerable leap forward moving to other continents, where through hard work they were capable and successful in building a family and in many instances simultaneously assisting a husband in starting also a business. They raised kids; you all; they raised grandchildren; they cooked Greek; they projected their Greekness through their customs, their language, their national dresses, through their annual pilgrimages to Greece.
They are to be congratulated for carrying this beautiful torch of Hellenicity today in a different, maybe more advanced and more sophisticated way.
You the younger generation with your children please keep on the tradition; you will undoubtedly succeed as they did!
Whole heartedly, I express my love and my congratulations for the excellent work that you all are presenting as Hellene women abroad making your country of origin, Greece, to feel proud of you.
We say goodbye to meet again
Birth, death, the unending cycle.
As when I recognised you then, it is
also in the same way that I will
recognise you now and ever after … …
till we become one with the divine.
I have stopped feeling pain.
It's full moon tonight.
Goodnight my love.