Along with Michael Dukakis, a former governor of MA, distinguished public figures such as Representative James McGovern and Worcester Mayor Konstantina Lukes will attend the gala dinner dance on June 16 that will be the highlight of the convention.
Metropolitan Methodios, the spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in New England, will deliver the invocation and the benediction at the dinner, assisted by the Rev. Dean Paleologos, dean of St. Spyridon’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Worcester.
Representing the younger generation of the Greek-American Epirote community, Albany television news reporter Demetra Ganias and author/journalist Eleni Gage will be co-emcees of the gala dinner dance.
More than 300 delegates from all over the U.S. will participate in the four-day convention, including six former presidents of the Federation and dozens of chapter presidents. Among the most notable delegates will be Al and Dorothy Wilson, who will travel all the way from Los Angeles to attend, even though they are 87 and 85 years old respectively. The Wilsons are the parents of actress and producer Rita Wilson, the wife of actor Tom Hanks. He named his estate in Idaho “Sotira” after his mother-in-law’s village in Epiros. (Other notable Greek Americans from Epiros are former CIA director George Tenet, author Nicholas Gage and the late actor and director John Cassavetes.)
The convention will also attract a number of public figures from Greece, including several deputies in the Greek Parliament, as well as Nikos Gontas, the mayor of the provincial capital of Epiros, Ioannina.
The convention will begin with registration on June 13, continue with working sessions over the next three days, and culminate with the election of new officers on Saturday, June 16 and the gala dinner dance that evening. The working sessions will open with a report from the current president of the federation, Michael Servos, a businessman from Clearwater, FL, who will outline the organization’s efforts over the past two years to support the Epiros region, half of which lies in Greece and half in Albania.
Epiros is an ancient area whose recorded history goes back to Homer. Aristotle wrote in his treatise “Meterology” that the Greek language and culture began in the region. The mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias, was a princess of Epiros, and the last military leader to defeat the Romans in battle was King Pyrrhus of Epiros.
Until the 20th Century, the whole of Epiros was considered one region, but when European powers created the new country of Albania in 1913, they assigned the northern half of the area to the new nation. Overnight the ethnic Greeks of the area found themselves a minority in a new country that regarded them with suspicion and often persecuted them.
One of the main goals of the Panepirotic Federation in America has been to try to secure basic human rights for the ethnic Greeks of Northern Epiros and at the same time to promote economic development in the southern part of Epiros that is in Greece. Over the years, the Federation has provided hundreds of scholarships to students in both parts of the region and has helped support schools, churches, and cultural organizations in both areas.
Last year, at a conference in the capital of Epiros, Ioannina, the Federation was instrumental in creating a World Council of Epirotes Abroad to bring together Epirote organizations from all five continents and strengthen their efforts to promote economic development and cultural enrichment of their ancestral