American Hellenic Institute

AHI Calendar

 

2017bookcover

Facebook Image
In Their Words: Student Essays
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
September 21, 2016—No. 42 (202) 785-8430

In Their Words: Student Essays

AHIF Student Foreign Policy Trip Participants Describe their Personal Experiences

WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is releasing ten essays authored by participants of the Eighth Annual American Hellenic Institute Foundation College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus.

The students’ insightful essays describe their personal experiences from the trip to Greece and Cyprus held June 17 to July 1, 2016. During the two-week program, the students were in Cyprus, June 18 to 23 and Athens, June 23 to July 1. Prior to departing for overseas, the students spent two days in Washington, DC, June 15 and 16. They received firsthand experience about the foreign policy issues affecting Greece and Cyprus, their relations with the U.S., and the interests of the U.S. in the region.

“The trip provided for an eighth-straight year a wonderful opportunity to lead an exceptional group of students to Cyprus and Greece,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “It was rewarding to see them gain firsthand experience about the foreign policy issues that concern U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus. The AHI Foundation looks forward to offering this program annually as support for it has grown and student interest remains at significant levels since the program’s inception.”

 

AHIF Foreign Policy Trip: Fixing A Hole

by Allie Martin

2016alliemartinAllie Martin.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about ever since I’ve retuned to the U.S. from Greece and Cyprus is the realities of U.S. interests and the position in which it places smaller countries. The reconciliation between interests of the United States and the well-being of nations like Greece and Cyprus seems almost impossible under the circumstances. The situation is particularly confounding with regard to the continuing struggle in the Republic of Cyprus.

There’s no question that since returning from my trip to Greece and Cyprus, I am substantially more invested in the issues facing the two tiny Mediterranean nations. My changing attitude was most evident in relation to Cyprus. I was utterly impartial to whatever happened to the island of Cyprus before the trip. To me it was a small and inconsequential country. The more time I spent there the more it didn't matter how big or how small Cyprus was because I met and spoke with actual people who were being effected everyday by the constant occupation. I saw the bombed out resort hotels along the coastline of Famagusta, and I saw the houses that belonged to someone else being inhabited by total strangers. Most importantly, I saw desecrated churches that stand only as a ghostly reminder of the Greek Orthodox people who used to live in the occupied area. Seeing these things inspired me to care and do what little I can to realize a resolution to the occupation of Cyprus.

Being a United States citizen, I only have power to change the way my country responds to the situation. I also have the great privilege of being able to criticize what my country does. Unfortunately, I cannot logically disagree with Henry Kissinger when in 1974 he said there was no U.S. reason why Turkey shouldn't own the one third of Cyprus. During the summer of 1974 not only was the Nixon administration crumbling, but the Cold War was in full swing. There were simply some problems the U.S. cared more about and the Turkish invasion into Cyprus didn’t register high enough on the list. For one thing, Cyprus was a non-aligned country, meaning it refused to pick sides between the U.S. and the USSR. I can imagine that position made people like Kissinger and Nixon less willing to keep Turkey in line. I can also imagine our involvement in Vietnam made the government wary about joining another international conflict for apparently no American reason. It seems relatively simple for the United States to have told Turkey to move its troops out of Cyprus. But at the same time, the fear of having to send troops to another small, relatively unknown country was surely a daunting thought. There was also the overall desire of having as many allies during the Cold War as possible and friends in the Middle East were no easier to come by in the 1970s as they are now.

What if the U.S. had gotten involved in 1974? It doesn’t really matter because the U.S. didn’t get involved. I could analyze the history of the situation to death, but nothing will change the fact that Turkey invaded and the U.S. did nothing. So all that leaves is what to do about it now. During my time in Cyprus, I learned that the situation has become increasingly complicated over the years. Between Turkey illegally exporting its own people to settle into abandoned homes and the continuing presence of an excessive amount Turkish troops, it seems the prospects for a solution dwindle as the days go by. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if the U.S. has any more interest in Cyprus now than it did in 1974. This mainly comes from the fact that while the situation is illegal and infuriating, it’s relatively stable. Compared to the instability and violence plaguing its neighbors in the Middle East, the situation in Cyprus doesn’t even register on the general public’s consciousness. Obviously no one wants violence to break out, but the fact that there is practically no fighting between residence and troops in the occupied area and the residents in the Republic of Cyprus, means the media has no reason to report on it and that the international community sees no immediate reason to rock the boat. Lastly, allies in the Middle East are becoming even harder to come by, and even though Turkey is barely an ally, the United States has demonstrated it is all too willing to look the other way and let Turkey do whatever it wants.

The true loser in this situation is the tiny island in the Mediterranean and the people who live there. Whether or not the United States has a practical interest in reunifying the island, the fact remains that what happened in 1974 was illegal, wrong, and scarred an entire nation. I didn’t understand this fact until I saw the problems where they were happening. On paper, it’s logical that the United States ignores the Cyprus issue. In real life, it doesn't make sense. Over a thousand people still missing, countless people kicked out of their homes, and sacred churches ripped apart beyond repair. Just because it’s small doesn't mean it’s insignificant, and it’s not right for the United States to stay silent. It’s time to fix what’s broken.

Allie Martin is a rising junior at Boston University majoring in History and International relations with a minor in Modern Greek. She participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

A Divided Island, An Enduring People

By Anastasia Matiatos

2016anastasiamatiatosAnastasia Matiatos.

As our plane landed in Larnaca, I remember my initial impression of Cyprus being that it was not so different from my home in Tucson, Arizona. Hot and dry, both places possess a unique beauty and a distinct culture (not to mention many of the same cactus varieties). Immediately, I was struck by the hospitality of the people we encountered, and as such, the island of my grandparents quickly felt as much a home as Arizona even though I had never before been there.

As we traveled to and explored Nicosia, I was reminded of Tucson, for both cities are amalgams of different cultures, Tucson being American and Mexican, and Nicosia being Greek and Turkish. Only an hour’s drive from the Mexican border, Tucson’s culture is a vibrant mix of Hispanic and American, with niche holidays and foods unique to the city. Unfortunately, while many Arizonans embrace this hybrid culture, others are not leaders in tolerance.

Similarly, Cyprus, an island with a most certainly Greek culture, possesses undeniable influences from its neighbors. Food and dialect have an Eastern flair, and like Tucson, the island has a long history of peaceful coexistence between its two major and distinct communities. From either group exist examples of earnest attempts at understanding and reconciliation, from small bonds of friendship between individuals, to official efforts toward unity. Of course, like Tucson, there exist also signs of division and conflict on the island.

Though I was struck by the basic similarities between my modern and ancestral homes, it’s clear the issues of Arizona differ greatly from that of Cyprus and to say that they are the same would be to demean the severity of the Cyprus problem. However, it is not the presence of foreign troops that separates the two the most. Rather, the greatest difference between Cyprus and Arizona is in the people themselves.

One of my most distinct memories from the AHIF trip was when the group participants, myself included, were exploring Nicosia. We had been walking along an unassuming street when we were suddenly blocked. In our path was a barricade manned by an armed soldier. Without realizing it, we’d hit the Green Line separating the free Republic from the occupied north.

Here in the United States, a presidential candidate is calling for a wall to be built in order to separate the people of Mexico from those of the U.S. Building a wall has become a rallying cry for many Americans, as though their "us vs. them" mentality is not enough of a divisive force on its own. It seems many Americans have the tendency to fear that what unites them is not strong enough to endure change; as though a physical wall is all that could protect the American identity.

2016matiatos02Graffiti seen on the streets of Nicosia.

 

2016matiatos01A barrier found in the occupied territory. 

Yet there I stood on the Nicosia sidewalk, facing an actual, tangible barrier between freedom and oppression, isolation and acceptance, and self and other. For years I’ve listened to American politicians speak about building a wall, but to actually face a physical barricade that brought to life said "us vs. them" conflict was frankly astounding. I considered the impact of being a Cypriot and knowing that on the other side of that barrier existed a place that was paradoxically yours despite not actually being able to be part of it. Frustration and resentment must surely abound, I concluded. Yet when I spoke to Greek Cypriots, be it informally at a restaurant or officially in a government setting, I heard optimism.

Ultimately, the fundamental difference between Americans and Greek Cypriots lies herein: so many Americans need borders to define who they are whereas Greek Cypriots transcend them. When I heard optimism from the locals I spoke to, it was optimism not that the conflict is necessarily near a solution, but that the Greek Cypriot people would always endure. To be a Greek Cypriot, I’ve learned, is about far more than borders – it is the manifestation of the bond and pride of a people who have historically and are today determined to remain united in the face of all adversity. 

Anastasia Matiatos, an Honors student at the University of Arizona, is double majoring in "Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law" and "Fine Arts" with minors in Classics and Spanish. She participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

American Hellenic Institute Foundation Foreign Policy Study Trip to Greece and Cyprus: The U.S. Should Re-Evaluate its Strategic Alliances

By Anastasia P. Kourtis

2016anastasiakourtisAnastasia Kourtis.

Recent events in the Eastern Mediterranean have demonstrated that the United States needs to place more emphasis on its relationship with Greece as a strategic ally. Bordering the Balkans to the west and north, Turkey to the east, and Egypt and Libya to the south, Greece is the only stable country in a critical geopolitical region. As a longstanding NATO (and pre-NATO) ally, investment in a stronger relationship with Greece is in the interests of the U.S.

While the United States has previously sought to depend primarily on Turkey for strategic objectives in the area, with good reason, the events of this summer have made Turkey’s instability and its unreliability as an ally overwhelmingly clear to the global community. Greece is a firmly democratic country, a historically friendly ally to the U.S., and a loyal NATO member with a Western orientation as a member of the European Union. Politically, it has often been open to collaboration with the U.S.

In light of Turkey’s instability, Greece therefore presents a strong alternative for the U.S. to invest through diplomacy and foreign policy. It is true that since 2008, Greece has been in a severe economic crisis. However, while the country is suffering economically, it is militarily strong. Despite the crisis and multiple austerity plans, the Greek defense budget has actually increased, making the Hellenic defense forces nearly equal in size and quality to that of Turkey, a country with a much larger population, territory, and economy. In fact, in June 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Greece was one of only five out of twenty-eight NATO countries to meet its treaty obligation to expend 2% of its GDP on military spending. The other four are the U.S., UK, Poland, and Estonia.

This summer I had the unique opportunity to meet with many Greek, Cypriot, and U.S. officials through the American Hellenic Institute’s Foreign Policy Study Trip to Greece and Cyprus. On this visit, we also had the opportunity to travel to Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, where we met with NATO military officials at the two NATO facilities, a Hellenic Air Force Base, and visited the U.S. Naval Support Activity base. I learned that the NATO facilities are unparalleled training installations, and are located at a critical geopolitical position. As the U.S. is the largest financial contributor to NATO, we should be making more effective use of the extensive facilities in Greece.

Furthermore, my experience at these facilities was overwhelmingly positive and inspired confidence. The Greek military personnel that staffed these facilities are highly trained, professional, intelligent, and conveyed integrity. They were also friendly, communicative, and speak English. When asked about relations with U.S. military officers, they attested that they frequently had close and open communications. We received similar information at the Headquarters of the Hellenic Navy. If it is clear that a strong relationship with Greece is in U.S. foreign policy interests, we should more extensively utilize the Greek-funded NATO facilities, and work to build a stronger partnership with Greece. Similarly, as relations with Greece have historically been overwhelmingly positive, why has the U.S. been slow to engage in a more active alliance?

The answer lies with Greece’s complex relationship with Turkey. At the N.M.I.O.T.C. (NATO) facility in Souda Bay, we learned that as a NATO member, Turkey makes extensive use of Greece’s NATO facilities. Just down the street at the Hellenic Air Force Base, the Greek colonel who briefed us noted that Turkish F-16 jets routinely invade Greek airspace and that Greece spends extensive resources redirecting them out of its territory. A few days later during our briefing at the Headquarters of the Hellenic Navy at Salamis, I asked the Commander of the Fast Boats Patrol Command how often Greek ships were needed to guide Turkish ships out of Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). He replied, “daily.” This clear violation of the NATO treaty would be inexcusable to the U.S. were it not for our dependence on Turkey. Nevertheless, this behavior of one NATO ally towards another is intolerable.

Although the U.S. has pursued a strong alliance with Turkey, it is evident the already weak relationship will likely to continue to deteriorate. Turkey has repeatedly shown its apathy in adhering to the obligations of its alliance with the U.S. One egregious display of this indifference was Turkey’s demand for $30 billion from the U.S. to allow access to a military base near the Northern Iraqi border at the outset of the Iraq war in 2003. In February 2003, the New York Times reported that a senior U.S. official privately called this action “extortion in the name of alliance”. Many military analysts believe this outrageous demand, which the U.S. would not meet, severely hampered the initial invasion, and resulted in the prolonged war. Currently, with the problem of ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis, it is questionable on whose side, or both, Turkey stands. The U.S. cannot afford to depend wholly on any unstable and undemocratic country in such a critical region.

Turkey could be an integral partner to the U.S. if this alliance were effective. It is not. Our futile commitment to this alliance is misguided and rooted in an outdated Cold War mentality. We should bolster new relationships elsewhere, rather than continue to make concessions to Turkey for nothing in return. Greece has proven to be a responsive and competent partner in a key geostrategic location, already equipped with excellent facilities and a history of friendly relations. The U.S. should be looking to build on its prior investments in Greece, not to repair already weak and fractured ties with Turkey. 

Anastasia Kourtis graduated magna cum laude from Boston University in May 2015 with a B.A. in Classical Studies and Anthropology, and a minor in Modern Greek. Anastasia will attend Boston College Law School in the fall. She participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

 

A Greek American Perspective On International Relations All Americans Should Care About

By Eleni M. Papageorge

2016elenipapageorgeEleni Papageorge.

I had the opportunity of a lifetime attending The American Hellenic Institute’s Foreign Policy Trip. I am so grateful to have been chosen to participate in this amazing program, especially because I am not majoring in foreign policy. I am a speech pathology and psychology double major, minoring in deaf studies, not a student of politics, government, or international affairs. I spend my days learning speech impediments and not political disputes. Having only my strong background in social justice issues, a lifelong interest in government and politics, and my Greek heritage to promote me, I was ecstatic to have been chosen for this experience, in addition to being daunted by all the Greek and Cypriot affairs I did not know.

I entered this trip with only the basic Google search information in my repertoire, and I was afraid I had taken a spot on this trip from someone who could better use this experience in their future career. I was also unsure if I could connect with any of the issues about which I would be learning. But after completing the trip, I realized that like American politics, you do not need to be working in the political sphere to be actively exploring international issues; and in fact, we should not be indifferent and uninformed about what is happening on the other side of the world. I found that it was my duty, not only as a Greek American to care about these issues, but as a human I should be concerned about the issues of sovereignty and justice in every country; from the smallest island to the largest nation. Although I did not approach this trip through the experienced eyes of a well-versed political science major, I found that I was able to see these international affairs through the eyes of a social justice advocate.

Maybe part of me has a soft spot for Cyprus. I think they combine, in my mind, my Greek heritage with the American spirit. Having been a British colony from 1878 to 1960, when they fought for freedom in hopes of reuniting with Greece. Although they ultimately became independent instead of a Greek island, they fought with a resistance movement and propaganda similar to that of the American Revolution. They formed a democracy and became self-sufficient, similar to the U.S. To have the opportunity to become a fully-fledged, stable democracy, a NATO member (Turkey will never let them join with it veto power), and a helpful ally to the west in the Middle East, robbed from them only fourteen years after their independence is tragic and against U.S. law and international law. This could’ve easily have been the United States’ story.

But the real issue that matters to me, as a psychology major, a Greek American whose family escaped a Turkish genocide, an American citizen, and a human being, is the issue of the Missing in Cyprus. Following Turkey’s invasions in 1974, when they illegally took forty percent of Cyprus’s land, over 1,600 people became lost in the chaos of the invasion. Turkey only released two injured soldiers as prisoners of war following the ceasefire, leading us to believe that all these citizens were killed during the attack, but a majority of the bodies have not been found. The government of Cyprus believes that the Turkish government has information relating to mass graves in their military files, of which they refuse to release. They also try to thwart attempts to recover bodies on the occupied side of the island and do not allow the Cypriot government to search military sites.

This is a violation international law and is morally despicable. To have killed so many innocent people and then to not release information on where they are located is beyond tragic. It leaves the families stuck and unable to move on from such a traumatic event. Cyprus is not in a position of power to make demands to Turkey. They are tiny nation with a small army and no NATO membership. It is time some of Cyprus’ European Union friends and other allies in stronger positions to face Turkey. Instead of politicizing your relationships with the two countries, someone should step up, do the ethical thing and help Cyprus. This shouldn’t be a political issue; this is about family, loss, and closure. Give that to the people of Cyprus. Cyprus needs this closure, they have endured occupations by every historical empire from Greece to Phoenicia to Britain, fought for their independence, only to have it taken from them and held over their heads for forty two years. Someone needs to fight like a Greek, or in this case, like a strong Cypriot who has withstood all this tragedy with grace and compassion.

You don’t have to be Greek American to care. You don’t have to know everything about international law to have an opinion. You just have to be a human who believes in rule of law, sovereignty, justice, and compassion. These are the values the U.S. was founded upon. If the citizens of the US believe in these values, they believe in the plight of Cyprus. And once we care, the world listens. So just imagine you were Cypriot, just for a moment. Do for them what we expect would be done for us. 

Eleni M. Papageorge is a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is double majoring in Speech Pathology & Audiology and Psychology, and minoring in Deaf Studies. She participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

Unforgettable Experience

By Kaliopi Batistas

2016kaliopibatistasKaliopi Batistas.

“Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge.” Nothing sums up my reflections about the American Hellenic Institute’s foreign policy trip more than these words from Mahatma Gandhi. As students, we research, analyze, write, and watch but there is nothing like living the experience of international relations first hand; an unbelievable opportunity that this trip provided me.

A report itself does not compare to the opportunity to speak with commanders who have updated information about their military relations with other countries. A Google search is less inspiring than having met ambassadors, commanders, and even presidents, who are willing to give your insight and truly want you to be informed and involved. A video of Souda Bay falls second string to a private boat tour with NATO officers, where discussions of Greece’s geostrategic value to the United States were held while sailing next to the docked USS Harry S. Truman.

There is no doubt that the AHIF trip is one from which all collegiate students can benefit greatly. I am forever thankful for an experience that not only brought me nine wonderful friends, but also allowed me to see the complexity and reality of Greece’s current international relations. My time spent there was more than enough to spark a passion and get involved with the affairs of my “Patrida” (home country) and its neighbors. We learned and discussed many important issues. Considering Greece is roughly the size of Alabama, the day we spent at NAMFI (NATO Missile Firing Installation) and NMIOTC (NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center) in Crete, was one that made me appreciate even more, the first-hand experience the AHIF trip offered. It put into perspective the value Greece’s facilities and geostrategic location have to the United States and the rest of the world.

It is remarkable the international community fails to address Turkey’s disregard for international law in Greece’s territorial waters and air space. The UN convention of the Law and Sea gives Greece the right to jurisdiction over its adjacent section of the continental shelf 200 miles from shore, which has been violated many times. At NAMFI, we learned that almost every day a Greek jets takes flight just to counter act Turkey’s illegal actions. Inevitably Greece’s actions to reprimand Turkish boats in Greek waters and Turkish jets in Greek airspace are costly but also set a precedent of disobedience to the laws of the United Nations in such an imperative naval base to the world.

The American Hellenic Institute has educated me so much on the relationship between Greece, the United States, and Cyprus. In Greece, no matter whom we met with we were reminded of the strong, reciprocated relations between both nations, Greece and United States. However, the relationship did not exactly feel reciprocated in terms of Turkey’s territorial violations. Much of Greece faces security disputes from Turkey, but a day in Crete made me question why U.S. recognition for these clear violations wouldn’t be much greater. Taking into account the United States’ involvement in NATO as well as its role in Souda Bay, it befuddles me that the United States does not put more pressure on Turkey to simply follow the international laws that are in place.

I have always been passionate about human rights violations; however, the AHIF foreign policy trip exposed me to the violations of the rights of nations as well. This program has instilled in me a greater passion for the rule of law between all countries. I have walked away from this trip more confident in the role I can play as a Greek American in unjust issues. I now have a deeper understanding of my heritage. I have come away with nine accepting, intelligent, capable, and talented friends that the American Hellenic Institute gave me. It gives me great joy to know that the AHIF foreign policy trip will continue to bring collegiate Greek Americans together for an opportunity of a lifetime. I am forever thankful for this experience that not only helped me grow professionally, but as a human being. 

Kaliopi Batistas is a rising sophomore at The University of Virginia, In Charlottesville, VA. She is a prospective Global Development Studies major. She participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

How Greece Can Revolutionize its Tourism Growth on a Minimal Budget

By Jackson Dulgarian

2016jackdulgarianJack Dulgarian.

To note that tourism is the primary source of income for the Greek economy is obvious. Since ancient times, people from all corners of the globe have visited the small southeastern Mediterranean country to seek knowledge, leisure and a unique passionate culture unlike any other. But with a crippling financial situation in full effect, Greece needs more income from tourism now than ever before. Today’s American media outlets often portray the country as an unstable place in disarray and it is often deprived of positive news coverage.

An influx of revenue into the Greek economy through a bolstered tourism campaign will attract more tourists at little expense to the Greek taxpayer. Among the solutions Greeks can utilize are: proper identification and targeting of demographics, a simple but unique theme to appeal to a larger audience, and the assistance of the Greek diaspora to outreach marketing to the furthest extent.

In business, it is crucial to understand the demographics of the audience from which one wants to earn income. This is unclear by observing the current advertising campaign. Upon first glance of the official tourism website, visitgreece.gr, the slogan reads: “All Time Classic.” While Greece may be a country with historically classical roots, this overall message is ineffective. It is unclear who “All Time Classic” is supposed to target, especially since non-Greeks are the potential target for outreach. Instead, officials could approach their advertising campaign in a smarter, more effective way by shifting the focus, in the United States, to young adults and families. The message will remain clear for each as its theme can be simple and bold, desiring a return to Greece each and every year.

Greece has many appealing factors for almost any individual to enjoy. However, proper execution of the ad creation and campaign is important to attract tourists. The many attractions can appeal to everyone and all diverse members of a family can enjoy their visit. Do you like ancient history and/or eastern spirituality? Come to Greece. Are you passionate about being outdoors, or activities like hiking or recreational sports? Come to Greece. What about relaxing on a quiet beach away from the troubles of work and school? Come to Greece. It is a vacation destination that has something for everyone. Although this is not emphasized enough, the theme of the seemingly endless options is perfect and it can excite every member of the family. Greece provides everyone a chance to explore their favorite vacation getaway options—all in one place.

Of course, not everyone can afford a robust excursion to Greece. While the average young adult traveler is light on cash, a shift in the Greeks outreach to the youth can change the status-quo as it may attract a future tourist for many years to follow. It can be argued that many young travelers have strong desires to “escape” and “discover the world” around them, but sometimes a trip runs over-budget or is poorly scheduled. When advertising and reaching out to this young demographic, Greece should always have complimentary features: an escape to paradise yet incredibly affordable, a gateway to majestic and far away islands yet centralized by a busy European city. Again, options for the young traveler are important but travel will always remain restricted unless their budget permits. In order to attract more young travelers, it is crucial for Greek officials to express that popular destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini may be popular, yet the other 2,000 plus islands are more affordable and “yet to be discovered.” With the post-modern world of new competition through private rentals such as AirBnB and comparison airfare websites, a quick search can show technologically savvy people how affordable a Greek vacation can be. If the Greeks desire more income and pinch pennies at the same time, they must start utilizing the internet to its full potential.

Greeks can further resource their best capabilities through internet outreach and connect with the diaspora in order to maximize their potential. In the United States, many Greek American organizations exist to increase Orthodox fellowship, charity, cultural awareness but all carry a common factor: love and devotion to the Greek homeland. A well-constructed and creative social media campaign has the ability to gain international attention, and the Greek Diaspora is well organized to carry a feature like this out. Perhaps a hashtag such as #MyGreekGetaway is simple enough, yet enticing for a person of a Greek background to capture the attention of a non-Greek who may be potential tourist. Include photos of Aegean sunsets, lavish and fresh food or people enthusiastically dancing is enough to attract the desire to travel. While the country may in a tough financial position, the creation of a post-modern and smart tourism outreach strategy is the key to bring in much needed income until the Greek economy fully recovers.

Jack Dulgarian is a senior at the University of Arizona earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science: International Relations with minors in Business Administration and Modern Greek/Classical Studies. He participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

American Hellenic Institute Foundation Foreign Policy Trip: A Call To My Generation

By Kelly Kollias

2016kellykolliasKelly Kollias.

It was not until our first dinner in Nicosia, Cyprus, that the reality of where I was and what we were doing hit me. While enjoying some pizza at a local parlor, a loud call of horns interrupted the steady conversation and laughter that filled the city streets. Startled, my fork dropped out of my hand and my eyes swept panicked over other tables, where townspeople continued to dine and chatter over a second round of horns erupting from (what seemed to me) out of nowhere. “Did anyone else hear that noise?” I asked, perplexed and unsure whether it had just been my imagination. But how could that have been? The sound was so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts.

“Of course,” replied one of my supervisors. “It’s the call from the mosques in the occupied territory signaling time for prayer. They’re just used to it by now.” Her hand did a quick sweep towards the streets, where children continued to play and their parents continued to walk and enjoy the warm summer night.

They’re just used to it by now. It suddenly occurred to me that for my generation living on the island, this was all that they had ever known: a Cyprus divided. A Cyprus driven apart not by choice, but by force and military brutality. For many, a Cyprus united was but a myth, and stories that the elderly told their grandchildren before they went to bed. They had spent all their lives listening to the sound of the horns in the distance, and therein lay the problem. The island had been divided so long that their questions about the occupied territory had slowly died down, and the curiosity that had once eaten them alive now lay forgotten as the generations grew older and the issue remained unresolved. How could this issue stay an issue when generations were merely beginning to accept it for what it was, rather than what it could be?

This problem only became more apparent to me when I would go out in the evenings with peers to local restaurants and taverns in the unoccupied territory. There we would meet people our age, and many would ask questions about what we were doing in Cyprus. When I would explain to them that we were trying to see firsthand what the Turks were doing in occupied Cyprus, they would ask us what it was like on the other side. “You mean you’ve never been?” I would ask them. “You’ve never seen the abandoned buildings, churches, or farmlands?” It seemed strange to me that they had not been to places within their own country. Many of them struggled to even really believe what I was saying. “I only know stories,” they would say, “whatever my yiayia or papou has told me. Or my parents.” One boy in particular merely shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’ve never seen a need to. It’s always been this way. Divided. I know nothing of them; they know nothing of us. It’s always just been.”

The truth is that very few millennials have ever ventured beyond their “side” of the island. They have never seen the skeleton of the forbidden city, nor the desecrated Orthodox churches standing bare, battered, and abandoned. How can they believe when they have not seen? How can they fight for something they do not feel burning deep down in their souls? Even for me, it was not until we ventured beyond the unoccupied territory, and saw the forbidden city, fenced in and rotting, left to stand as some sort of eerie Turkish victory; the childhood home of our bus driver, where a Turkish officer now unjustly lived; or the dried out fields that once flourished with olive trees and foliage that unoccupied Cyprus was known for and proud of; until I believed. It was not until I witnessed with my eyes the very things that people had been trying to tell me did I realize that this was a real thing happening, and that Cyprus needed my help.

So I direct my words toward the millennials of Cyprus, and tell them this: that those stories told by parents, friends, and acquaintances, are more than just stories. That the forbidden city grows rusty and lonesome in wait for their rightful owners to return. That stolen property is used to house Turkish nationals, who make a profit off land that used to feed their country’s economy. That thousands of Cypriot nationals are still missing, and that there are families who, forty years later, continue to wonder where their loved ones are, and if they will ever know what became of them post occupation.

These are more than just stories. They are a call for help. And without Greek American millennials like me, but especially without Cypriot millennials, there will be no change. There will only be what is, and the idea of what can become will vanish as we grow older and those who remember pass away. We must all rise together and take a stand for a united Cyprus; better put, a stand for what is rightfully ours. 

Kelly Kollias is a sophomore at Tufts University majoring in English and double minoring in Business and Media Studies. Kelly participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute Foundation.

 

American Hellenic Institute Foundation Foreign Policy Trip Reflection

By Arthur Dedoulis

2016arthurdedoulisArthur Dedoulis.

My trip to Greece and Cyprus was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I am incredibly thankful and blessed to have been able to experience Greece and Cyprus in the way that I did. The most striking part of the trip to me was being able to visit with the office of the Cyprus Missing Person’s relief effort. I knew that the invasion of 1974 was horrible, but I did not fully understand the gravity and degree of the invasion from a humanitarian stand point until it was explained to me by the Director of Service for Missing Persons Xenophon Kallis. During our meeting, he opened my eyes to the animosity that occurred in 1974.

Director Kallis had so much passion for the issue at hand that it was hard not to be instantly overcome with emotion. This man has spent years of his life trying to bring some comfort and relief to the thousands of Cypriot families who have been living their lives not knowing what has happened to their missing loved ones. His efforts to find the remains and bring them home to their families are incredible. His office spends millions of euros a year using sonar technology to search for the remains of Cypriot people in the homes that they were last seen. The search is not an easy one. They are given no help at all by the Turkish government, which claims to have no records of the mass burial grounds. So step by step, little by little, the Cypriot missing person’s relief effort goes on.

When they are fortunate enough to locate remains of missing people using their sonar technology they then need to send the remains to a forensics lab where they are able to identify the DNA and match it with a living relative. They then piece together the puzzle of the cause of death, and are able to bring the news to the families who lost their loved ones. In most instances they do not tell the families what the cause of death was, and it is very rare for them to produce an entire corpse to the family. Most families accept the remains and have a proper funeral for their missing relatives, but for some families the pain is just too much to bear. We were told that is not uncommon for the families to decline the remains. Being able to go into the lab and office where the remains are kept and analyzed was very special. On the day that we visited they had just recovered the remains of an elderly couple and were preparing them for their funeral later on that week. Next to the bones there was a photograph of the elderly couple. Seeing the photograph and hearing the stories of the atrocities that occurred was really hard, and it made most of us emotional.

Cyprus was really a land of wonder. It was incredible to see that a place that had gone through so much hard ship a short time ago was able to make the recovery that it did. However, the most awe-inspiring aspect of the island is seeing how much proof of the invasion still exists to this day. In addition to learning about the missing person’s effort we were also shown the abandoned Nicosia airport and learned about the effect that the invasion had on it. We were shown how back in its day the airport was a modern attraction for travelers and locals alike. It was a modern place where families could come to enjoy a meal, and travelers could relax while waiting for their flights. During the invasion it was captured by Turkish forces, and hundreds of travelers were trapped against their will. Today the airport functions mainly as the United Nations headquarters in Cyprus and is protected along the neutral green line by peacekeepers. The airport is more than just an office for peacekeepers. It is also a firm reminder of the destruction that took place in 1974; a reminder that lives on to this day untouched by people and hindered by time.

The Nicosia airport is not the only reminder of the devastation. We were also lucky enough to visit the occupied, northern portion of the island. We were taken aback by the desecrated churches and the ghost city of Famagusta. This was a reminder that to this day there is still an elephant in the room between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Hopefully one day soon this divided island will be able to come together and be united in peace. 

Arthur Dedoulis is a rising sophomore at the Catholic University of America pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the Busch School of Business and Economics. He participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

Into the Occupied Territory: Experiencing the Cyprus Problem 

by Matthew Kokkinos

2016mattkokkinosMatt Kokkinos.

The AHIF Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus was a unique opportunity that provided me with a chance to examine political issues facing both Greece and Cyprus. Of those issues, the Cyprus Problem has stood the longest and has most directly impacted – and continues to impact – my family and me, both from my participation in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip and since its occurrence, respectively.

On the day we were scheduled to cross the Green Line and enter Turkish-occupied Cyprus, I was immensely curious, excited, and concerned about what we might see. My father grew up in Lefkosia and was 13 years old when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. By chance, just a day or two before the invasion, my father and his family had left Kyrenia to return to Lefkosia to run errands before returning to the coast. Had they stayed, they would have likely been among the victims of the attack. Since then, neither he, or anyone else in his family, had ventured across the Green Line in the capital, meaning that I would be the first to see it. The emotions I felt knowing all of this only heightened my anxiousness to see what lied across divide and what had become of occupied Cyprus.

Of course, there was no way to prepare myself for what we would find.

Almost immediately after crossing into occupied Cyprus, we came across nationalist monuments built to commemorate what the Turkish government calls, “The Happy Peace Operation.” In their sharp fascist architectural style, they were clearly out of place among old and ragged buildings, seemingly trying to spread a layer of gloss over the less than prospering economic conditions in the occupied section of Lefkosia. But as we drove out of the city toward Kyrenia, we noticed new construction in multiple areas – hotels, apartments, casinos, homes – and I realized that with every new building and business and home, the possibility of Cypriots returning to their homes in a reunification agreement would continue to shrink. Neighborhoods and communities, already changed by the effects of the invasion, were now being permanently altered by illegal commerce. In addition, land was being developed in an uncontrollable fashion.

In Kyrenia, new money flowing into occupied Cyprus had led to the construction of new villas and homes. A newly-constructed casino stood out from the low-rise buildings in the downtown area. You would never know the invasion began in Kyrenia. Most of the buildings looked new, and there were no remnants of destroyed buildings from the bombings could be seen, unlike in Lefkosia. As we walked around Kyrenia Harbor, I wondered how much had changed since the time when my father used to visit with his family. Seeing restaurants and stores open for business in the port – no doubt some of them used to be owned by Greek Cypriots – gave me a feeling of resignation. Quite literally, individuals had left their livelihoods, and others had walked in to fill the void, just as with my father’s home outside Kyrenia and with thousands of Cypriots’ homes and businesses across Cyprus.

Later in the day, we visited a church and a cemetery which had been desecrated and had fallen into disrepair. Next to the Orthodox cemetery was a Muslim cemetery and the difference was striking. In the Orthodox cemetery, tombstones were broken, scattered about the ground haphazardly, weeds and grass had overgrown the plots, and graves had been disturbed. Just over a dividing wall, perfectly-kept tombstones in the Muslim cemetery were untouched and beautified with flowers. Meanwhile, the church had been stripped of its paintings and icons, bird feces littered the floor, and dirt and graffiti was present inside. I reminded myself that this church had peacefully coexisted with the nearby mosque at one point in its history and that the Orthodox and Muslim Cypriots had been neighbors and respected each other’s dead as the graveyards were physically connected except for a small wall between them. As we went back to our bus, I was left with a strong feeling of disappointment.

Our final stop for the day was Famagusta. I had heard of the Dead City of Varosha, and I had seen photos of bombed-out buildings that were deserted since 1974. This was what I had been most anxious to see in Cyprus. We walked toward the barricade set up by the Turkish military on the beach, and we were reminded by signs that photos and passage were forbidden. We were watched curiously by Turkish Cypriots and beachgoers. I felt an emptiness as I stared at the miles of broken homes, dead businesses, and deserted hotels along the famous shore of Famagusta—all frozen in time.

This emptiness turned into a silent furor – a raging determination to find a solution for Cyprus – that came from what the occupation had done. Seeing Varosha in its bombed, decaying state, churches and cemeteries desecrated and in disrepair, and homes and livelihoods stolen, I felt reinvigorated with a passion to share Cyprus’ struggle and achieve a resolution to the conflict.

I still am.

Matthew Kokkinos is a junior attending Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, pursuing both a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs. He participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

 

A Cultural Revival: My Experience on the AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus

By Philip Bachas-Daunert

2016philipdaunertPhilip Bachas Daunert.

I did not know what it meant to be culturally Greek for the majority of my life. I did not attend Greek Orthodox services, I did not attend Greek School, and I did not learn the Greek language when I was growing up. The most Greek activity our family participated in was Greek Easter services, an activity which came but once a year. Further complicating my connection to Greek culture was the Greek community in my childhood home of Kentucky being exiguous at best. This meant that my father, who is of Greek nationality, was the sole provider for Greek culture in my life; an arduous task for any man.

Growing up I felt rather isolated from Greece culturally with one exception: my annual summer trips to my father’s home island of Chios. Islands tend to illicit imagery of isolation, yet, my experiences on Chios was my closest association to Greek culture I received in my formative years. I enjoyed these vacations for many of the same reasons countless of tourists enjoy Chios: the beautiful beaches, the quaint towns, and the picturesque mountainsides.

The prime highlight of my time on the island, however, was the enriching experience of interacting with my Greek family. My Greek family gave me a cultural lesson even with the sizeable language barrier between us. The one family member who affected me the most on my trips was my Yiayia Maro. My Yiayia Maro was always very sweet to me and being with her always made my trips to Chios significant moments in my childhood. Yiayia Maro and I could not communicate verbally during my holidays to Chios. Nevertheless, she would communicate with me via her unmatched kindness and unrelenting love for me. Yiayia Maro gave me the greatest cultural lesson I would receive as a child on Greece: the bond of a Greek family is quite strong.

Unfortunately, my annual trips to Chios ceased when I was around eleven years old. My family on Chios would regularly communicate with my father on the telephone, but my inability to speak Greek and their inability to speak English made direct communication with them a chimera. This led to me infrequently talking with my family in Greece over the subsequent years, nullifying whatever cultural connection I once had to Greece.

This nullification immediately ended in July 2013 with the untimely passing of my Yiayia Maro. Her death was unfortunate for two reasons. The first reason was because she was a healthy and active woman who would have lived for decades more if she was not struck by a moped after shopping for groceries. The second reason was our last communication we had was a phone call in which she could only excitedly say “Philip” on the phone due to our language barrier. These two factors affected me deeply and since her parting I vowed to revive my Greek roots.

This vow led me first to reconnect with my Greek family via Facebook and then join a Greek American mentoring organization, which finally led me to discover the AHIF Foreign Policy Study Trip. Not only did this trip fit perfectly with my academic and career ambitions, but it was also the perfect opportunity to further advance upon my revival vow. I would be able to discuss one-on-one foreign policy with the preeminent Greek, Cypriot, and American minds while concurrently learning from my fellow trip participants and AHI staff on what it means to be Greek.

Needless to say my hopes were exceeded stupendously on both counts. My expectations on meeting these distinguished individuals were quick question and answer secession in nondescript meeting rooms. What actually happened was our delegation got truly in-depth policy meetings with these people, not only in offices, but in amazing locations such as two naval bases, Turkish-occupied Cyprus, and the Old Royal Palace just to name a few. It was a practical experience that went beyond anything I have, or ever will, learn in a classroom.

On a cultural level, I gained further knowledge of how well Greeks take care of their own. Not only were these eminent Greek, Cypriot, and American individuals had no qualms answering our questions, but they also frequently joked, brought up their personal lives, and gave us gifts; a true level of empathy that is rarely matched by other such esteemed individuals. The other delegates and the AHI staff were no different. The connection developed between the at large group was not only quick. I gained the sense that, not only have I made friends, but I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. I learned not only that Greek bonds are strong at family level, but these bonds are equally strong throughout the Greek nation and the diaspora.

Life is just a series of moments. Some moments are filled with bliss, others with sadness, and others are filled with catharsis. I have experienced each one of these moments when dealing with my Greek heritage. My moments on the AHIF Foreign Policy Study Trip to Greece and Cyprus is a cathartic one as I rekindled my understanding of what it truly means to be Greek. It inspired me to start taking Greek language classes, to continue to connect with my AHI family, and most importantly, it rekindled my relationship with my Greek family.

Philip Bachas Daunert was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History at the University of Miami and is currently enrolled in the University of Miami's Master’s Program in International Administration. Philip participated in the eighth annual AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus sponsored by the American Hellenic Institute.

  

###

For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.