Greek Olympic champion and weightlifting legend Pyrros Dimas was welcomed with great enthusiasm at the first event in Western Canada co-hosted by The Hellenic Initiative Canada and the Greek Community of Calgary, on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
The event featured the screening of a documentary by Greek-Canadian director Panagiotis Yannitsos titled “Freedom Besieged: Unshackling the Youth of Greece” about the impact of the financial crisis on Greek youth and the search for creative ways out of the situation.
In an effort to build bridges of communication with the world around them for the new generation, the documentary captures individual and collective initiatives which create hope for the future.
A post-crisis debate on film and Greece followed the screening, with the rising filmmaker stressing that his intention was to allow all voices to be heard, whether that was the voice of a 15-year-old boy or Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
A special role in the film was played by Greek-Canadian volunteer coach John Karkalatos of the Kiveri Basketball Camp, and athletes including George Karagounis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Pyrros Dimas, who have sparked national pride and inspired young Greeks in the diaspora.
Dimas was the focus of a great deal of admiration from the young students of the Greek school, whose evening classes he attended prior to the event. The acclaimed athlete watched children sing the national anthem and visited them in their classrooms.
During the discussion, Dimas also spoke about how he sees Greece from Chicago, where he currently serves as the Technical Director for the US weightlifting team. His answer was, “More beautiful, but with problems”.
Dimas has had a great deal of involvement with politics, but he commented that he “never regretted taking a stand.” In 2012 he had felt compelled to join the government’s effort to help the country, adopting a non-negotiable stance against racism and a bold position in favor of Greece’s European future in the 2015 referendum.
It is noted that all the proceeds from the event will be donated to the SOS Children’s Villages Babies Home in Greece. Thomas Bauer, the president and CEO of SOS Children’s Villages of Canada, expressed his gratitude and talked about the important social work of the charity in Greece, Canada and worldwide.
Dimas noted that he has been a supporter of SOS Children’s Villages Greece since the beginning of his athletic career. As their ambassador he knows firsthand the importance of the social services they offer, especially in times of crisis, when many families no longer have the financial means to provide even the necessary things to their children.
THI Canada is the latest addition to The Hellenic Initiative’s global network. It was founded in the summer of 2016 to add the contributions of Canada and its large Greek community to the worldwide effort of the diaspora and philhellenes to assist Greece to recover from the financial crisis.
The Greek Community of Calgary was founded 62 years ago, and this year it is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Dimitrios. The community serves the cultural and religious needs of approximately 7,000 Greek-speaking residents.