SUBMITTED BY ALEX PATTAKOS.
As someone who is proud of his Greek heritage, March 25 marks a very important day for me — Greek Independence Day.
On this day in 1821, the Greeks decided to take up arms and fight for their freedom after nearly 400 years of slavery under Ottoman rule. It has now been 198 years since the people of Greece declared that the centuries of political, religious, and cultural repression and occupation would no longer stand. And after eight long and bloody years of struggle, the Greek War of Independence (also known as the Greek Revolution) led to the creation of the modern Greek state on March 22, 1829.
The origin of the Turkish occupation began in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople (currently referred to as Istanbul). After centuries of unsuccessful uprisings and the failure of the Ottoman Empire to assimilate and convert the Greeks, the indomitable Greek spirit, as it has done throughout human history, proved that it would not only refuse to be broken, but would prevail. And it did. Despite enduring untold atrocities, where thousands were killed and tortured for simply attending church or teaching their children Greek culture, history, and language, these faithful Hellenes, with the help of the Greek Orthodox Church, thankfully made it through the dark years of the Ottoman occupation with their proud identity, courageous character, and indomitable spirit intact.
As a result, the Greeks became the first people of the Ottoman Empire’s subjects to secure recognition as an independent nation by the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832.
The anniversary of Greece’s declaration of independence is a national holiday in Greece and is recognized and celebrated across Canada and the USA. Importantly, the celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25 was deliberately chosen to coincide with, as well as draw inspiration from, one of the holiest days for Greek Orthodox Christians, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos).
On March 25th, let’s all pause to honor this landmark milestone in the legacy of Greek heritage, culture, and tradition, which has done so much to shape and steer the course of humanity throughout the centuries/milennia, and upon which our own notion of democracy relies.