At THI’s recent events expanding the THI footprint for the first time to South Florida, we were pleased to meet the Hellenic Cultural Society of Southern Florida, a dynamic organization the mission of which is “to promote Hellenism, to explore its relevance in our contemporary world, and to enrich South Florida’s cultural landscape.” Founded by Malvina Currie, Stavroula Christodoulou, and Athena Gounis, the Society hosts events presenting Hellenic poetry, literature, dance, video, film, and other activities.
During COVID, the Society hosted many events online, but later continued in person – lectures, films, panel discussions. The Society was responsible for presenting ‘Smyrna My Beloved’ in September 2022 at the historic Savor Cinema which is the home of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF). The film screenings were so successful that in October of 2023, the Society plans to host a Greek film festival in the same venue.
Their planning and programming is informed by an awareness and appreciation of the multiple generations that make up a thriving community. “One group we are focused on is family and kids,” Malvina said. “We believe in and support the Greek language and kids are very important for us – they are the next generation that will support Greek culture.”
They also reach out to senior citizens. “Those people are the ones who carried the treasury of Greek culture to America – they spoke Greek, they maintained the traditions and the ethos” and built the communities. As they depart, we need to find new people to carry the torch, but we also want to acknowledge what they have done for us – to connect with them and celebrate them.”
Stavroula, a Diaspora Greek born in Cairo, Egypt, described the Society’s oral history project. “The mission is to record the stories of the events that led certain individuals to leave Greece, Smyrna, Egypt, any other place where Greeks lived, and come to the United States; what did they do here; what is the story of their family?”
“I envision it as a repository of information that is open to anybody, any researcher who would like to find out things, or draw conclusions about the immigrants to the United States with Greek affiliation. We are currently preparing the questionnaire, which has to be very thorough,” Stavroula said. That is a reflection both of a dedication to academic excellence that continues 23 years after she retired as a professor of anthropology, and of growing up in Cairo.
“The experience was a fantastic one,” but very different from that of ethnic groups in the United States, even the Greeks, she explained, adding that the sense of community among the Greeks of Egypt was very intense.
Athena Gounis is a third generation Greek who was born in Montreal. After she moved to Florida, she earned her Master’s in Comparative Literature and she teaches French language and culture and Introduction to World Literature at Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University. Athena is responsible for the Society’s successful Book Club, which explores themes including the dual identity of Diaspora Greeks.
The book club features Greek, Greek Cypriot, and Greek heritage authors in the Diaspora – and Athena is looking to expand the book club to THI members via Zoom. The Club has read books including Mother Tongue (2001), a novel by Vassilis Alexakis; Zorba the Greek (1946) by Nikos Kazantzakis; Medea (431 B.C.) the play by Euripides; The Virgin Suicides (1993), the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides; After the Formalities (2019), poetry by Anthony Anaxagorou; and forthcoming, The Sleepwalker (1985), a novel by Margarita Karapanou. THI looks forward to further collaboration with the Hellenic Cultural Society of Southern Florida, as we expand our THI family to new and exciting Diaspora communities.