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Independence Day and the Current Greek-Turkish Relationship Through the Eyes of a Greek Hero

Aris Anagnos at his office in Los Angeles

Like the Greeks who fought in 1821 for Greece’s independence against the Ottoman Empire, Greek-American Aris Anagnos shares the spirit of revolution against world’s injustices.

Anagnos was born in Greece and came to the States in 1946 after he served in the Greek army in World War II. He was only a young boy in his final year of high school when the war broke out in Greece. He decided to sell all his family’s valuables in order to go to the Middle East and join the resisting forces. Anagnos fought for Greece at the time of war and continued to fight all his life for social justice in Hellenic issues. He is also an activist for peace in Kosovo and Serbia, and for human rights movements in Latin America.

Upon his return to Greece in 1945, Anagnos worked for the UN where he befriended his boss, a Navajo Indian, who suggested he leave for America. The Indian gave him a letter of recommendation and an affidavit of support to leave his life in Greece behind and begin his new journey to America.

Bus boy and Dishwasher were among his first jobs upon arriving in the States. “Eventually a Greek connection led me to work at the clearing house of a bank, meanwhile I was studying at UCLA.” He later began selling insurance and finally got into real estate which is where he was extremely successful.

He is one of the founders of the American Hellenic Council, which was originally formed to protect Cyprus. “In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus. When we heard the news here in Los Angeles we met at Agia Sophia and we formed the save Cyprus Council in order to fight for justice in the Cyprus problem. We began doing demonstrations and some lobbying in congress that we still continue to this day. Later on we renamed the organization the American Hellenic council.”

Anagnos has been lobbying for the issue since the very beginning. “The US had imposed an embargo on army equipment to Turkey until they withdrew the troops from Cyprus. The president who lifted the embargo and betrayed us was President Carter. He told us that as soon as he lifts the embargo, Turkey will take the troops from Cyprus. Of course this was a lie.”

Although the United States was generous to Aris Anagnos; he remains a loyal servant of his country. He remembers growing up in Greece and learning about the atrocities of the Turks during the war.

According to Anagnos, the Cyprus issue will not be resolved with the help of the American government because it has been deceived in being very pro-Turkish. Greece has been a constant ally of the United States in both the first and second World War. Turkey was with the enemy of the WWI and assited the Germans while remaining “neutral” in WWII. He is personally against Greece’s support to Turkey’s succession into the European Union if Greece is not gaining anything in return. “I think the solution of the Cyprus issue should lies with the European Union.

In honor of Greek Independence Day, Aris asks Greeks to remember the past and to not forget because “the past has been too brutal and we have suffered too much”. Mr. Anagnos’ grandfather came from the village of Litohoro. “During the Ottoman Empire they went to Smyrna. During the 1923 disaster, when Turkey destroyed the city of Smyrna and its Greek population, they came back as refugees together with another million people. When I was a kid there were slums very close to the center of Athens where the refugees lived. They were refugees like that all over Greece. It took too much time for these refuges to be assimilated. And how can you forget the invasion of Cyprus? Even if we want to forget 400 years of Turkish occupation in 1974 they reminded us of the atrocities of the past when they invaded the island and killed so many people.”

Anagnos thinks that the most progressive people in Turkey will eventually push for the Turkish government to make the sacrifices needed and join the European Union. “Turkey has to make some sacrifices to join the Union against the favor of the army and some Turks. However, the business society wants progress and economic growth which will only come if Turkey joins the EU.”

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