The Sail to Freedom event, held on Sunday, June 7, was a gala celebration of the Greek bicentennial, the diaspora and the contributions Americans made to the Greek cause.
New York City’s salute to Greece, two hundred years after its War of Independence in 1821, was celebrated in spectacular fashion, as sailing ships and passenger vessels sailed through New York Harbor to the Statue of Liberty in tribute to the nation and all it stands for.
The visually stunning event, taking place under beautiful sunny skies, was captured by several different camera crews and drones. Sailing ships and other vessels flying the blue and white made their way through the harbor to lay a wreath commemorating the sacrifices of all those who took part in the Greek War of Independence.
Ilias Katsos, one of the organizers of the event, said that it was a “spectacular, and probably the most significant, event, certainly in the U.S. — but maybe internationally around the world — for the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 Bicentennial.”
An aerial dance performed by Jennifer Anne Kovacs as part of the celebration was an allegorical recreation of the legendary Dance of Zalongo, which took place in December 1803, with the heroic resistance of the women of Souli who literally jumped into the void — choosing an honorable death over disgrace by the Ottomans.
She performed her daring maneuvers suspended from the rigging of a tall ship, enveloped in a blood-red banner, under the direction of Kostas Kimoulis, who supervised the filming and broadcast of the event.
Sail to Freedom Also Paid Tribute to America’s Philhellenes
The unique performance also symbolized the courage and bravery of the Greek warriors of 1821 who dared a “leap into the void” to fight for their freedom against a huge empire, according to the event’s organizers.
Nikos Terzis, the Greek composer and producer, headed the musical direction of the event. He composed a piece of music honoring the Bicentennial and the Greeks who formed strong communities abroad, never losing sight of their heritage.
A soprano also sang the Star Spangled Banner as part of the event, accompanied by a musician from the Conservatory of New York playing the cello.
The event honored the Greek War of Independence 200 years ago, as well as America and its people who supported the Revolution, and also highlighted the Revolution’s effects on America’s abolitionist and women’s suffrage movement.
The inspiring event also highlighted Greece and the importance of the anniversary of the Revolution for all Hellenism around the world, and especially where Greek communities thrive.
According to its organizers, the ambitious event was a symbolic recreation depicting the message of the Greek warriors of 1821 who considered freedom as the ultimate good for the Greek nation, managing in the end to accomplish the unthinkable, to defeat the superpower of that period, the Ottoman Empire, and to give freedom back to Greece.
Sailing Spectacle Honored Greece and her People All Around the World
All Sunday afternoon, dozens of sailing boats and motor boats, adorned with Greek flags and symbols of the Greek Revolution, took part in the impressive spectacle which also highlighted the vital contribution of Greek mariners to the success of the Revolution and the deep relation of the Greek people with the sea that goes back to antiquity.
Prominent members of the Greek community were also on hand to witness the celebration.
Organizer Ilias Katsos was honored at the event when he was given the “Face of the Diaspora Bicentennial Celebration of the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 Award.”
Katsos stated “I was taken by surprise, honored and humbled in receiving the The Award,” adding that the “relief of Theodore Kolokotronis, the Hellenic General and the pre-eminent leader of the Hellenic War of Independence is a magnificent, unique hand carved piece by the very talented Hellenic sculptor Grigoris Liatsos.”
“I was very happy to have many friends with us who spoke and which included-
John A. Catsimatidis our Honorary Chairman of yesterday’s SAIL TO FREEDOM and known to all of us nationally and internationally,” he added.
Also among the dignitaries at the event were Alexandra Papadopoulou, the Greek Ambassador to the United States; Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney who is the Co- Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues; and Congressman Gregory Meeks, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Maloney and Meeks are both longtime members of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and a strong friend of the Hellenic Republic and Cyprus.
Freshman Congresswoman Nicole R. Malliotakis was also present at her hometown’s commemoration of the Greek bicentennial. A new member of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, she is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Katsos noted that “Congresswoman Malliotakis is a passionate patriot, a friend and α sister of the American Hellenic community and a daughter of Greece and Cyprus.”
With this gala event, organizers stated “we want to honor the critical contribution of the nautical force of Greece, the “bourlotierides” of Hydra and Spetses and the mighty captains like Laskarina Bouboulina and Andreas Miaoulis who played important part in the Hellenic Revolution.
“We also want to show the ancient ties between our country and the sea. The sailing route towards the Statue of Liberty was selected as a sail towards the symbol of freedom for all peoples.”