An exhibition featuring the private collection of more than 300 historical items from the World War II era opened in Athens, Greece on October 24 at the Hellenic American University and co-sponsored by the Greek America Foundation.
The collection belongs to Gregory Pappas, founder of the Greek America Foundation, who and features posters, photographs, magazines, pins and other archival materials that tell the story of the American response to Greece’s role during WWII. Most of the items are on public display for the first time.
The collection is on long-term loan, offered pro bono by the collector, to help expand the mission of the Foundation’s work.
Curated by Louisa Karapidaki, the “Hour of Greece” exhibition also includes some items lent by the National State Archives of Greece, including the diary of Greek leader Ioannis Metaxas which was opened to the page of October 28, 1940 when he refused the Italian Ambassador Emanuele Grazzi’s ultimatum to surrender to the Axis.
The exhibition ribbon was cut by Pappas, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Leonidas Koskos, President of Hellenic American University.
Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gabriel of Philadelphia (Athens) were also in attendance.
More than 600 guests attended the opening ceremony, during which Pappas shared the personal story of his family’s involvement during WWII. He said he began his collection about 20 years ago after finding a letter in his father’s personal items from a British Field Marshall thanking his grandmother for her role during the Cretan resistance against the Nazis.
“This collection of items was sparked by decades of family stories told by my father who was a teenager when the Germans invaded his native Crete with thousands of ‘umbrellas’ falling from the sky in May 1941,” Pappas said.
“It was also inspired by my mother who, although born after the Germans capitulated, remembered growing up drinking ‘American milk’ and receiving boxes with various food items.”
Ambassador Pyatt spoke at length about the connection between the people of Greece and the United States and praised the collection for being an important historic link between the two nations.
“Looking at the history, you can see that Americans were deeply moved by Greece’s valiant response to the Italian and then German invasions during World War II,” Pyatt said.
He added: “As Greg’s collection demonstrates, Americans’ respect for Greek bravery during World War II and our post-World War contributions to Greece cemented bonds that we can trace back to the founding of our modern nations.”
Foreign Minister Dendias reminded the audience that “In both World Wars, Greece stood on the side of justice. [Greece] fought with Allies who fought for the universal ideals of freedom and democracy.”
The exhibition falls under the auspices of Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will remain open until December 20 at the Hellenic American University on 22 Massalias Street in the Kennedy and Hadjikyriakos/Gikas Galleries. Opening hours are Monday-Friday: 12:00 – 21:00 and Saturday: 10:30 – 14:30. Admission is free.