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Citizens' Associations (1)

Hellenes of Diaspora

Chian Federation

Tel: +1 718 2042550, Fax: +1 718 2786199

The Birth of the Chian Federation
  The birth of the Chian Federation was an event whose time came in 1974. A federation of the Chian Societies in the Greater New York Metropolitan area probably should have been organized sooner. Nevertheless, sooner or later, it is present fact that such a Federation now exists consisting of 25 Chian societies representing approximately 20,000 Chiotes who live and work in the New York area. Nationwide, approximately 50,000 Chiotes are residents and citizens of the United States. There are more Chiotes in the United States than on the island of Chios.
  In examining the birth of this Federation, an overriding question to many of us is why in 1974 and not before? What was that certain combination of ingredients that proved to be the catalyst behind the Chiotes in New York to unite, who prior to 1974 were content to remain independent entities focusing strictly on a narrow spectrum of social activity whose common denominator was that they individually represented a group of people with origins from a small geographic area on the island of Chios. On the surface at least, it is obvious that the international events of our time, with respect to Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, have proved to be an awakening. It became apparent that we must raise our concerns in unison; we must address and act on issues relevant to all of us; and we must do this through a coordination of efforts.
  The outright tragedy of the Cypriots, with whom we share a kinship and the ever present menace to the homeland of our parents, shocked us all. All of us felt a sense of anxiety and frustration that the goodwill that has always existed between U.S. and Greece was now being jeopardized. We, as Americans of Greek ancestry, have always cherished the particular warm relations between this great nation, our adopted country, the United States, and Greece, representing our ancestral and cultural background.
  The turmoil of these current international developments may have been the catalyst in the birth of the Chian Federation but the efforts of the Federation also signify an awareness of the Greek-Americans of their responsibilities to exercise their rights as American citizens. The Chians along with other Greek Americans must participate in the prominent issues of this country and responsibly exercise their right to petition the government and their duly elected public officials. This we have done and should continue to do. As such, the Greek-American has fully evolved to understand and participate in the political process of American government and hence has truly become an integral part of that beautiful and colorful mosaic characterizing the American people and the American way of life.
  The series of events which led to the actual formation of the Federation itself began in the summer of 1974. While the Turkish army was pillaging Cyprus and the Turkish government was threatening the Aegean Islands, the Chiotes of the various Chian societies met to coordinate their activities in petitioning the U.S. government and our elected officials to condemn and speak out on this infamous Turkish action; a tragedy which, to this day, remains unresolved.
  To coordinate these efforts an Ad Hoc Committee was formed. Under the auspices of this committee, during the summer of 1974, the Chians of New York collected funds for the Cypriot refugees, participated in three excursions to Washington, D.C. (in chartered buses and countless private vehicles) to petition the U.S. government for an evenhanded and fair policy on Cyprus and the Aegean; informed the citizenry of the facts of the Cypriot and Aegean issues; and urged and organized the transmittal of thousands of letters and telegrams to our elected officials expressing our strong opinions on these issues. We were all gratified that our efforts were fruitful in at least limiting the U.S. arms shipments to Turkey and in getting the message across that, if Turkey meant to continue her aggression, the support of the U.S. Congress in such adventures would unquestionably be denied and that the rule of law must prevail.
  Although the damage had been done, we felt a sense of bittersweet success in that the U.S. Congress shared our view in several respects. First, by recognizing that Turkey's actions were illegal in that U.S. arms were used in the invasion of Cyprus; second, by reexamining U.S. policy towards Greece, Cyprus and Turkey in terms of past alliances and human values; and third, by examining and questioning the relative importance of Turkey to our national security, at least in the face of an uncompromising position on the part of Turkey which verged on the brink of blackmail.
  Initially, however, to each participant in the drive to petition, urge, and inform the elected officials and the administration, came the recognition and realization of the glory that is the system of government in the United States. A people with a just cause properly voicing their concern was able to make the government listen to its pleas. This event transformed the Greek-American from a rather apolitical individual, to an active participant in the politics and issues of the United States, since it is as American citizens that such participation was undertaken.
  It was in the fall of 1974 that the Chian societies realized that the success which the Committee experienced was the result of the joint, coordinated effort of all Chiotes acting in unison. Since the Chian-Americans faced other issues where a joint effort was required, the Chian societies met to formalize their unity through a formal organization. They drafted a constitution under which the "Federation of Chian Societies of New York" would operate. This constitution was submitted to the membership of each society for individual approval, which was quickly given, and the Federation became a reality in October 1974, a date which will stand as another milestone in the history of the American Chian.


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