Cretans of America : seeking stronger bonds with our motherland αγγλικά/ απόδημος ελληνισμός

Cretans of America : seeking stronger bonds with our motherland
An exclusive interview with the Pancretan Association of America president Mr. Emmanuel Velivasakis

By Emmanuel Bouhalakis

Η παρούσα συνέντευξη δόθηκε τον Αύγουστο του 2009 με την ευκαιρία του 41ου Συνεδρίου της Παγκρητικής Ένωσης Αμερικής που έγινε στην Κρήτη. Ο κ. Βεληβασάκης, τότε πρόεδρος, μας μίλησε για το όραμά του και το νόστο που οι απόδημοι Κρητικοί νιώθουν για την πατρίδα τους αλλά και το πώς κρατούν άσβεστη τη φλόγα του Ελληνισμού. Η συνέντευξη παραμένει επίκαιρη και σήμερα διότι τα ζητήματα που απασχολούν την ομογένεια παραμένουν ενεργά και αξίζει η Ελληνική πολιτεία να συνδράμει στην ενίσχυση των δεσμών των απόδημων συμπολιτών μας με την μητρική τους γη.
Being one of the world’s top engineers, with an outstanding academic career and with a desire of establishing stronger bonds between the Cretan Americans and their motherland, Mr. Velivasakis spoke to us about his vision and views on how to build “bridges” between a dynamic Cretan community in the USA and Crete.

Mr. Velivasakis, welcome back to the Cretan motherland. What does the 41st PAA Convention in Crete signify to you?
With great enthusiasm and joy we come back to our motherland from the USA. About 600 people have enrolled in our convention which takes place on board and on land, in Crete and Alexandria, Egypt. This convention has been prepared for the past 10 years. Our desire is for this meeting to refresh our feelings of Crete and to get strength in our daily struggle to keep our values, customs and traditions in America.

You are an accomplished professional in the USA. Do you think the Cretan Americans have earned their place in the American society while at the same time keeping their traditions?
I personally believe that Cretan and generally Greek Americans have earned their place in American society to a large extent. The Greek Americans are second in education in the US and our scientists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, have attained a good place in society. This, however, has the risk of assimilation and that precisely is the job of the associations like the Pancretan Association of America, to keep them close to their roots and maintain their Cretan heritage.

How do you plan to strengthen the bonds of motherland Crete with the Cretans in the US?
This is one of the main purposes of this convention. We will get in touch with local authorities and the central government in order to find ways to strengthen these bonds. We want our youth to be educated in Cretan schools and universities, to go camping in Crete and learn about the Cretan folklore arts and cuisine.

What do you expect from the Greek state concerning the goals and visions of the PAA?

The PAA and other organizations speak out loudly to the Greek authorities and seek their assistance. We, on our part, are ready to contribute to stronger bonds. As I said before, we want our kids to be educated in Greek schools, to live in villages that will be made for their welcome without being entangled in bureaucracy. I must note here that on behalf of the PAA I am pleased that the local authorities and the Greek government have been very helpful to us. We do our best in promoting Crete as a holiday destination in the US. That is why we also expect further assistance from the Cretans.

You have met President Barack Obama. What kind of a person is he, and can he further enhance the cooperation between Greece and the USA?
President Obama is a very intelligent man and I am sure that he will work further in cooperating with Greece. Let’s not forget that the United States and Greece have had a long history of cooperation and I think that Obama with his perception and abilities will keep on strengthening the mutual bonds. Of course, the interests of America come first, as he is the US President! However, I believe that the Greek government will take steps for an even better cooperation.

Thank you very much
Thank you too