"Row at a Greek Meeting" article, New York Times, April 22, 1897
Published in The New York Times, April 22, 1897
ROW AT A GREEK MEETING
Patriots Rout Malcontents by Putting Up Ready
Cash for the Cause
APPEAL TO AMERICAN WOMEN
Society of Which Queen Olga is President Asks for Aid from this Country in the Shape of Money & Sympathy
About 400 of the Greeks in New York, including two women, had a merry time of it last night in Webster Hall, Eleventh Street, near Third Avenue. Like every other foreign colony here, the Greeks are split into factions. A proportion of the element out of sympathy with the meeting last night tried to upset it. They failed because a man with a five-dollar bill walked up to the table of the Chairman, laid the bill down, and said:
“Money talks. That is the last five-dollar bill I have, and there it goes to help Greece. How many more are there here who will do the same thing?”
In a moment the audience was in an uproar. It was not quieted until considerably more than $100 was in the hands of the Greek priest. The men who came to scoff didn’t remain to pray, but got out of the hall as quickly as they could. It was mention of a collection that started the trouble. Up to that time the meeting was as harmonious and as orderly as could be desired. Consul General Botassi said that it was a representative gathering of Greeks in this city.
Father Agathodoros, robed in the regalia of his church, opened the meeting with prayer. He was followed by Consul Botassi, who talked of Greek valor, past and present, and ventured predictions of the great things that the Greeks are going to do in this struggle. His bearers rose to their feet and cheered him. Then Prof. Leotzacos of Columbia College talked for awhile, gradually leading up to his appeal for a collection. A tall, stalwart fellow in the rear of the hall got the floor and said:
“There is not $100 in the whole crowd. Why do not the rich Greeks of New York raise the money to send us home?”
Some cheered and some hissed. The Columbia College professor got lost in the din, and Father Agathodoros, his eyes aflame with indignation took possession of the platform. “I can see,” he said “that some people have come here with a view to disturbing this meeting. This is not the time for quarreling. If you must fight go home to Greece, where they need men to fight.”
“Zito, Zito,” shouted some. This was understood to be the Greek “Hurrah,” and it was used liberally during the exciting scenes that followed.
“We are too poor to go home,” shouted the obstructionists. “Call upon the rich. Why should we ask Americans for help when the rich Greeks will not aid us.”
“There are no rich Greeks in New York,” explained the priest. “All of us are doing the best we can. Let the meeting proceed.”
A Spartan Puts Up Cash.
But the audience was aroused. There is no telling to what extremes it might have gone had not Charalambos Monkakos made his grand coup with a five-dollar bill. He placed it on the table and held it there until Petrias Monkakos, a relative and fellow Spartan, walked up the aisle and put another one on top of it. Three more men – Joseph Gerakos, George Calamara, and George Canaros – followed suit. The face of the priest glowed with pleasure as men came up with bills of smaller denomination and added them to the pile. He said something to the malcontents which was the equivalent in English to their having thrown a boomerang, and then told a story about a heroic Greek General that keyed the enthusiasm up another peg and brought out further contributions.
But this was not all. Nicolas J. Coundouris, a rich Cretan, who does business at 136 Pearl Street, mounted the platform and told of a proposition that he had received from Philadelphia. He said that somebody there owned a steamer which he would lease to the Greeks to carry a thousand or more men home, provided 500 of them could raise $20 each, or in any other way could get together $10,000. At this announcement the Greeks crowded around the table and wanted to put their names down for enlistment. They wanted to know where they could get the money.
“Sell your push-carts,” said somebody from the platform. “You cannot accomplish anything in a movement like this without some sacrifice.”
The Greeks remained in the hall until nearly midnight, gathering money in driblets and listening to bulletins sent to members of the committee by telephone. A motion was adopted expressing sincere thanks to Americans and the American newspapers for their expressions of sympathy.
An Appeal to American Women.
They have in Greece an organization of women devoted to the cause of National freedom. Queen Olga is the President of it, and the Crown Princess Sophia is one of the executive officers. The headquarters of the organization are at Athens, with Mme. Helen Griva as Director General. The National Society of Greece indorses and supports this women’s organization. Vlasto Brothers, agents of the national organization in this city, are also agents of the women’s organization.
An interesting bit of information, significant in connection with the secret orders under which the Greek squadron is sailing from Salonica Harbor, was made public yesterday by John Leousi of 57 Maiden Lane. He has just come from Greece, where the firm of which he is a member employs a large number of divers for sponges. These men are all Greek patriots.
“In 1886,” said Mr. Leousi, “when the crisis between Greece and Turkey was acute, the Turks had fortified the harbor of Salonica with torpedoes just as they have today. They did not find out until the difficulty was settled for a time that the Greeks who went to the bottom of the harbor for sponges had cut the wires that connected their torpedoes and left them lying useless. There was no time that the Greek fleet might not have sailed up the harbor in perfect safety, so far as the torpedo service was concerned. I cannot say positively that the same state of affairs exists now, but I should be very much surprised if it were not so. The Greek divers are just as patriotic now as they were then, and I do not believe that they have allowed the Turkish torpedoes to remain undisturbed.”
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