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Irene Nikolopoulou Headshot

Greek Marbles Don't Rust. Is the Greek Soul Made of Marble, Too?

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There was a song by Mikis Theodorakis, the most acclaimed Greek composer that a whole generation following the fall of the colonels' dictatorship loved to sing (and still do) during massive concerts with passion: "Pathos for Freedom."

"We are 2, we are 3, we are 1,013..."

The meaning was that all these people -- the so-called 1,013 -- were united against the junta that lasted seven whole years (1967-1974) and left Greece once more behind in its history. Why am I recalling this today?

It is because we are counting -- by singing the very same song -- our injuries from the ongoing crisis, from a "non-stop Greek tragedy," according to the beloved title of the world media. At last, little by little, we also restart counting our international friends who have supported us in overcoming this crisis.

What we cannot be accused of having invented the tragedy of the world debt crisis. Yes, we invented the tragedy (Thespis), but we also invented the comedy (Aristophanes). We were the pioneers of philosophy (Socrates, Aristotle) and mathematics; the globe owes the terminology of today's medicine, zoology, phytology, astronomy, geometry (Euclid's) and physics (Archimedes) to Greece.

In 1957 the governor of the Bank of Greece, Xenophone Zolotas, adressed the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development in Washington, D.C., using only English words of Greek origin: "Kyrie, I eulogize the archons of the Panethnic Numismatic Thesaurus and the Ecumenical Trapeza for the orthodoxy of their axioms, methods and policies, although there is an episode of cacophony of the Trapeza with Hellas..."

It's been two months now that a hesitant, almost terrified wave by the "It's all Greeks' (fault) to me" open up their hearts and their dusty ancient Greek literature books, wake up their sleeping dormant admiration for Plato and for the Classical Civilization, remember that " for gods" sake: Athens is the birthplace of democracy (Cleisthenes, 6th century B.C.).

Some others just dream again of a unique crystal clear beach, have a look at couple of pictures gazing the incomparable beauty of a Greek island -- a most romantic Santorini sunset -- or still smell the aroma of the Cretan flora or still remember the taste of the golden Peloponnese olive oil.

They are the new Greece-lovers. The contemporary phillellenes. In the past it was common to use the word phillellenes (philos=friend; hellinas=Greek) to refer to those foreigners who loved and supported Greece in order to fight and liberate against the Turkish-Ottoman occupation that held back the Greek state for 400 years (1453-1821).

We saw these Greece-lovers in Europe, in most of the capitals of our allies, some weeks ago chanting in favour of Greece. We saw Greek-Australians and Greek-Americans -- maybe third-generation -- demonstrating in favor or against an ecumenical belief: "We must blame first and above all Greece for the international woes of the crisis," or that Greece is the only financially naughty nation, the pecora near ("black sheep") of this planet.

Come on, guys -- don't be surprised. We have successes that we are proud of. The most recent ones that I want to introduce to you are two beautiful creatures, two young ladies that made it last year:

Alexandra Asimaki: 23 years old, women water polo international, 2011 champion

Vassiliki Vougiouka:Gold medalist in fencing; will be in 2012 Olympics

Let me also introduce you to a number of sites that have been developed with the goal to support Greece:

1. We Friends of Greece (in 10 languages)

2. An initiative by a number of Greek businessmen who paid for an ad in Sunday's large circulation newspapers did draw attention: GREECE IS CHANGING

3. In the heart of New York, a crowd-funded campaign took place. A giant billboard in Times Square urged tourists to visit Greece. It was organized by a volunteer group, Up Greek Tourism.

4. A Greek-South African strategist Peter Economides inspired a large public group by his speech where he quoted: "Do we need Rebranding Greece or Rebranding Greeks?

5. The Greek Professor Michael G. Jacobides, together with the Greek Alumni Association and the Hellenic Club of the London Business School, have just created a new site under the name Redesign Greece

6. Some French -- traditionally in support pf Greece -- went even further: They requested the Greek citizenship, even now that nobody wants to be Greek.

7. The Belgians will host a "12 hours for Greece" creative event in the heart of Brussels this coming May, where, among other events, a marathon reading of the Odyssey with 400 readers will take place.

8. Greek-American Alexander Payne (Alexander Constantine Papadopoulos) won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the popular film The Descendants. Upon receiving the Oscar, Payne turned to his mother in the audience and dedicated the award to her with a very sweet Σ' Αγαπώ Πολύ, which means "I love you."

9. I recently launched a personal site as a 25-year "tribute " to my TV-journalist career, but as the timing is so gloomy for my country I inaugurated a page that I named -- as you can guess -- "Greecelovers"!

It's so encouraging and heartwarming to hear the different stories people send to me with positive messages and also to hear how people that I have never met confess their hidden precious memories from my country.

I strongly believe that Greece can only redefine itself, restart, rekindle its civilization, maintain its natural beauties, preserve its numerous archaeological sites, keep the spirits up of a nation that lost its famous smile, together with the pensions and the salaries, if only the visitors and tourists-to-be of this coming summer and many summers ahead come to spend their holidays in this Mediterranean jewel and will swim in the "Big Blue" of the Aegean Sea, will lie on the sandy Dodecanese islands beaches, will continue to navigate in the green Ionian treasures.

We may have lost our credibility, we may have lost our reputation and our money -- but not our soul, nor our dignity. It is there, intact and solid like the best-quality Greek white marble. And this marble can't get rusted because...

Please listen to the song by Mikis Theodorakis: