Huffpost WorldPost
Justine Frangouli-Argyris Headshot

The Greek Diaspora: A People Neglected

Posted: Updated:

Somewhat after World War I but, predominantly after World War II and the devastating Greek Civil War that ensued, Greece encouraged her children to emigrate, en masse, in quest of a brighter future. Facing a ruined economy, the post-war eras left no other plausible options to the Greeks who fled to Australia, Canada, the United States and Germany as they had done in ancient times when they left for the shores of Southern Italy and France.

However, instead of Greece moving ahead with the implementation of some coherent policy to support the Greek element overseas, the country, on the contrary, became dependent on a flow of funds from these expatriates back to the homeland. Known as "hidden resources," these monies were essential in providing the developing nation with an economic respite in its effort to stand on its feet.

The only aid that Greece offered was to dispatch a vibrant clergy to the Greek communities that sprung up around the world who would go on to become the founding fathers of Greek Orthodox churches and parishes and, by extension, the pillars of Greek language education with the establishment of parochial schools.

This great wave of post-war migration created a large Greek diaspora with varied problems, needs and priorities. Unfortunately, however, Greece showed little interest in or entirely abstained from adopting a continuous, consistent and balanced approach to help these new communities. For example, Greek-educated teachers were sent to Germany but not to any other country until the recent years.

Meanwhile, post-dictatorial Greece (1974) began to develop rapidly, quickly obtaining the means necessary for abetting the Greek diaspora whose flow was, by then, slowly subsiding. Once again, however, the government demonstrated no desire in promoting educational or other programs that could instill a Greek identity among the youth and strengthen the ties between the fledgling communities and the motherland.

To this day, Greece continues to act irresponsibly and unevenly with respect to the teaching of the Greek language in the Greek Community schools abroad. In Germany, for example, an old-fashioned methodology has resulted in outdated institutions whose teachings have long been bypassed by a much more quickly evolving population whereas in Australia and America the Greek schools have been basically abandoned, left to fend on their own with anachronous textbooks and teaching materials.

The government has been inept at dealing with the different generations of Greeks abroad, unable to tailor its educational programs in accordance with the differing stages of progress in which they are and insisting on focusing almost exclusively on language to the detriment of Hellenic history and culture.

On fomenting a Hellenic identity among Greek youth abroad, here, too, political investment is sorely amiss. The country should be avidly promoting the attendance of the diaspora's young in camps around the country where contact with Greece's natural beauty, the native population and other Greeks from around the world could go a long way to instilling these Hellenic ideals.

Despite the fragmented efforts of leaders such as Andreas Papandreou who showed true compassion for the Greeks living abroad as he, himself, was an expatriate for many years, the Greek government has done far too little for far too long to arrest the crumbling of the majority of Greek institutions abroad.

And today, given the ongoing economic crisis with Greek unemployment approaching 30 percent and surpassing 60 percent among the young, we are faced with a new wave of Greek immigration looking to build a life in Europe, Australia and America. This may just be the Greek state's last chance to help the Greek Diaspora reach its full potential and become a force that can eventually be instrumental in bringing Greece, once again, back from the brink.