SOCIETY

A lighthouse of knowledge in Piraeus

Few private institutions in Greece are successful at gathering a variety of cultural activities under one roof. One of them is the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, which has not only brought the city of Piraeus much-needed cultural experiences, but has also organized activities all over Greece.

The foundation was founded by presidential decree in 2007, though it is basically an extension of the Laskaridis Library, which has been in operation since 1993.

Kathimerini recently met with the president of the foundation, Marilena Laskaridis, and the adviser at the library, Kali Kyparissi, at the neoclassical building on Bouboulinas Street in central Piraeus. The two women explained that together with the foundation?s other premises, an emblematic building on the Akti Moutsopoulou seafront road in Pasalimani, the foundation acts as a ?lighthouse of education and knowledge,? boasting among its guest speakers notable authors and scientists including Kiki Dimoula and Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler.

The foundation?s founder, Kaiti Laskaridis, was born in Piraeus and elected to the administrative council of the Greek YWCA in the 1950s, where she served for 30 years, making a significant contribution to the assimilation of refugees in the port city. Following her death in 1993, her husband Constantinos Laskaridis established a lending library that he named after her in a restored building that now houses the Neo Faliro branch of the YWCA.

As the library grew and the founder?s children, Panos and Marilena, began to get increasingly involved in its running and development, it was eventually moved to Bouboulinas Street in 2006. ?We had begun organizing cultural activities back when we were still in Neo Faliro,? explained Marilena Laskaridis, ?but moving to the center of Piraeus allowed us to expand into many different areas as the building was large enough to accommodate two events halls. Apart from the lending library — which has 2,000 members and 15,000 titles — we also organize lectures and hold educational events for school groups. We get around 200 to 600 children coming here on a daily basis. We bring together a cross section of people, from housewives looking for something to read to scientists looking for research material. We run seminars, day conferences, exhibitions, tributes, musical evenings and an annual short-story competition.?

The foundation?s library facilities are complemented by the Maritime Library on Akti Moutsopoulou, which is dedicated to maritime history and research. In keeping with the foundation?s maritime tradition, it is also involved in the restoration of lighthouses around Greece.

?The aim is to help people who want to improve their education and to children who thirst for different kinds of cultural and educational events,? added Kyparissi.