Young Americans discover Greek culture

Every year around this period in Aiani, the historical seat of the Municipality of Kozani in Western Macedonia, dozens of local students welcome their American peers from Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and New York, in a 5-kilometer race in the footsteps of Apollodorus, the ancient long-distance runner who won in the Olympics but was struck down by lightning on his way home.

At the inaugural ceremony of the 10th annual event, held a few days ago at the Aiani Archaeological Museum, 45 Americans from different states stood beside local young men and women to participate in the race.

This was the second group of Americans to visit the area, following another group in June that attended the three-week seminars in history and archaeology hosted by the museum. This educational program has been in effect since 1995 and is a collaboration between the University of Connecticut and its Center for Hellenic Studies.

?Dozens of students from the USA, and not just Greek Americans, have been participating in these Greek educational classes,? archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou told Kathimerini.

The seminars had originally started as a program aimed at diaspora Greeks; today less than half of the people traveling from the US to Kozani are Greek Americans.

The ties between the city of Bristol in Connecticut and Kozani date back several decades, as many Kozani immigrants settled there and some contributed significantly to the development of the city with, among other works, a small Greek museum showcasing works from ancient Macedonia.

Ilias Tomazos, a professor at the universities of Connecticut and Rhode Island, told Kathimerini that he has seen a revival of interest in the Greek language, history and mythology over the past few years.

The Rhodes-born academic is also the founder of Hellenic Society Paidia, which promotes Greek education among third- and fourth-generation Greeks who have not learned the language at school. He also led a program at the University of Connecticut that offers the opportunity to students to study at Greek universities for six months.

?The young people who come to Greece are reborn, our programs grow stronger and the greatest benefit is when these students return to America with a lasting connection to Greece and later go on to connect their careers to Greece,? explained Tomazos.

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