An exhibition that tells the story of the American response to Greece’s heroic role during World War II, Defenders of Democracy: The American Response to Greece’s role in World War II, features a collection of photographs, memorabilia, ephemera, newspapers, magazines and other items, primarily from the private collection of Greek America magazine publisher Gregory C. Pappas, including the largest known private collection of authentic Greek War Relief Association propaganda posters that were printed in the 1940s to rally public support.
The exhibition will be on display at Drexel’s W.W. Hagerty Library (33rd and Market Streets) January 5 through January 30, 2009. It comes to Philadelphia after successful showings in Chicago, where it premiered at the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center in 2008, followed by exhibitions in Boston and recently at the Greek Embassy in Washington D.C. to an audience of hundreds of diplomats and U.S. government representatives at a special event hosted by Greek Ambassador to Washington Alexandros Mallias.
“We are proud to host such a rare exhibition at Drexel,” said Dr. Constantine Papadakis, president of Drexel University. “Our university, located in the birth city of U.S. democracy, is an ideal location to showcase Greece’s role during World War II.”
War stories were commonplace at dinner time in the Pappas home, whose parents hailed from Crete. His father often spoke of the German invasion and subsequent occupation. But it was a metallic lockbox found under his father’s bed that led Pappas to develop a heightened interest in World War II.
The lockbox contained a host of important family documents, including transatlantic boat tickets, expired passports, photographs and a folded, tattered letter addressed to his grandmother Anna Papadaki signed by H.R. Alexander, the supreme Allied commander of the Mediterranean Theater. The letter thanked her for the assistance she provided to the Allied forces that were escaping Crete following the Nazi invasion and occupation of the island in May and June 1941.
After extensive research into the Greek role during World War II, Pappas found the events that transpired in Greece were resonating loudly in the United States as Americans rallied behind the cause of helping the country, which had withstood the Axis forces and provided the world with hope in uncertain times.
The exhibition’s narrative is primarily told from the American point of view. It tells a story largely forgotten with the passage of time but retains its relevance for current relations between Greece and the U.S. It also highlights the historical development of the Greek-American community, which for the first time, was able to publicly proclaim its loyalty to Greece the homeland, as well as America, the adopted nation.
The exhibition is sponsored by the Greek America Foundation and Greek America magazine. Major funding for the exhibition was provided by the John G. Rangos Charitable Foundation and Calamos Investments. The exhibition is curated by Pappas and Konstantinos Malindretos of Athens, Greece.
Papadakis will host an opening reception that will take place on January 5, at 5:30 p.m. in the Hagerty Library’s Bookmark Café, with guest speakers Pappas and Dr. Cornelia Tsakiridou, an associate professor of philosophy from LaSalle University. The exhibition at Drexel is sponsored by the University’s Greek Studies program.
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