The crowd cheers as a memorial is unwrapped Saturday at Wilder Park in Aurora that was given to the city by the American Philhellenes Society. (David Sharos / The Beacon-News)
City officials, leaders of Greek churches and societies and more gathered at Wilder Park in Aurora Saturday for the unveiling of a new monument that was installed in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution.
The $100,000 20-foot monument was provided by the American Philhellenes Society – a Chicago-based non-profit organization that a press release from the city said was “established to identify, highlight and honor Americans who supported or fought for the independence of Greece during the years 1810 to 1840.
The monument itself is said to weigh 20 tons, officials said.
The group contacted the city late last year seeking permission to install the monument here in Aurora given it is the state’s second-largest city and “because of Aurora’s stalwart commitment to diversity and inclusion, and in collaboration with Aurora’s thriving Greek community.”
Aurora Chief Communications and Equity Officer Clayton Muhammad said the city has “always looked at Aurora as one Aurora community” and “being able to erect a monument is significant in honor of those who led the Greek Revolution as well continue the work of connecting Greece in America.”
He called Saturday’s event “another cultural milestone.”
His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago addresses the crowd Saturday at Wilder Park in Aurora before a new monument was unveiled behind him in honor of those who fought in the Greek Revolution. (David Sharos / The Beacon-News)
“Aurora’s Greek community has been significant in the forward movement of Aurora for quite some time and certainly under this administration,” he said. “We look forward to showing the city’s commitment to growth, to diversity, to inclusion. Diversity is a fact – inclusion is an act. This monument speaks volumes about the Greek community and its connection with Aurora.”
City officials are hoping some other organizations come forward to donate monuments, making that part of Wilder Park a monument area.
The ceremony on Saturday included appearances by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin as well as His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and leaders of the American Philhellenes Society.
Georgia Nikolopoulos, wife of Panagiotis Nikolopoulos, who is the president of the American Philhellenes Society, spoke on behalf of her husband, and said the society “has been working a long, long time to get this monument up and running.”
She spoke about the location of the monument and said in terms of it winding up in Aurora, “the city was much more welcoming.”
“We approached areas in Chicago and did not get a lot of positive feedback and the late Mayor (Tom) Weisner and now Mayor Irvin have just been open arms – welcoming and asking what do you need us to do - and get it up and going,” she said. “Aurora’s reputation precedes itself in terms of being welcoming and inclusive. Its location is central enough that everybody can really get here easily.”
City officials including Aurora Chief Management Officer Alex Alexandrou and Nikolopoulos said the monument and the history surrounding it “will be used as part of the curriculum in Aurora schools” and that it “will become a teaching tool.”
“This isn’t for my generation because theoretically we know it, but for my children, our grandchildren, and Greek or non-Greek,” Nikolopoulos said. “We think it’s a part of history people should know about.”
Illinois State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, spoke before the ceremony noting that the monument reflects her own heritage as she is half Greek.
“It sort of speaks to the diversity and welcoming of Aurora,” she said. “This is a perfect place for it.”
Those connected with the Greek community including Angelo Dallas of Glenview said it was important for him to see the installation Saturday as a Greek-American himself.
“I think this is a good home for the statue,” he said.