Matoula Tomara – Sideris

Kerkyra – Economia Publishing

by George Vailakis

The communities of the Hellenic diaspora have been the cradle of Modern Greek benefaction. The systematic migration of Greeks between the 18th and 20th centuries towards Western and Central Europe, the United States, Australia and Africa, and the resulting formation of Greek communities abroad, constitutes a rich source of historical material and a fertile framework for reconstructing realities of the past and representations of the value systems and mentalities. The author of this particularly interesting book, Professor Matoula Tomara – Sideris, uses this material with great care, managing to highlight all the parameters of Greek benefaction as a phenomenon.

It has been historically proved that Greek immigrants quickly organize themselves into communities when settling in reception countries. These Greek communities function as real state mechanisms “in miniature” and meet essential social and economic needs. In addition, the members of the Greek communities which flourished in the Balkans, Russia, Europe, Asia and Africa placed a great deal of importance on institutions and social services. As a result, quality of life in the communities was improved, their unique cultural character was emphasized, and finally a sense of national identity and consciousness was consolidated.

Though Greek communities evolved independently from the Greek state, the hardships of the homeland affected and motivated the community members, who provided material support in all national and global crises. In general, all Greek benefactors acted in a similar way, for reasons of personal fulfillment, social awareness and historical consciousness.

Eminent entrepreneurs acting as benefactors undertake works of common interest, substituting for the official state, collectivities and institutions. The benefactor realizes a personal epopee in the service of the common good. Benefaction for him represents a defining passion determining his/her personal and collective functioning. Benefaction as historical phenomenon continues today, mainly in the form of institutional benefaction.

Harmonized with their times, contemporary prosperous Greeks continue an active presence as benefactors, regardless of the change in the way their beneficent function is realized – that is, the fact that beneficent function is not mainly accomplished through personal initiative, but through the work of the Foundations they have established as a prominent tool.