The Pontian Association of Montreal was founded in 1964. It was founded by Greek immigrants of Pontian heritage. They decided to create an association in order to maintain their culture and traditions in this new and very different country they came to. The main reason for this association was simple, get together, reminisce and talk about the “patrida”. But that would quickly become just a pass time. The members knew that in this new land one could easily forget their roots and traditions. They had the first annual dance, a day in which all Pontians and friends could get together at a reception hall devoted mostly to Pontian music and dance the night away. The council would then begin what has become traditional today, the “sinestiasi”, a small get together for the die-hard Pontian party go-ers devoted to Pontian music, food, drink and as always discussions on the “patrida”. As the years passed the association gave them more than just a place to get together. It gave friendships, bonds and another Greek tradition, the “koubaro and koubara”. For this reason the Association became even more important. In a country where the streets looked different and the language was new, there was a place that they could go to and meet with the people that made them feel as if they were home even in this foreign country. Most of the Pontians in Montreal came from cities and towns in Macedonia such as: Thessaloniki, Katerini, Verria, Serres, and some from Pontos itself. But the difference with this association, as compared with others, was that it did not matter what part of Greece, Pontos or any other part of the world they came from, they were all Pontians. If new Pontian immigrants came to Montreal, they would feel at home in the association. In the early years of the association the Pontians of Montreal had something that few of the younger generations of today have. There existed an unbreakable bond with one another. And although they have grown today into larger families and have greater responsibilities, that bond still exists.
The first official meeting was held in 1964 at the Holy Trinity church on Sherbrooke West. The first official executive council was elected and the 39-year history of the Pontian Association of Montreal began. After the association was founded in 1964, the meetings were held at various locations, the church, the kafenio or anywhere that the council could meet. It was in 1971 that the association rented it’s first space at 4610 Park Avenue and opened the doors to all as the “lesxi”, (the club or gathering place). Between Villeneuve and Mount Royal on the west side the lesxi was small but cozy. It was there that the association began to do more that get together. The first dance group was formed in the lesxi in 1971and the association started to promote and represent the Pontian culture in Montreal. In 1972 the lesxi moved to 4857 Park Avenue, between St. Joseph and Villeneuve on the east side. It was there that it became obvious to the members that the lesxi was growing and that a more permanent location would be necessary. Still small, still cozy yet still renting, it soon became evident that it was time to make a serious decision. And in 1977 and after 13 successful years The Pontian Association of Montreal made the biggest decision of its career to date. After a general assembly meeting the member voted unanimously to buy a building. They became one of the first and very few Greek associations in Montreal to purchase a building. The lesxi took on the more official name of “Syllogos” (society) and opened its doors on 5879 Park Avenue. The building, consisting of two large apartments upstairs and the “ethousa” (reception) on the main floor, was a prime purchase located between Van Horne and Bernard on the east side and in a thriving Greek street full of clubs, café’s or kafenia and many restaurants. It was open daily for coffee drinks and game play such as dominoes, cards, tavli, ping-pong and much more. The Syllogo’s dance groups grew as some members had children and Sundays became synonymous with dance practice because the dance teacher was given this day to his disposal. From 1964 until 1989 the Pontian Association of Montreal flourished. The successes of purchasing the building, the annual dances, sinestiasis, dance groups and so much more, contributed to the growth of the Pontian culture in Montreal. The performances at Belmont park by the dance group in the late 70’s, the very successful and highly praised 9th annual Pan-Pontian convention held from September 2-5 of 1988 and the trips to others cities in North America were just some of the great events of that span. It seemed that nothing could stop the growth of the Syllogo. But in 1990 came the first great set back in the Associations history. In the month of June, the building was badly damaged in a fire. The insurance did not cover all of the damages, the Syllogo had many meetings with the insurance company, a re- mortgage was taken on the property to meet the expenses and the repairs took very long to complete. More time than expected was lost to all of this and many things changed for the Syllogo. When the renovations were finally completed in late 1990 the association did not enjoy the same enthusiasm it did in the previous years. The people who would gather at nights found other places to pass their time and the dance groups suffered after loosing their dance floor. The Syllogo transformed into the lesxi, the lesxi into the building and the building into just a place to hold meetings. The Pontian Association of Montreal took a couple of steps back. With the dance group at very low numbers and the Syllogo empty, the Pontian Association had to start from the beginning. But after laboring for so many years and making the Syllogo a success the older members were tired. And then came the re-building years of 1991- 1994. The core members stayed on and worked hard to bring the Syllogo back to its traditional form. (An important note however was that at no time did the Association cancel any annual dances or considered a year without a sinestiasi, a true testament to the will of the Pontians) How could the Syllogo move ahead from here? The answer was simple to the older members. Get the youth involved! In came the youth movement of 1991. Long awaited for by the older members, this year marked the appearance of the young Pontians. The first generation “Pontian Montrealers”. While many other Syllogi were wondering how to get the “neolea” (youth) into the Syllogo, the Pontian Association led by some of the more active younger members formed the “Pontian Youth of Montreal” (PYM) and in 1991 elected it’s first ever youth council. The dancing groups grew once more and many other associations would try to replicate the Pontians and bring the youth into their Syllogi. Even though the youth appeared, the Syllogo was still on shaky ground, and in 1992 the first council that was not voted upon took shape. What this meant was that because not enough people were interested to run for council, the usual voting for executive council was waived and a willing 11 members became the council. This of course, was not a major setback just a revelation that the interest to run the day-to-day operations of the Syllogo had dropped. The older members figured things would turn out fine, since the neolea seemed interested; a couple of steps back but the appearance of the youth were many more steps forward. Unfortunately it was a temporary fix and the PYM folded in 1993. One of the more important discussions during 1994 & 1995 was how to get the youth involved with the Syllogo. After the PYM folded in 1993 many attempts were made to revive the group, but with no luck. It seemed that the youth was just not interested. But the year 1996 brought back the youth. It seemed that the answer to the question, why the youth halted, was because they wanted to be more involved in the day to day operations and not just the youth council. Led by some of the active members of the PYM, the elections brought 8 council members who were under 30 years of age. It was the first time since the first years of the association that the council consisted of mainly younger members (8 of 13). It was time the older members could sit back relax and let their children run the Syllogo. 1996 was also the first year that the genocide events of May 19 were held for a weekend instead of a day. In 1997 the council consisted of youth as well but it was 1998’s executive council that really showed that the youth was taking the initiative, 8 of 9 council members were under 30. By 2001, the numbers reached 10 of 11members being from the first generation Pontians of Montreal. As the youth proved to be connecting with the Syllogo, the events also became more elaborate. The May 19 remembrance event grew to include speeches and wreath placements. There was an exposition held in a library in Laval, the annual dances became bigger and a trip to New York City to petition the United Nations for the acknowledgement of the Pontian genocide of 1917-1922. By the year 2002, the revenues reached all time highs and in the month of December the Syllogo began renovations on the property. The bathrooms, kitchen and cabinets got a face lift and in general the Syllogo received a much needed 'new look'. In 2003 while the renovations moved to include the exterior of the building, the new executive council embarked on the 'promote ourselves' agenda: The layout of the website changed and included more information - Spots on Antenna Satellite, Odyssey Television and Hellenic horizons were played on TV - Press rellises and radio Programs were continuously showcasing the association - A more direct line of communication with municipal, provincial and federal representatives was established - and attendance to our brother associations and Pan-Pontian Federation functions became mandatory. In 2004 the association celebrated its 40th anniversary with a splendid annual dance which included one of the most talented Pontian artists, Stathi Nikolaidi. Let's see what 2005 will be like.
There have been many organizations in the past that have argued, fought and even separated into 2 or 3 different entities. This association has had the luxury of members remaining civil with each other. That is not to say that the Pontians of Montreal have not argued with one another, they have. But, the goal of promoting the Pontian culture was always the main concern. Yes someone has walked away from the Association upset and yes, a very few did not return as active as they once were. The unwavering truth is that come the annual dance not a single one is missing. The Pontian association is run in a democratic method and all ideas will eventually have their day in the sun.
One thing to remember is that the Syllogo is not run by employees. Volunteers run it.
The association has a history spanning 42 years filled with its ups and downs, but this association is one of the most successful Greek associations in Montreal. There will always be a difference of opinions in all Associations (and let’s face it, we are Greek after all). Things will not always turn out the way everyone hopes and sometimes the association will suffer. Sometimes things turn out well and sometimes they don’t. But the most important thing is, when it comes to the Pontian Association of Montreal, if you put it all on a scale, the good outweighs the bad by a very large margin.
This history is based on research conducted through articles, annual albums and interviews with association members. It is written by an association member. If you see something you believe may not be right or if you feel there are important events not represented, please e-mail us and we will be happy to make adjustments after researching your comments.
Συλλογος - Association
Pontian Association of Montreal, "Efxinos Pontos" - Σύλλογος Ποντίων Μοντρέαλ, "Έυξεινος Πόντος" - 5879 Park Avenue, Montreal, H2V 4H4, 514 271-0709