[Mr. and Mrs. Phylactopoulos and the four students of CYA’s pioneering class]
In 2017, the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini featured a story on CYA and the background of its founder, Ismene Phylactopoulou, “a 15-year-old girl who crossed the Aegean as a refugee in a small boat 95 years ago, who would become one of Greece’s leading cultural and educational ambassadors.”
On February 5, 2018, on the occasion of CYA Founder’s Day and in honor of former faculty members, CYA hosted a buffet dinner and a screening of “Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan city”, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Maria Iliou.
Former faculty members had the opportunity to meet with long-time friends and exchange news and warm embraces, as they re-connected over a glass of wine. Members of CYA’s board of advisors and trustees, current faculty and staff, as well as students had a chance to meet and mingle in a convivial atmosphere.
“I learned that the mission of the school was to develop better citizens of the world, to cultivate the civility of young people. By the end of the day, I was smitten. That day changed my life, a phrase that I hear often from students who come here.” – K. Chris Todd
CYA president Alexis Phylactopoulos gave an opening address, introducing the Chairman of the CYA Board of Trustees, Mr. Chris Todd who flew to Athens for the occasion. Mr. Todd recounted some heartfelt memories of CYA’s founder Ismene, highlighting her strength of character as well as the story of how she established the program with a pioneering class of 4 female students.
Mr. Phylactopoulos followed on by sharing some thoughts about the vision that led his mother, Ismene, to establish CYA and described the critical role played by the original and now deceased instructors of CYA.
Following a delicious dinner and dessert, Maria Iliou introduced her ancestral home, the cosmopolitan port city of Smyrna on the coast of Western Anatolia in the Ottoman Empire and its story from 1900 to 1922 when it was tragically destroyed in a fire ignited by the blaze of nationalism which raged in the aftermath of World War I.
“Cosmopolitan cities don’t disappear; they live within you” – Maria Iliou
Iliou discussed how she became fascinated with the memory of this city whose story, she observed, was relatively unknown to the general public in Europe and the US. In her profoundly moving documentary, she was able to share the story of Smyrna and its destruction.
The film’s historical consultant, Alexander Kitroeff (CYA visiting professor from Haverford College), explained that the collaboration with Maria Iliou helped him with his own field of work as a historian, learning how to “tell a story”.
The event was a moving experience which brought together people who have been close to CYA from its very early beginnings until now. The evening was shaped by warm reflections, reminders of the rich history of CYA and fond memories of our inspirational founder and the fantastic people who we have had the privilege to work alongside her to build CYA into what it is today.