15 May 2015
May 15, 2015

A TRIBUTE TO MARY VASSILIOU

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We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Vassiliou. Kiria Mary, as she was respectfully called, taught South African Hellenes the traditional dances of Greece and Cyprus. She leaves a legacy which extends far beyond the dancing skills she imparted on generations of Hellenes.

Mary Vassiliou brought together countless young people and instilled in them a burning pride for their cultural roots. She was principled and steadfast in her fight against discrimination in South Africa, even when this was not the popular view. She led by example and challenged her students to think critically.

A creative dynamo, Kiria Mary was a gifted poet and singer and staged a number of memorable productions. She began to teach dance in 1956 and tirelessly continued to teach until her death.

Kiria Mary was named as the Mother of Hellenism and awarded the Cross of St. Mark by the Patriarch of Alexandria. She was named as one of the most admired women of the decade by the World Foundation of Women. Mary Vassiliou was recognised for her work by luminaries such as President Nelson Mandela and the University of Cambridge.  Yet her greatest joy was experiencing the love and respect of her students and their parents.

We pay tribute to a remarkable woman and honour her stellar contribution to Hellenes in South Africa.