A light­house of ed­u­ca­tion and knowl­edge in Pi­raeus

Kathimerini English - - Life - BY MAR­GARITA POURNARA

Few pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions in Greece are suc­cess­ful at gather­ing a va­ri­ety of cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties un­der one roof. One of them is the Aika­terini Laskaridis Foun­da­tion, which has not only brought the city of Pi­raeus much­needed cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences, but has also or­ga­nized ac­tiv­i­ties all over Greece.

The foun­da­tion was founded by pres­i­den­tial de­cree in 2007, though it is ba­si­cally an ex­ten­sion of the Laskaridis Li­brary, which has been in op­er­a­tion since 1993.

Kathimerini re­cently met with the pres­i­dent of the foun­da­tion, Mar­ilena Laskaridis, and the ad­viser at the li­brary, Kali Ky­parissi, at the neo­clas­si­cal build­ing on Boubouli­nas Street in cen­tral Pi­raeus. The two women ex­plained that to­gether with the foun­da­tion’s other premises, an em­blem­atic build­ing on the Akti Mout­sopoulou seafront road in Pasal­i­mani, the foun­da­tion acts as a “light­house of ed­u­ca­tion and knowl­edge,” boast­ing among its guest speak­ers notable au­thors and sci­en­tists in­clud­ing Kiki Di­moula and Glykatzi-Ahrweiler.

The foun­da­tion’s founder, Kaiti Laskaridis, was born in Pi­raeus and elected to the ad­min­is­tra­tive coun­cil of the Greek YWCA in the 1950s, where she served for 30 years, mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the as­sim­i­la­tion of refugees in the port city. Fol­low­ing her death in 1993, her hus­band Con­stanti­nos Laskaridis es­tab­lished a lend­ing li-

Eleni brary that he named af­ter her in a re­stored build­ing that now houses the Neo Faliro branch of the YWCA.

As the li­brary grew and the founder’s chil­dren, Panos and Mar­ilena, be­gan to get in­creas­ingly in­volved in its run­ning and de­vel­op­ment, it was even­tu­ally moved to Boubouli­nas Street in 2006. “We had be­gun or­ga­niz­ing cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties back when we were still in Neo Faliro,” ex­plained Mar­ilena Laskaridis, “but mov­ing to the cen­ter of Pi­raeus al­lowed us to ex­pand into many dif­fer­ent ar­eas as the build­ing was large enough to ac­com­mo­date two events halls. Apart from the lend­ing li­brary – which has 2,000 mem­bers and 15,000 ti­tles – we also or­ga­nize lec­tures and hold ed­u­ca­tional events for school groups. We get around 200 to 600 chil­dren com­ing here on a daily ba­sis. We bring to­gether a cross sec­tion of peo­ple, from housewives look­ing for some­thing to read to sci­en­tists look­ing for re­search ma­te­rial. We run sem­i­nars, day con­fer­ences, ex­hi­bi­tions, trib­utes, mu­si­cal evenings and an an­nual short-story competition.”

The foun­da­tion’s li­brary fa­cil­i­ties are com­ple­mented by the Mar­itime Li­brary on Akti Mout­sopoulou, which is ded­i­cated to mar­itime his­tory and re­search. In keep­ing with the foun­da­tion’s mar­itime tra­di­tion, it is also in­volved in the restora­tion of light­houses around Greece.

“The aim is to help peo­ple who want to im­prove their ed­u­ca­tion and to chil­dren who thirst for dif­fer­ent kinds of cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional events,” added Ky­parissi.

lend­ing li­brary is housed in a neo­clas­si­cal man­sion on the cor­ner of Boubouli­nas and Prax­itelous streets in Pi­raeus.

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