A Βig Βirthday, a Return to our Roots, and a Look at Who We Are
03 July 2019

Today marks the 110th anniversary of our founder’s birth. Though Stavros Niarchos passed away in 1996, the Foundation bearing his name reflects his roots and is guided by his vision.

Drawing inspiration from our history for working toward a better future, this is who we are today.

Stavros Niarchos was born on July 3, 1909 in Athens, but his family’s roots were in the Laconian village of Vamvakou. After studying law, he joined his family’s grain business, and his first foray into shipping was buying vessels to transport the grain.

During the Second World War, Niarchos served in the Greek navy, taking part in the Allied operations in Normandy. Following the war, he undertook the construction and operation of Hellenic Shipyards, the first private investment of its kind in Greece and soon the largest shipyard in the Mediterranean.

The development of his own shipping endeavors presaged—and contributed to—the globalized world that would emerge in the decades following. The international outlook demanded by globalized and diversified business interests would eventually make its way into the mission of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

The Foundation was established in 1996. In the 23 years since, it has made grants in line with Stavros Niarchos’s founding vision, promoting Hellenism worldwide and contributing to the advancement of positive social change in the broad areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare. In 2017, SNF became involved in an effort touching on each of these areas—and also honoring our founder’s roots—in the village of Vamvakou.

In many ways, Vamvakou would feel familiar to Stavros Niarchos’s forbearers. Its traditional homes and buildings still shoulder up to the village’s winding roads, and the natural beauty of the Parnon mountain range’s highest peak still provides a stunning setting for life there. But in one crucial respect, the village would be utterly unrecognizable to his forefathers: the village is largely empty. Even a few decades ago, hundreds of people called Vamvakou home, but today, fewer than a dozen live there, and the school, a hallmark of life in a community, sits silent.

With support from SNF, a group of young people who, like our founder, trace roots to Vamvakou, are working to bring new life to the village. The project is already underway in its efforts to create the quality jobs and high standard of living that will draw new residents and the activities and amenities that will attract visitors.

On Saturday, July 13, Vamvakou will swell with visitors in a celebration of this new beginning and a preview of what’s to come. A varied menu of activities and events for guests of all ages and interests will be offered with support from SNF.

Starting in the morning, athletes looking for a pleasant challenge will race in the Vamvakou Mountain Run, which will offer routes of both 7 and 28 kilometers. Hikers will follow an experienced guide on the trails around Vamvakou, will join members of the Vamvakou Revival team for a walking tour of the village, and will explore the area on their own by borrowing an electric-assist bike. Kids will get to know the village through an educational program and will have a ball with games in the schoolyard. In the afternoon, the documentary When Tomatoes Met Wagner will be screened at the school, and the medal ceremony for the Mountain Run will take place.

In the evening, SNF’s monthly DIALOGUES series will continue with a discussion on the concept of returning to one’s roots, and thematically related works will be performed by the artists of the Greek National Opera. The evening will close with a traditional feast.

Read the full details of the day’s events, and make your plan to join us.