The parade begins to take shape, as thousands lining up the Danforth clap and wave Greek flags.

Greektown residents celebrate independence and hope for their homeland

Danforth Avenue was painted blue and white this Sunday, filled with celebration, food and dance

Greektown resident John Galaktopolous came out to celebrate his heritage on March 29.

“It’s freedom day,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. We are a strong nation.”

More than 15,000 people lined the Danforth, between Jones and Chester avenues, to watch the Greek Independence Day parade on Sunday. It commemorates the Greek revolution, which freed Greece from the Ottoman Empire to become a nation in 1832.

The parade included Toronto dignitaries such as Mayor John Tory, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ward 29 Coun. Mary Fragedakis.

Despite the fact the day acknowledges Greek strength in winning independence, Greektown residents such as Vasilios Daskalakis realize that modern Greece faces another battle: the severe governmental debt. Greece is more than 300 billion euros in debt. Overall unemployment there is estimated between 20 and 25 per cent, and youth unemployment is estimated between 60 and 65 per cent.

“It’s bad,” Daskalakis said, “but knowing Greeks and what they have come out of, and what they have endured, I think they are going to be fine. They need a little bit of patience and time.”

Since 2010, Greece has received two large aid packages from the International Monetary Fund, a group of 188 countries working to secure financial stability in the world’s different economies. Newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has clashed with the European Union, stating that massive bailout debts need to be restructured, because “without intervention they are impossible to pay.”

Nevertheless, on a day of celebration, Greektown residents watching the parade along Danforth Avenue were optimistic about their homeland.

“We need to pull our socks up and work our way out of it. We need to give the youth a chance,” John Galaktopolous said. “In our time we had better opportunities. This next generation is going to have a real hard time. Things are difficult, but we need to keep pushing on.”