This prestigious distinction is the greatest honor which the French Republic grants to French and foreign citizens who are distinguished for their humanitarian work, their ideals and their services to France. By awarding this medal, the French Republic recognized Marianna V. Vardinoyannis’ significant work through UNESCO, the “ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer” and the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation”. A Presidential Decree signed by the President of France Mr. Francois Hollande proclaimed Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour.
The ceremony was hosted by the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova and it was attended by the wife of President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Anne Aymone, royalties, representatives of the diplomatic, academic, artistic world from France, Greece and other European countries, as well as by members of the Vardinoyannis family.
In her speech, the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova, praised the work and personality of Mrs. Vardinoyannis : ” Dear Marianne, you are here in your home and your home owes you a lot for your significant support to many events , conferences, forums, in which you are involved as coordinator, advocate and friend… In 2015, the year our Organization celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is our great pleasure that we tighten our relationship with all members of our family, and I’m glad that tonight I am honoring you on behalf of UNESCO, and personally… It is also a great pleasure for me to welcome Mr Valery Giscard d ‘Estaing who is familiar with this organization and he is a permanent invitee… Mrs. Vardinoyannis helps to create a humanitarian link between so different struggles, with her energy, her enthusiasm, her generosity, and your path, dear Marianna, fully justifies the distinction that you awarded tonight”.
President Valery Giscard d ‘Estaing spoke about Mrs. Vardinoyannis and referred to important parts of her work and to the prizes that have been awarded to her in Greece and abroad: “Dear Marianna Vardinoyannis, when Napoleon establised the Legion of Honour in early 1800, he had not thought that this value of the imperial aristocracy will be awarded one day to a female personality of Greece. But times have changed everywhere as here too (to UNESCO) Mrs. Director General, where Mrs. Vardinoyannis added the list of her outstanding actions. It is not the time, Mrs. Vardinoyannis, to enumerate all you have done, which is too many and exeptional, but I will refer only to those which justify your current distinction. This means the office and your action … which resulted in something that is worthy to be rewarded with numerous distinctions and awards … and now your entire project, which revolves mainly around child protection, fully justifies the award and this current distinction. But at the same time this distinction is addressed to a Greek which is part of Greece that we all love … This distinction I will now present to you, Marianna, I hope it shines in the sky of a calm Greece. Mrs. Vardinoyannis, in the name of the President of the Republic and with the authorization I have, I name you Officer of the Legion of Honour”.
President d ‘Estaing awarded the medal of the Officcer to Mrs Vardinoyannis and congratulated her warmly. After receiving the medal Mrs Vardinoyannis, being deeply touched, spoke in French, wishing to honour France and the Francophonie: “Mr President, I am deeply grateful to you, for it is indeed a great honour for my country, for myself and for my family that you have presented me with this distinction. We are deeply moved by this honour, for it confirms the mutual ties of friendship and respect that we share with you and with your dear wife, Anne –Aymone… As a Greek I shall never forget the integral role you personally played in moving my country forward in those critical years after the dictatorship when, as a leading politician at the vanguard of Europe that was taking shape, you championed Greece’s accession to the European Community. I will never forget your historical words, when you spoke in reference to the deep ties between our two peoples: “Greece, for us, is the synonym of civilization”.
And continuing her speech Mrs. Vardinoyannis thanked the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova and talked about the role of France in the modern world: “I would also like to express my warmest thanks to my dear friend, Irina Bokova. Thank you for the welcome you have extended to me in this special place. It was here that I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador to play my part in promoting fraternity amongst peoples. Thank you, Irina, for your warm words- spoken by a person I so admire, they constitute a huge support. Through her role and the significance of her work within UNESCO, opening the way for genuine progress in the key areas of Education and Culture, Irina has become a source of inspiration for me. She is one of those outstanding personalities, who contributes to the progress of the modern world. Significantly, the headquarters of UNESCO are based in France, since it is France that so admirably, efficiently, freely and without constraint supports and assists UNESCO in assuming its universal role. Reaching its highpoint with the Revolution, France was always and indeed continues to be a staunch defender of Human Rights, a pioneer of innovative ideas, and the cradle of social sciences. France honoured and cherished the ancient Greek civilization, assimilating its fundamental features and showing a profound respect for the scientific constructions and philosophical theories of the Greek intellectuals… My work and career have led me to serve the ideals and aspirations emanating from France, towards a better world in which children’s health and well-being know no bounds. And it was for this cause that I enthusiastically supported major initiatives taken by France in the fields of health, child protection, culture and social development. In the same spirit I founded “ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer” as well as the “Foundation for the Child and the Family” in Greece. It is to those children, who constantly encourage me to continue my efforts, that I dedicate the distinction being bestowed upon me today, as well as to my husband, Vardis, and our family, whose support is unwavering.
The event was attended by Princess Beatrice de Bourbon de deux Siciles, Prince and Princess Constantin Mourousy, Princess Marina of Greece , the Greek Ambassador to France, Mrs Maria Theofili, the Greek Ambassador to UNESCO Mr George Veis , UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors: Metin Arditi and Jean Michel Jarre, former Ambassador of France in Greece Mr. Jean Loup Khun Delforge, Lord Michael Anders Cavendish, Professor David Khayat, Mr. Michel Boss and his wife Veronique Drouhin, the President of Action Aid Hellas Mrs Alexandra Mitsotakis , the Founder of the Prix Galien, Roland Mehl, and his wife Florence, Nikos Aliagas, and many others.
After the event, Mrs. Vardinoyannis paid a tribute to the innocent victims of Paris terror attacks of November 13th, laying three white roses at the Bataclan Theatre.