Ae Marika! Tribute to Mike Kyriazopoulous

AE MARIKA is an article written every week by Hone Harawira, leader of the MANA Movement and Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau. This tribute, to Fightback comrade Mike Kyriazopoloulous, was originally published on Mana.net.nz

On Saturday night I was privileged to host my first ever citizenship ceremony as a Member of Parliament. The ceremony was for a good friend of mine, Mike Kyriazopoulos and his wife Joanne. Mike is a mix of Greek and Jewish ancestry, and used to live and work in England where he met his wife Joanne.

Their citizenship application was finally approved a couple of weeks ago, and the ceremony was held at the Auckland Trades Hall in Auckland as part of a special tribute evening for Mike who is a committed socialist, a union activist, and chairman of the MANA branch of Te Raki Paewhenua.

Mike gave his oath of allegiance in Maori and followed that with his own personal vow to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the principles of international socialism.

The tribute part of the evening was because Mike has motor neurone disease which causes nerve cells to degenerate and muscles to waste away. Sufferers invariably end up unable to walk, speak, use their arms and hands, or hold up their head. It has no known cause and is invariably fatal. Mike is not expected to live much longer.

Tributes flowed in from union activists and socialist comrades from around the world and from the many gathered for the evening, and ended with my wife Hilda getting all these staunch socialists to hold hands and each say something nice about Mike as part of a big karakia for him.

Mike is not a man given to much emotion, and his speech was one urging everyone to have clear purpose and a strong commitment to the future.

A sad occasion but a great celebration nonetheless.

And then on the Sunday I was out at Piringatahi Marae in West Harbour where the body of another good friend, Wiremu Hamahona (Samson) was lying in state.

Wiremu is from Pawarenga but born and raised in Auckland. His family had gracefully agreed to my request that his body be released from the funeral home so that he could spend his last night with us, and MANA activists and friends and whanau came from far and wide to pay their final respects to a man who had been the backbone of MANA Waitakere for the past couple of years.

Wiremu was a complex guy – very intense, very loyal and totally committed.

He was training to be a teacher and some of his teacher mates came to farewell their friend. But to most of us, Wiremu was the guy who took charge of putting up my billboards right across Waitakere during my by-election in 2011 and the general election later that year, and him and his boy Davian would often be out all hours of the night in the cold and the rain, repairing billboards, refacing the defacing, “removing” obstacles, and making sure that regardless of how little money we had, MANA’s presence would be as strong as everyone else’s.

Wiremu once told one of the brothers that he wasn’t much into politics, but that MANA gave him heart and purpose and a reason to live. I’m glad that we were all there for him on his last night – to share the many hilarious stories that gave context to his life and hopefully gave warmth to his mum.

By his will, Wiremu was cremated and his ashes remain with his family.

Wiremu was like the sun. Regardless of how bad yesterday went, you always know that he would be there to warm your soul tomorrow. Haere e te rangatira, haere.

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