Τίτλος: Καρπαθιακή Παρουσία στην Αµερική
Συγγραφέας: Μανώλης Γ. Κασσώτης 146 Beverly Avenue, Floral Park, NY 11001, U.S.A. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Επιµέλεια: Άπελλα Νότα
Εκδότης: Στέγη Γραµµάτων και Τεχνών ∆ωδεκανήσου Ρόδος, ∆ωδεκάνησα
Έτος Έκδοσης: 2012
Title: The Karpathian (Dodecanese) Presence in America
Author: Emanuel G. Cassotis 146 Beverly Avenue, Floral Park, NY 11001, U.S.A. e-mail: email@example.com
Design: Apella Nota
Publisher: Stegi Grammaton ke Technon Dodecanesou Rhodes, Greece
Copyright: Emanuel G. Cassotis © 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be printed or otherwise reproduced without written permission by the author, except in the case of brief quotations.
Το ΙΣΤ’ Πολιτιστικό Συµπόσιο της Στέγης Γραµµάτων και Τεχνών ∆ωδεκανήσου, που πραγµατοποιήθηκε στον Πειραιά στις αρχές Νοεµβρίου 2009, ήταν αφιερωµένο στους ∆ωδεκανησίους της διασποράς. Κρίναµε ότι, µετά την επί 30 χρόνια περιήγηση των Πολιτιστικών Συµποσίων µας από νησί σε νησί της ∆ωδεκανήσου, οφείλαµε ένα Συµπόσιο στη δωδεκανησιακή διασπορά, σ’ αυτή την άλλη µεγάλη, διάσπαρτη ανά την υφήλιο κι αχαρτογράφητη ∆ωδεκάνησο. Επιλέξαµε τον Πειραιά, ως την πρώτη «σκάλα» της (πέραν της ∆ωδεκανήσου) αποδηµίας των ∆ωδεκανησίων από τότε (τουλάχιστον) που µπήκαν σύνορα ανάµεσα στα νησιά µας και τη Μικρασία. Κι ως συµβολική υπογράµµιση του ερευνητικού ενδιαφέροντός µας για τους ∆ωδεκανησίους αδελφούς της διασποράς, αποφασίσαµε να τους τιµήσουµε στο πρόσωπο ενός ανθρώπου, ο οποίος µπορούσε να σταθεί ως προσωποποίηση της δυναµικής και της φιλοπατρίας των αποδήµων µας µε την προσωπικότητα και την προσφορά του. Κι αυτός ο άνθρωπος δεν ήταν άλλος από τον Μανώλη Κασσώτη.
Ο Μανώλης Κασσώτης, για 50 και πλέον χρόνια που βρίσκεται στην Αµερική, µετέχει ενεργά και συχνά σε ρόλους πρωτοποριακούς και ηγετικούς στα οµογενειακά πράγµατα, σε καρπαθιακό, δωδεκανησιακό και πανεθνικό επίπεδο. Ένθερµος υποστηρικτής της ενότητας των δυνάµεων της Οµογένειας, πρωτοστάτησε στη δηµιουργία ή στην αναδιοργάνωση φορέων ευρείας εµβέλειας, όπως η Οµοσπονδία Καρπαθιακών Σωµατείων Αµερικής, το Καρπαθιακό Ίδρυµα, η ∆ωδεκανησιακή Οµοσπονδία, το Εθνικό ∆ωδεκανησιακό Συµβούλιο Αµερικής, ο σύλλογος «Παγκόσµιος Ελληνισµός» κλπ., ενώ πρόσφερε τις υπηρεσίες του στην Ελληνορθόδοξη Κοινότητα και συνέδραµε ποικιλότροπα στην ίδρυση ελληνικών σχολείων και πολιτιστικών κέντρων. Για όλη αυτή την προσφορά του τιµήθηκε επανειληµµένα από τις ελληνικές, τις οµογενειακές και τις αµερικανικές αρχές.
Παράλληλα ασχολήθηκε µε τα γράµµατα. Έγραψε εκατοντάδες άρθρα και µελέτες για τη δράση των ∆ωδεκανησίων και ιδίως των Καρπαθίων της Αµερικής και για την ιστορία και το λαϊκό πολιτισµό της ∆ωδεκανήσου, που δηµοσιεύθηκαν σε παροικιακά, ροδιακά και καρπαθιακά περιοδικά έντυπα και συνεργάστηκε στην έκδοση σηµαντικών περιοδικών και λευκωµάτων, ενώ είναι τακτικός συνεργάτης της Εταιρείας Καρπαθιακών Μελετών, του Κέντρου Καρπαθιακών Ερευνών και της Στέγης Γραµµάτων και Τεχνών ∆ωδεκανήσου. Τα οκτώ βιβλία, που τύπωσε µέχρι σήµερα, παίρνουν τα θέµατά τους από τα χρόνια του ∆ευτέρου Παγκοσµίου Πολέµου στα ∆ωδεκάνησα, από την ιστορία της Οµογένειας στην Αµερική κι από την παραδοσιακή ζωή της Καρπάθου.
Αλλά για µας, για την «πνευµατική οικογένεια» της Σ.Γ.Τ.∆., ο Μανώλης Κασσώτης, πέρα από το πλούσιο εθνικό και πνευµατικό έργο που έχει στο ενεργητικό του, είναι ο «δικός µας» άνθρωπος ανάµεσα στους απόδηµους, ο άνθρωπος της Στέγης, που για δυο δεκαετίες και περισσότερο φροντίζει ώστε οι µέρες της άδειάς του από την Αµερική για την Ελλάδα να συµπίπτουν µε το Συµπόσιο της Στέγης για να βρεθεί µαζί µας.
Όταν, λοιπόν, στην εναρκτήρια συνεδρία του Συµποσίου µας στον Πειραιά, στις 5 Νοεµβρίου 2009, απονεµήθηκε τιµητική πλακέτα στον Μανώλη Κασσώτη, στην απάντησή του, είπε ανάµεσα στ’ άλλα:
«Όταν κάποτε κάποιος έφευγε στην ξενιτιά, η µάνα του άναβε το καντήλι και προσευχότανε:
-Παναγιά µου φώτισε το δρόµο του και φέρ’ τον πίσω.
Αυτό είναι το καντήλι που ανάβει µέσα στην ψυχή του κάθε Έλληνα µετανάστη. Απ’ το κάθε Συµπόσιο της ΣΓΤ∆ παίρνω µαζί µου λίγο λάδι για το καντήλι της ∆ωδεκανησιακής νοσταλγίας που η φλόγα του ζεσταίνει τις καρδιές µας και οδηγεί τα βήµατα µας πίσω στα νησιά µας».
Από τις 70 εισηγήσεις που ακούστηκαν στο ΙΣΤ’ Πολιτιστικό µας Συµπόσιο, πάνω από τις µισές αντλούσαν τα θέµατά τους από την ιστορία και τη ζωή των ∆ωδεκανησίων της διασποράς. Φάνηκε τότε επιτακτική η ανάγκη να γραφτεί η ιστορία των αποδήµων µας, οι οποίοι αναµφίβολα αποτελούν ένα τεράστιο κεφάλαιο της δωδεκανησιακής µας πραγµατικότητας, ιστορικής, κοινωνικής, πολιτιστικής. Κι απευθύναµε, ως Στέγη, σχετική έκκληση στους φιλότιµους ερευνητές µας, ∆ωδεκανησίους και φίλους της ∆ωδεκανήσου: Να συλλέξουν µε υποµονή και αγάπη το διάσπαρτο πληροφοριακό υλικό, τα έγγραφα, τα αρχεία, ακόµη και τις ενδιαφέρουσες προσωπικές µαρτυρίες, και να προχωρήσουν στην αξιοποίηση και ανάδειξή του µέσω σχετικών συγγραφικών πονηµάτων. Ως ανταπόκριση σ’ εκείνη την έκκλησή µας ας θεωρηθεί η παρούσα έκδοση.
Ο Μανώλης Κασσώτης δεν περίµενε ασφαλώς την παραίνεσή µας για να γράψει την ιστορία της Καρπαθιακής Παροικίας στην Αµερική. Η παρούσα µελέτη αποτελεί καρπό πολύχρονου ερευνητικού µόχθου του συγγραφέα. Με υποµονή, µεθοδικότητα και ακάµατο ζήλο συλλέγει επί δεκαετίες το υλικό του για να µας δώσει, όχι µια απλή παράθεση συναρπαστικών στοιχείων, αλλά τη συνολική εικόνα της καρπαθιακής παρουσίας στην Αµερική, ένα πλήθος από ιδιότυπες πτυχές και φαινόµενα, που απορρέουν από τη µετανάστευση.
Ειδικότερα: Αξιοποιώντας τις υπάρχουσες αρχειακές και βιβλιογραφικές πληροφορίες αναλύει τις ποικίλες σκληρές συνθήκες (οικονοµικές, κοινωνικές, πολιτικές) που οδήγησαν στη µετανάστευση µεγάλο αριθµό των κατοίκων ενός παραδοσιακού γεωργικού νησιού. Αντιµετωπίζοντας τον ξενιτεµό όχι µόνο µέσα στη σηµερινή πραγµατικότητα, αλλά στη διαχρονική του πορεία, ξεκινά από την παλαιότερη εποχική µετανάστευση των Καρπαθίων στην Ανατολή, την Αττική, την Αφρική, τη Λατινική Αµερική κλπ. για να καταλήξει στο θέµα του που είναι η µετανάστευση στις Ηνωµένες Πολιτείες. Περιγράφει τις σκληρές συνθήκες που αντιµετώπισαν οι πρώτοι εκείνοι µετανάστες στα ανθρακωρυχεία και στα εστιατόρια, τη βαθµιαία µετάβαση από το στάδιο της οµαδικής στην οικογενειακή µετανάστευση και την προσπάθεια επιβίωσης και προκοπής στη ξένη χώρα, που από κάποιο σηµείο κι έπειτα ήταν φυσικό να µην θεωρείται πια ξένη. Περιγράφει στη συνέχεια το πολιτιστικό τοπίο που είχαν ν’ αντιµετωπίσουν εκείνοι οι αγνοί χωρικοί, µέσα σ’ ένα µωσαϊκό εθνοτήτων, σ’ ένα λαβύρινθο ποικίλων πολιτισµών που συναντώνται, ανταγωνίζονται κι αναπόφευκτα αλληλοεπηρεάζονται. Και ιστορεί την προσπάθεια οργάνωσης της παροικιακής ζωής γύρω από κάποιες αξίες πολιτισµού και τη συνεχή µάχη που οι απόδηµοι έδιναν και δίνουν για να διασώσουν την πολιτιστική τους ετερότητα, να διατηρήσουν κάποια χαρακτηριστικά της πατρογονικής πνευµατικής φυσιογνωµίας, ώστε να µην αµβλυνθούν ή χαθούν. Κι η έρευνα προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση παίρνει έτσι τη βαθύτερη σηµασία µιας κοινωνιολογικής και λαογραφικής απολογητικής της εθνικής-πολιτιστικής αντοχής.
Με ιδιαίτερη έµφαση, κι εύλογα άλλωστε, παρακολουθεί την ευδοκίµηση των Καρπαθίων της Αµερικής στη νέα πατρίδα. Μας µεταφέρει τον αγώνα των ανθρώπων που βρέθηκαν στη ξένη γη κυνηγοί καλλίτερης τύχης, µόχθησαν, αγωνίστηκαν σκληρά, και σήµερα είναι δεκάδες οι τολµηροί κι άξιοι Καρπάθιοι, της πρώτης, της δεύτερης, της τρίτης γενιάς, που διαπρέπουν στις επιστήµες, στα γράµµατα, στις τέχνες, στη δηµόσια ζωή, στον επιχειρηµατικό στίβο κλπ.
Συναρπαστικές είναι οι σελίδες ιστορίας που αναφέρονται στην προσφορά των Καρπαθίων της Αµερικής στον αγώνα για την εθνική αποκατάσταση της ∆ωδεκανήσου, στην κατάταξή τους στις αµερικανικές ένοπλες δυνάµεις κατά τον Β’ Παγκόσµιο Πόλεµο για να πολεµήσουν τον κοινό εχθρό, καθώς και στις κινητοποιήσεις, διαµαρτυρίες, παραστάσεις κλπ. για να υποστηρίξουν εθνικά θέµατα.
Τεράστιο κεφάλαιο, ηθικό και εθνικό, στην ιστορία των αποδήµων µας αποτελεί η γενικότερη προσφορά τους στον τόπο µε το θαυµαστό φαινόµενο των «ευεργεσιών». Σχολεία, εκκλησίες, κοινωφελή τοπικά έργα, υποτροφίες, προερχόµενα από τον καρπό του ιδρώτα τους και το περίσσευµα της φιλοπατρίας τους, συνετέλεσαν αποφασιστικά στην εν γένει δηµιουργία αναπτυξιακών υποδοµών (υλικών και πνευµατικών) σε κάθε χωριό του νησιού.
Κι έτσι, οι Καρπάθιοι της Αµερικής βρήκαν στο πρόσωπο του Μανώλη Κασσώτη τον άξιο πνευµατικό άνθρωπο που ολοκληρώνει µε την παρούσα έκδοση µια µακρόχρονη συνεχή προσπάθεια καταγραφής και ανάδειξης του αγώνα και των επιτευγµάτων τους. Κι είµαστε σε θέση να γνωρίζουµε ότι ένα ανάλογο πνευµατικό πόνηµα ετοιµάζει και σε επίπεδο ευρύτερης δωδεκανησιακής παρουσίας στην Αµερική. Ως Στέγη Γραµµάτων και Τεχνών ∆ωδεκανήσου συγχαίρουµε τον εκλεκτό συνεργάτη µας και του ευχόµαστε να συνεχίσει ακµαίος και δηµιουργικός την ανεκτίµητη πατριωτική προσφορά του στα ∆ωδεκάνησα και στο Έθνος.
ΤΟ ∆ΙΟΙΚΗΤΙΚΟ ΣΥΜΒΟΥΛΙΟ ΤΗΣ ΣΤΕΓΗΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΤΕΧΝΩΝ ∆Ω∆ΕΚΑΝΗΣΟΥ
ΜΑΝΟΛΗΣ ΜΑΚΡΗΣ – Πρόεδρος
ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΧΡΙΣΤΟ∆ΟΥΛΟΥ – Αντιπρόεδρος
ΧΑΡΑ ΚΟΣΕΓΙΑΝ – Γραµµατέας
ΝΙΚΟΣ ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΙ∆ΗΣ – Ταµίας
Located in the southeastern corner of the Aegean Sea, between the islands of Crete and Rhodes, lies the island of Karpathos, the second largest among the Dodecanese. Karpathos is a long narrow mountainous island, 30 miles long and 2 to 7 miles wide, situated in the turbulent Karpathian Sea. Formerly, a vast portion of the island was covered with pine trees, green shrubs, some olive groves, vineyards, and small orchards. At the beginning of the 20th century, its population numbered approximately 7,500, mainly farmers, shepherds, masons, and other skilled workers. Presently, however, nearly 6,000 residents are employed solely in the tourist industry.
Karpathos’ natural beauty was the driving force that initially earned the island the affection of its people. This affection resulted in an extensive literary, artistic, and cultural wealth that decorates Grecian folklore. The Karpathian does not live merely for himself; he lives for his country and loves it with an intense and unparalleled passion. Furthermore, this prevailing connection to the native land has led to the creation of some of the most unique customs, along with beautiful and meaningful folksongs and ballads, supported by expressive lyrics.
Due to the island’s limited resources and the tyranny imposed by conquerors, the Karpathians immigrated to different regions in order to alter their destiny and improve their standard of living. During the 19th century, these immigrants preferred to reside in mainland Greece and Greek-speaking areas of the Ottoman Empire. Most Karpathians were trained crafters, largely masons, who departed from the island for months or years at a time. A great majority of these individuals left after Easter and returned in the fall to cultivate their fields. Those who decided to leave the island for extended periods of time assimilated into the mainland Greek population.
Near the end of the 19th century, Karpathians started immigrating to Egypt and to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. A substantial number went to Sudan, and few even went as far as China and Australia. In the beginning of the 20th century, Karpathians began immigrating to the United States in significant numbers. They left from Karpathos, headed to Smyrna, and later traversed to Piraeus where they continued their journey to America. Although the massive Karpathian immigration to America was documented to have occurred in early part of the 20th century, the first recognized occasion of Karpathians setting foot on U.S. soil had taken place 30 years prior.
The first known Karpathian American immigrant was Nick Mastropanajotis, a carpenter, who boarded an Italian ship in Trieste, and in 1872, merely three months later, jumped ship to Philadelphia. He invested in a vendor cart and started selling dry fruits in the streets. A few years later, after accumulating sufficient funds, he traveled south, where he got involved in tobacco, cotton, dry and fresh fruit, and other agricultural trade businesses. In 1890, Mastropanajotis moved to Charleston SC, where he brought over his brother Anthony and eventually his other relatives. Shortly after, Nick left his business in Charleston to his brother and settled in Beaufort SC where he started a new business venture. Nick ultimately returned to Charleston where he spent his final years before passing away in 1924 at the age of 84.
The second identified Karpathian to immigrate to America was John Livadiotis. He resided in Crete and fought in the 1866 revolution against the Turks. In 1869, after the revolution, he left Crete and went to Marseilles France, where he learned the artistry of baking and married a French woman. In 1875 both immigrated to New Orleans where he opened a bakery on Canal St. In 1886, Livadiotis brought over his nephew, Minas Pazartzis, and between 1897 and 1901, more of his relatives had arrived in America. Among these relatives was Kostas Pazartzis, whose wife, Maria Diakomihali, was the first Karpathian woman to set foot on American soil, in 1905. A few years later on July 27, 1908 their daughter Fragoulia was born; she was the first Karpathian born in the United States.
The two Karpathian communities of Charleston and New Orleans endured over fifty years of existence, but they did not impose any lasting effect on the Karpathian community in America. The massive Karpathian immigration to America did not start until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1899 Emanuel Hatzistamatis arrived in Canonsburg PA and found work at the Allegheny Coal Co. mines. He was soon promoted to the position of foreman, and in 1901 brought over his cousins John and Emanuel Skoulos, and two years later his brother Nikitas and his relatives Alexis John Alexiadis, Emanuel John Stamatakis and Vasilis and Elias Skoulos.
The first letters sent by these immigrants were very promising and convinced their relatives and other Karpathians to immigrate. Karpathians were further influenced by the American advertisements in Greek newspapers. Between 1904 and 1905 approximately 50 Karpathians immigrated to America. After settling for two to three years, many of them returned to Karpathos in order to bring more of their relatives and friends to America. In 1906 alone, 50 new Karpathians arrived in the United States and went to Canonsburg to work for the Allegheny Coal Co. mines. Besides residing in Canonsburg, Charleston, and New Orleans, some Karpathians chose to inhabit the regions of New York and California. In 1906 the Karpathians in America numbered approximately 135 distributed as follows: Canonsburg 100, New Orleans 15, New York 10, Charleston 5 and California 5.
The life of early Karpathian immigrants, especially those working in the coal mines, was very difficult. They often worked six days a week, twelve hours each day and had to dig 16 tons of coal every day. Six people were forced to pay a hefty fee to live in the tight corners of one small room provided by the Company. They slept on wooden beds, shared a single blanket, and used their pants and jackets as pillows. The same beds were used by those working in the daytime and their compatriots working at night. The immigrants were further forced to purchase their food and other necessities from the Company store at marked up prices. In the beginning, they were not compensated in cash, but with coupons that could be exchanged for rent and goods at the Company store. Not only was the work executed in the coal mines grueling, but also dangerous, and many Karpathians lost their lives in an effort to perform their duties. The explosion on October 23, 1913 in Dawson NM revealed the severity of this hazardous environment, as six Karpathians died while on the job.
A few Karpathians in Canonsburg turned their interest to other trades and industries. In 1907 Stavros Diakomihalis opened a general store and coffee house. Soon after, two brothers opened a barber shop, and subsequently Nikitas Hatzistamatis erected a two-story building with two stores on the first floor and sleeping rooms for the coal miners on the second. Nick Georgiadis, on the other hand, opened a bakery and George Papa Nicholas later opened a jewelry store. Furhtermore, John M. Skoulos built a three story building renting rooms to coal miners, most of who were Karpathians. Finally, Stavros Anagnostopoulos was the first Karpathian musician to arrive from Karpathos.
On The Move
In 1909 the steel workers in New Castle PA went on strike for several months, leading their employers to travel to Canonsburg in search of workers to break the strike. Around the same time, there was a fire in the Allegheny Coal Co. mines, leaving many Karpathians unemployed and available for work elsewhere. One daring Karpathian, eager to help his compatriots find work, introduced the Karpathian coal miners as skilled steal workers, despite their lack of experience in this respective field. About 30 to 40 Karpathians went to New Castle between 1909 and 1910 for employment purposes. Others followed, and by 1912 the Karpathians in New Castle numbered around 70.
In 1911, another fire in the Allegheny Coal Co. mines forced many Karpathians to look for jobs in Wheeling WV. Many Karpathians went to work in the Constanza Brothers mines in Richland, and soon the largest Karpathian community in America was established in Wheeling. In addition to New Castle and Wheeling, Karpathians were directed to reside in close proximity to other coal mine regions in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, especially in the area around Logan WV. The Karpathians were always on the move, they were single or married without their families in America. Many companies compensated the Karpathians’ moving expenses to break coal miner strikes and unions. Karpathians could be found in distant locations, such as Gillespie IL and Dawson NM, where 140 Karpathians worked.
Women And Children
Around this time, a few women and children arrived in America. Nikitas Hatzistamatis went to Karpathos, got married and returned with his wife Maria to Canonsburg in 1911. She was the second Karpathian woman to arrive in America. The same year, the wife of Nick Georgiadis arrived. In 1911 Polyhronis Hatzimanolis went and got married in Karpathos, and the same year came back to America with his wife Hariklia. From their marriage were born three daughters: Ernia, Xazinoula and Annitsa. Demetrios N. Matsakis also went to Karpathos in 1911, got married, and the next year returned to Canonsburg with his wife Sophia. The same year, Stavros Diakomanolis’s sisters arrived from Asia Minor. Around the same time arrived the wives of Michael Othitis (Kaliope), Emanuel Vlahos (Theano) and John Magoulas. On February 13, 1913 the first marriage among Karpathians took place in New Castle. Nick Saitis married Papa Mina Aslanidis’s daughter, Venetsana, who was the first single Karpathian woman to come to America. At the end of 1913, Evagelos Nikita Hatzistamatis was born, and the following year Nick D. Matsakis, Emanuel M. Othitis, Frangiskos N. Saitis, and Maria N. Georgiadis were born.
At the same time, other Karpathian immigrants residing in America sent for their families. In 1916 Elias Skoulos and Emanuel Stamatakis brought their families to Wheeling. The Skoulos family consisted of Elias’s wife Evdoxia and his 4 year old son, Michael, while the Stamatakis family consisted of Emanuel’s wife Vagela, his 5 year old son, John, and his 2 year old daughter, Zoe. The following year, the Stamatakis family welcomed their second son, Nick, who was the first Karpathian to be born in Wheeling. By the end of 1917, 20 Karpathian families with small children were living in America.
In 1920, the first Immigration law imposed severe restrictions on immigration from southern and eastern Europe, limiting the number of Karpathians who could come to America. However, before the new law took full effect, many Karpathians had already arrived in America. While the new arrivals went to the coal mine regions, there was a simultaneous movement of older coal mine inhabitants to the cities. Of all the industrial cities, Pittsburgh, with its many businesses and employment opportunities, attracted the most Karpathians. This was due to the fact that it was located in the middle of the coal mining regions where the Karpathians worked. Other Karpathians went to New York, Chicago, Youngstown, Gary and South Bend.
In addition to restrictions imposed by the Immigration law, the Great Depression of the 1930’s diminished the desire of many Karpathians to go to America. In fact, some returned to Karpathos, at least temporarily. During the Depression, more Karpathians left the coal mine regions to look for jobs in the cities. Most were single or immigrants who left without their families; though these individuals were not able to establish roots in the area. Once a mine or town factory closed, workers were forced to pack their belongings and move to another town, or more likely, to a major city. It was during this time that major Karpathian communities were established in Pittsburgh, Chicago and especially New York, which ultimately became the most populous Karpathian community in America. A few years prior to WWII, more Karpathians, especially those living in the cities, brought their families to America.
To The Cities
The war completely halted Karpathian immigration to America, and at the same time, intensified the Karpathian movement from the coal mine regions to major industrial cities in order to take advantage of the business opportunities created by the war effort. In addition to Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York, major Karpathian communities were established in Baltimore, Allentown, Akron, East Liverpool, Gary, South Bend and other cities. At the same time, 200 Karpathians joined the U.S. Armed Forces and served all over the U.S. before they were shipped overseas to regions unknown to them. When the war was over, some of these soldiers returned to these regions and established new Karpathian communities.
After the war, Karpathian immigration to America entered a new phase. The immigration law limited Karpathian arrivals to America, but those already in America received American citizenship and brought their families without quota restriction. Also, many single Karpathians went to Karpathos, got married and returned to America with their wives; a trend that continued for more than ten years. During this period, many Karpathian children were born in America, and the Karpathian community expanded and truly grew roots in America. The mid-fifties witnessed the end of an era: the Karpathian communities in the coal mine regions, after declining for several years, were abandoned and ceased to exist.
The Last Wave
The 1965 Immigration law brought a new wave of Karpathian immigrants to America. Many who waited several years were finally granted an opportunity to fulfill their American dream: to come to this “land of opportunity, equality, justice and freedom”. Within a ten year period (1965-1975), two thousand Karpathians had arrived in America, but in contrast to the early immigrants, they disembarked with their wives and children. This was the last wave of the Karpathian immigration to America. In general, these new immigrants were more educated than their earlier counterparts, and some even held or were in pursuit of a college degree. With a few exceptions, most settled in the New York Metropolitan area, especially in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Elizabeth, though some chose to inhabit Florida.
The exodus to the suburbs, which started in the fifties for the other Americans, was followed by the Karpathian departure ten to fifteen years later. While new Karpathian immigrants settled in the central cities, older and more established Karpathians moved to the suburbs. This movement, more than any other, benefitted the Karpathian community in New Jersey. Some Karpathians relocated from New York to Long Island, but the majority settled in New Jersey, which today is recognized as the largest Karpathian community in America. In the last few years, a significant number of Karpathians moved to Florida to retire, and lately, some Karpathians have moved to North Carolina and South Carolina to undertake business ventures.
Today, there are 15,000 Karpathians (or Americans with some Karpathian ancestry) located in over 800 cities and towns in the U.S. Most live in the suburbs of major cities, especially in northern New Jersey. These Karpathians continue to assimilate into the American culture while maintaining their strong Karpathian heritage and traditional practices. They continue to keep close ties with the island of their predecessors as well as their fellow Karpathians, despite being born and educated in America. Traditionally, Karpathos was viewed as a destination to live and retire in, but today’s generation does not have this mindset and rather opts to reside in America. Many, even from the elder generation, have come to accept the idea of living and dying in America, although many Karpathians who adopted the American customs, traditions, and lifestyle preserve their ethnicity and Karpathian heritage.
Some of the Karpathians who worked in the coal mines sought other business opportunities in order to improve their standard of living in America. After garnering adequate funds, Emanuel Giannakis, started a new trend for Karpathians in America, by opening a small restaurant in West Virginia. The beginning proved to be a struggle as Giannakis was required to work sixteen to twenty hours every day. His hard work and diligence, however, paid off and he managed to become a successful restaurateur. Giannakis example was followed by other Karpathians, and from 1917 to 1920, more than ten Karpathian restaurants opened in Pittsburgh and other cities around the coal mine regions. Starting in 1922, more Karpathian restaurants opened in regions further from the coal mines including New York, Chicago, Baltimore, New Jersey and Florida.
By the end of the 1930’s, the Karpathians of New Jersey turned their interest to diners. In 1938, Nick Kapetanakis and John Gergatsoulis opened the Horseshoe Diner in Jersey City, and two years later Michael Sarris and Dimitris Kavalieros opened the “400” Diner in Elizabeth. Beginning in 1951, the Karpathians extended their diner businesses outside the central cities, and by 1960, opened over ten diners in the suburbs. These diners have flourished in tri-state area and continue to multiply and expand both in magnitude and in culinary offerings. The major expansion of the Karpathian diners in New Jersey started in 1965, and continued into the 1980’s, coinciding with the last wave of the Karpathian immigration to America. It was customary for four relatives or friends to pool resources to open a diner; two of them would work days, while the other two worked nights, alternating shifts on a monthly basis. Sometimes, the same partners would open multiple diners; for instance, between 1963 and 1984, Peter Felix opened nine diners. By the beginning of the 1990’s, the Karpathian diners numbered above 100, leaving people to assume that any diner operated in New Jersey was not only under Greek ownership, but under Karpathian ownership.
In addition to New Jersey, the Karpathian restaurant business extended to many other parts of the U.S., such as Central Florida, Baltimore, Chicago and Corpus Christi. Karpathian restaurants were even found in remote cities, like Mexico MO and Belleville IL. Additionally, one of the ten most famous restaurants in America, Nick’s Seafood Pavilion in Yorktown VA, was owned by Nick Mathew, a man of Karpathian descent. Karpathian interest in the restaurant business diminished, however, near the end of the 1990’s. One reason underlying this trend is that recent generations choose to seek higher education, rather than replace their fathers in the restaurants.
Besides the restaurant business, Karpathians excelled in real estate, entertainment, construction and other enterprises. In the vicinity of a coal mine in Wheeling, Manuel Nicholas built a store and rented a few houses to Karpathians and other coalminers. His business venture succeeded because the prices charged to customers and tenants were lower than those charged by the coal company. As time passed, he built more houses and eventually developed a small village, Nicholson town, named after him. In 1950, John Emanuel Stamatakis moved to the Catskills Mountains located in upstate New York. In Freehold, he bought a 200 acres lot on which he built a resort complete with a restaurant and hunting facilities. Other Karpathians who got involved in the hotel business were Emanuel Karaitianos, who opened the Louise hotel in West Palm Beach FL, and Elias M. Sevdalis, who opened the Keswick hotel in New Kensington PA.
By the end of the 1910s, brothers Andrew and William Karagianis opened a movie theater in Chicago, and in the early 1920s opened the Trianon Ballroom dancing center on the South Side of Chicago. On July 15, 1926 they opened a second dancing center, the Aragon Ballroom in the Uptown district of Chicago. Its main ballroom could service up to 8,000 people and in an average week could entertain approximately 18,000 customers. Aragon operated as a dancing center until February 9, 1964, and later was used solely as an arena for special occasions. Moreover, Dimitrios J. Chrysos was the major stockholder and president of the Indiana & Illinois Theatres, Inc, which owned and operated 37 movie theaters. Finally, Dimitris J. Mikropantremenos, Logothetis Symiakopoylos, and George J. Saitis were also involved in the movie theater business; Mikropantremenos and Symiakopoylos conducted business in Chicago, while Saitis ran his operation in Pittsburgh.
In 1946, George Christopher Sakellaridis came to America and started working for the American Meat Institute in Chicago as a chemist. The Institute supported 300 slaughter houses in Chicago, helping them to fulfill the requirements dictated by federal health standards. In 1979, the Institute moved its operations to Washington DC, giving Sakellaridis the opportunity to buy its facilities and laboratories. Under his ownership, Sakellaridis was able to continue the Institute’s functions in Chicago.
Additionally, George Grivas, a civil engineer, established a technical company. He employed 85 engineers and hundreds of iron and other technical workers. He undertook several government projects in Detroit and the surrounding area, building bridges and other major facilities. One particular project spearheaded by Grivas in 1960 was a bridge that cost 150 million dollars to erect. Similarly, in 1985, Anthony Hatzidakis established the Halifax Construction Corporation in Annapolis MD and undertook major construction projects in Maryland and Virginia. Furthermore, Emanuel N. Lambros started his own industrial company, painting bridges and major facilities such as the ESSO (now EXXON) oil storage tanks and other industrial facilities in Linden NJ.
Many Karpathians got involved in the car industry: dealerships, service stations, body shops and gas stations in New Jersey, Chicago, and Baltimore. Other Karpathians were active in the taxi and limousine business in New York City, owning several taxi companies. In 1872 for instance, Nick Mastropanajotis started as a cart vendor in the streets of Philadelphia. His example was followed by others, especially by many Karpathians who, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, lived in Brooklyn. Although many Karpathian immigrants had an agricultural background, only a few followed this trade in America. During WWII, Nick Kouros bought a farm in Long Island and for a few years cultivated potatoes.
As was the case with coal mines, many Karpathians worked in the steal factories. They started in New Castle and later spread out to Pittsburgh, Weirton, New Kensington, Chicago, Detroit, South Bend, Gary, East Chicago, Yorkville, Youngstown, Allentown and other industrial cities. This movement intensified during WWII, as Karpathians began to prefer steal factories over coal mines for superior safety, compensation, and working conditions.
Science And Education
Among the early Karpathian immigrants, were some who pursued careers in higher education and professions. To mention a few, Emanuel Demertzidakis (Demeur) from Chicago, studied medicine at the Chicago University Medical School while Alexander Georgiadis and Michael El. Skoulos from Pittsburgh studied engineering and history at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. George Hatzipanajotis studied law and became a New York City judge, the Papadakis brothers, John and George from New York, studied medicine and chemistry, Nick Matsakis from Saint Louis studied dentistry, and John Kokkinidis was the first Greek American to study architecture at Columbia University. Kokkinidis worked for New York City and supervised the construction of the East River Drive, Cross Bronx Expressway and other major projects. He also formed his own development company, which designed and built many landmark buildings in New York and other states.
This trend of pursuing higher education was encouraged and supported by the new generation’s parents, and intensified by the second generation. Among these scholars were: John, Minas and Fokas Giannakis, Michael Em. Matsakis, George Manolios, Vasos Saitis, Klara N. Antimisiaris, Nick Liontakis, Michael, Meletios, and Irene Sarris and Peter Angelos who studied law. Angelos law firm specializes in cases against major corporations that sell unhealthy services and products to the public. In 1982, his firm took to court a major asbestos corporation and won millions of dollars for thousands employees who suffered poisoning. His firm currently has offices in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Delaware, and employs approximately 115 lawyers.
The number of Karpathian professionals, especially those holding prestigious titles, increased by the third generation. Among them, was astrophysicist Dimitris Matsakis, the grandson of a coal miner, who manages the U.S. Naval Observatory. He oversees a group of forty scientists who use 60 atomic clocks to measure time with accuracy to the billionth of a second. Moreover, Emanuel Stamatakis, the grandson of another coal miner, reorganized the Philadelphia shipyards and served as the president of the Delaware River Port Authority. He was also the president of MCP Hahnemann, which reorganized six Philadelphia hospitals and solved many of their economic problems. Currently, he is the president of the Drexel University School of Medicine and serves on the University’s board of trustees. Among the Karpathians who teach at prestigious universities are mathematicians Persi Diakonis and Peter Manolios of Harvard University Northeastern University respectively.
Karpathian women have also proven to excel in education and other skilled professions. One woman who belongs to this group is Aphrodite Matsakis, who studied history at Washington and Stanford Universities and psychology at the University of Maryland. From 1975 to 1999, she worked for the Veterans Administration Medical Center and taught at the Universities of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. She also wrote many books and is considered an authority figure in her field. Anne Papageorge, another highly educated Karpathian woman, studied architecture at Syracuse University and Baruch College of New York. She served as deputy commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction in New York City and Senior Vice President and Memorial Design Director for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Currently, she works for the University of Pennsylvania as Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services. Lastly, Zoe Zavola-Koutsoupaki came to America as a teenager and later graduated from the Brooklyn College of New York. For 23 years, she worked for the Atlantic Bank and currently is a vice president of the Marathon Bank and a regional manager for its Brooklyn and Staten Island branches.
Contrary to the isolation they experienced under the various conquerors, the Karpathians of America and their descendants are anything but introverted. As soon, as sufficient numbers of Karpathians arrived in America, they formed committees and societies to support the welfare of their island and assist in the preservation of their cultural identity. The oldest Karpathian society in existence is the “Karpathian Educational and Progressive Association” (KEPA), established in 1928 in Pittsburgh. Every year, KEPA holds its annual convention; an event which allows its chapter representatives as well as other Karpathians from all over the U.S. to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and reminisce about shared memories and events. In 1970 KEPA established the “Karpathian Educational Trust” to provide scholarships and support other educational projects.
Several years later, local societies representing the individual villages of Karpathos, formed in order to support projects in their respective villages. Some villages were even represented by more than one society located in different parts of the U.S. In 1970, for example, the local societies located in the New York Metropolitan area, got together and formed the “Federation of Karpathian Societies of America” to coordinate their activities, undertake different projects in Karpathos and look after the interest of the Karpathian community in America. In 1981 the Federation created the “Pan-Karpathian Foundation” to provide scholarships and undertake educational and cultural undertakings. There also exists a separate youth society that organizes cultural events. Furthermore, to keep the Karpathian community in close contact, the Karpathian societies published several newspapers, magazines, journals, books and other publications.
Over the years, these organizations have undertaken several projects in Karpathos worth millions of dollars. Some of these endeavors include building schools, churches, stadiums, community centers, medical centers, and opening roads and irrigation channels. In the U.S., they undertake projects and organize events to preserve the Karpathian cultural identity while simultaneously promoting the American ideals among the Karpathian community. For this purpose, the “Pan-Karpathian Foundation” established a cultural center, recognized as the “Karpathiko Spiti”, in Union NJ.
Many religious leaders, politicians and other Greek dignitaries have paid visits to the Karpathian community in America. In 1953, for instance, Karpathos’s Metropolitan Apostolos graced us with his presence when he visited the Karpathian communities all over the U.S. for six months, and raised funds to build an orphanage in Karpathos and provide for other philanthropic institutions. In 1981, he was followed by Metropolitan Nektarios, who spent two months in the U.S.; visiting the Karpathian communities and raising money for diverse causes. Starting in 1983, several Greek ministers, members of the Greek Parliament and major figures of Karpathos visited the Karpathian-American community. The purpose behind this was their desire to stay in touch with the Karpathians in America, since many of them hold dual citizenship and encourage them to participate in the Greek elections. Also, Karpathian singing and dancing groups would come sporadically and perform in America. Beginning in the 1990’s, an increasing number of Karpathians started to visit the U.S.; especially during the Christmas holidays to shop and spend time with their relatives and friends.
While the Karpathians in America try to preserve their cultural identity and affection for Karpathos, they also show their love and loyalty to the U.S. During WWI, a respectable number of Karpathians volunteered and served with the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. Some of them even gave up their lives for the welfare of their adopted country. During WWII, the Karpathian societies supported the American war effort by selling war bonds worth millions of dollars. At the same time, 200 Karpathian Americans joined the U.S. Armed Forces and served in the Pacific, Europe, North Africa, Atlantic and the Mediterranean war frontiers; several of whom died fighting for their second home. Hundreds of Karpathians served with the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe during the Cold War, and greater than one hundred of these individuals served in Korea and Vietnam; regions where some of them left their last breath.
Many Karpathians are also active in American politics. In the past, they supported Greek American politicians, like Mike Dukakis who ran for President of the U.S., as well as other American politicians, who supported issues that are dear to the Greek American community. The early Karpathian immigrants were advocates of the Democratic Party, but today’s Karpathians support candidates affiliated with both parties, with whom they agree on regarding political and economic issues.
Even Karpathian Americans who live in Greece demonstrate their sentimentality and attachment to American ideals; they raise the American flag on July 4th and celebrate Thanksgiving along with Americans. Those who live in America participate in patriotic events, such as the U.S. bicentennial and Statue of Liberty centennial celebrations. In 1976, the Karpathians even participated in the bicentennial celebrations and the opening ceremonies of Victory Center in Yorktown VA. The Karpathian Federation organized an expedition to Yorktown, where the Karpathian Youth Organization’s dance group performed at the opening ceremonies to honor the birthday of the U.S. and to further show their pride for their fellow Karpathian American, Nick Mathew, who donated the land on which the Victory Center was built.
Author’s notes edited by Irene and Maria Halkias