“I was born on July 16, 1931 in Logganiko, Sparti. My parents, Stavros and Demetra had nine children of which I am the third. Our family was very poor and I was raised in really difficult times during the Depression and World War II.
I left Logganiko at around 16 years of age to go to Athens and live with an older brother. I had a bike, which had a basket attached to it and I would ride around selling miscellaneous items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, gum, balloons and bread rolls to make money. The money I made was sent back to my parents so they could support my siblings.
I was drafted by the military at 18 years of age. Once in the military they chose me to be an Evzone. I was really honoured that they chose me and I understood how important it was back then. I was an Evzone for two years and would be at the post for four hours a day. At all national holidays and special events I was an Evzone at the palace for King Pavlo and Queen Frederiki. During that time I became friendly with them and respected them enormously. Looking back now at my time being an Evzone, I sometimes wish I was young again. I was proud to represent my country Greece.
I migrated to Canada in 1959, at the request of an elderly uncle who was there. I made the journey from Greece to Canada by boat with only fifty dollars in my pocket. I ended up losing the money playing poker on the ship. When I got off the ship I had fifty cents, not even enough money to buy a sandwich. I stayed in Canada for ten years and worked at a factory and was also a custodian/night guard at McGill University.
I met and married my wife Niki in 1965. My first son Stavros was born in 1967. My older sister was in the United States and sponsored us to go there in 1969. My second child, my daughter Demetra, was born in the States in 1969. In 1970, my third child Evangelos was born.
My first impression of the United States was great. I felt proud that I was there and I was willing to participate in hard work to support my family. Although scary at times, because I did not have many skills and did not know the language I had a strong work ethic. There was a large Greek community where I resided and raised my children and everyone was so welcoming. St George Greek Orthodox Church played a huge part for my family. After working numerous jobs, I became a partner in a restaurant with family members. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to acquire the business on my own in 1974. My two children currently run the restaurant in Boston.
I missed my parents and I also missed Greece. My biggest challenge was the unknown. Starting off with nothing in a country I did not know, raising children in a foreign country, making sure they would be safe. I did not return to Greece for many years. I was unable to go because I was working non-stop and raising a young family. I wasn’t able to go back for holidays or any special occasion. It wasn’t until 1984 that I was able to return to Greece and that was to bring my father home to be buried in his homeland.
I was eventually able to acquire property in Greece and after retiring my wife and I have enjoyed spending time in Athens for 3 months every summer. I do have two patrides in my heart. I love Greece and the United States. I feel blessed to have a loving family, my wife, my three children, their wonderful spouses and my six grandchildren.
My wish for Greece is for everyone to work together to get through the hard times. I wish peace, good health and happiness for everyone.”
*Constantinos Agganis, 86 years old, Greek American