The Greeks of New York City (and the world): Wherever they are outside Greece, the Greeks create…

Greeks Evzones New York USA

There may not be enough ink to write the history of Greek immigrants to America. The Greeks left Greece very poor, with all the chances against them, and yet they succeeded.

And wherever Greeks are, it is in their DNA to create, even if they start from cleaning dishes.

They saved money, first bought houses, then opened shops and then built churches, and next to the churches they built Greek schools!

And today they are strong both financially and socially.

What exactly happened in the past years? As America grew stronger and became a world power, did the Greek Americans also grow stronger?

READ MORE: Greece to strengthen global Hellenism and ties to diaspora Greeks.

Americans are used to saying “Never burn bridges” and Greek immigrants have never forgotten Greece – either by traveling frequently, or by inviting relatives to seek their fortune in the “Promised Land”, or by sending foreign currency back.

In many homes in New York, but also in other cities and states, you see two flags waving in front – one American and the other Greek!

In some cases, only one flag, and it is the one with blue and white stripes.

The flag means something, doesn’t it?

Competitive Greek spirit

The Greeks put their fighting spirit everywhere – sometimes to take a step back if they saw danger, elsewhere to move forward at full speed.

Many years ago, a Greek painted the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York, for many millions, and in the end he left it under the pressure of the Mafia.

The largest chain of ice cream stores, named Carvel, has a Greek mastermind behind it, and it all started at the beginning of the last century.

READ MORE: Tom Carvel, Greek-American businessman and founder of Carvel.

Behind the New Balance sportswear mega brand are Greeks. Many started out as employees and one day bought the business and the whole building.

I met a Greek in New York who started as a waiter and now has 2,000 properties, that is, a serious real estate company.

“Estiatorio Milos” became the informal ambassador of Greece in Manhattan and America (here, you meet the safe and experienced hands of manager Dimitris Z.)!

I also learned about Jimmy’s Famous Seafood restaurant in Baltimore, whose customers land on nearby helipads to enjoy flavours reminiscent of Greece.

Father and son, Denny and Dino, in Brooklyn have a chain with successful coffee shops (here, you meet the safe and experienced hands of manageress Doaa M.).

Greeks also rose not only in the “serious professions” of doctors and lawyers, but also in the corridors of politics, business, art and university teaching.

How did all this happen?

Clearly the Greeks of America – who in time acquired all the rights and won the admiration of all – had an excellent field of action to succeed.

They wanted money, they got money.

And if “The Godfather” in the famous Coppola film told Italians that they had to go to college to get an education, “ours” knew instinctively that their children had to get an education.

And they are genius in turning their toil into the education of their children. The Greeks in New York also saw the Jews, who believe in power, and whoever has power-education always wins, and “copied” them.

There is of course a small percentage of Greeks in America who have not succeeded.

They are the people who ran after women and casinos, and did not stop in time.

They are also people who believe that in the face of Greek “philotimo”, dollars have no value.

But in America, all that matters is money and this perception – it is wrong – strengthens society, which is constantly producing wealth, runs and gives new innovating ideas.

Expatriate voting rights

Personally, I have noticed that in London, where I lived for seventeen years, I do not remember twisting my foot.

In New York as it happened, I twisted it twice in the same week.

Why this happened? A friend of mine, Nick Droukas, when I asked him rhetorically, replied: “In America everyone runs, even the mice run.”

The rhythms here are frenetic. The constant rush and the value of time is the definition of what is called “the New York minute”.

In conclusion, in America there is a second Greece, which is moving forward in the future and triumphing.

READ MORE: Greek diaspora: Which cities have the largest Greek population outside of Greece? 

Greeks in Greece, when they saw their former compatriots return, after years, “well dressed and with green money in their wallets”, made various guesses and called them “Brooklydes” (they lived in Brooklyn, where the famous Mafia also lived).

The Greeks of New York and America generally have a good heart, a good mind and a great experience.

These elements are useful for metropolitan Greece, which is on its knees for a number of years.

May serious ways be found for the Greeks of the most powerful country in the world to help their homeland.

The acquisition of the right to vote by the Greek Diaspora – an obvious right – would be a good start, especially after the brain drain of the last years of the crisis and the ongoing pandemic.

(And the same story, “as described above”, has been repeated for the Greek immigrants in: Australia, Sweden, Germany, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, Brazil, and so many other countries around the world.)

Dimitris Eleas is a New York-based political scientist and contributes to SLPress.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor