Theodore Pitsios’ Latest Novel Shows Illegal Immigrants in a Whole New Light

Greek-born, Alabama-based Theodore Pitsios is the author of three novels. His latest, Walking in the Light, brings new perspective to the struggles of illegal immigrants. His time in the merchant marine and his own immigrant experience inform his stories.
By 11 months ago

Greek-born, Alabama-based Theodore Pitsios is the author of three novels. His latest, Walking in the Light, brings new perspective to the struggles of illegal immigrants. His time in the merchant marine and his own immigrant experience inform his stories.

Born in Tsagarada, Greece, a large village atop Mount Pelion, Pitsios left high school early to join the Maritime Academy.

“When I was in high school, there was a shortage of maritime officers, so the Greek government changed the rules to allow young men to join the Maritime Academy after three years of high school. I wanted to see the world, so I took the test and passed,” Pitsios explained.

He graduated from the academy four years later and joined the merchant marine as an engineer. He sailed the world, on tankers, cruise ships, and freighters.

“After three round trips from the Persian Gulf to California, I needed a break. I ‘accidentally’ missed the ship, but then was reassigned to another with a more agreeable route. I stayed eighteen months on that one.”

Between ships, Pitsios explored cities and had fun experiences, but he never planned to stay in the U.S. He envisioned himself settling in the South of France or the South of England. But that all changed after a fateful evening in New York when he went to the cinema. The Greek film already in progress, he went across the street to the union hall for merchant seamen to wait until the next showing. There, he learned about an opportunity in Miami.

“Hurricane Betsy washed up a Greek freighter near West Palm Beach. All the manuals and labels were written in Greek, so the Austrian salvage master put out a call for a Greek engineer. Honestly, I’d thought this wasn’t for me anymore. But the snow was knee-deep in New York and the man on the phone said the women were swimming naked next to the ship,” he recalled, then laughed. “I was at LaGuardia before he hung up.”

If he hadn’t taken the job, he wouldn’t have met his late wife, Brenda. They were married for 51 years. They lived in the Bahamas for a few years, then settled in West Palm Beach, Brenda’s hometown. Together, they launched a plan to realise their American Dream. They bought a restaurant, intended for Brenda’s sister to manage. But the Pitsioses ended up running it themselves for a year, then sold it.

From there, he worked in the shipyards in Fort Lauderdale, then moved to the Gulf Coast. He enrolled in university, taking mechanical engineering courses. After working for a maritime consulting firm, he brought all his experience together to form his own company, Universal Marine Services in Mobile, Alabama.

An eager storyteller and voracious reader, about thirty years ago, he tried something new.

“I started writing down my stories. A friend, a university professor, suggested I sign up for some creative writing classes,” he said. “I find it a therapeutic escape from reality. With a sharp pencil and a good eraser, I can create empires, death-defying heroes, and irresistible lovers.”

Not long after, came the idea for his first novel, The Bellmaker’s House (Cosmos, 2007). After years of toiling in the U.S. to build a better life, Nikos Pilios returns to Greece. Expecting to be lauded on his return to his village, he finds more than he bargained for.

During his time in the merchant marine, Pitsios knew many seamen who’d jumped ship. He decided to explore this in a story. In Searching for Ithaka (Cosmos, 2013), we meet Kostas Karaoglou, who jumps ship in Miami, in 1965. He seeks a better life, but as an illegal, he doesn’t know who to trust and must live in the shadows. We revisit Kostas and his search for the elusive American Dream, in Pitsios’ latest, Walking in the Light (Koehler, 2021). Kostas has dreams, makes plans, but nothing goes as he thought. When he’s about to give up hope, someone offers him a lifeline. Carmen, a Cuban refugee, is a tough cookie. She does things her way. And Kostas must decide if he can swallow his pride and let a woman call the shots or admit failure and return home.

Released during the pandemic, things were a bit delayed, but Pitsios has been busy. This year, he’s done several book talks and been a guest on podcasts and video shows. He’s garnered many five-star reviews on Amazon for Walking in the Light. Author Eleni N. Gage said, “An immigrant narrative and vivid period piece, this book follows one man's odyssey as he struggles to redefine the meaning of home."

We’ve all heard and read stories of Greek and other immigrants who’ve experienced great challenges, but we don’t often hear the real stories of illegal immigrants. In Walking in the Light, Theodore Pitsios shines a bright light on their struggles, hopes, and aspirations. Through Greek Seaman Kostas Karaoglou, we delve into the heart of that experience and its own unique set of challenges. This engaging story will make you look at immigrants—legal and illegal—in a whole new ‘light’.

Today, Pitsios is semi-retired, which allows him more time for his two passions—performing in community theatre, and writing. He’ll be performing later this month in a local production of “Murder on the Orient Express,” and he’s working on his memoirs.

As for the future, he said, with his signature humour, “I’m 81 years old. At my age, I take life one day at a time. My immediate plans are to make it to 82, finish writing my memoirs, and to see a few more parts of the world.”

Learn more about Theodore Pitsios at

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Copyright GreekCityTimes 2022
Copyright GreekCityTimes 2022