Greeks of the World – John Tsolkas

“I was born and raised in Athens and for the first 8 years of my life I lived with my family (my parents, two brothers and one sister) at Lykabitos in downtown Athens. After that we moved to Agia Paraskevi and we have been living there ever since. I am the only one in my family that lives outside of Hellas.

I left Hellas because I failed to secure a place into the Hellenic Higher Education system and because at the time I felt that the alternatives offered were not good enough. I did a one year A-Level course in Athens, I applied through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and in 2002, I was awarded a Bachelor in Economics from the University of Wales in London. After I completed my degree I went on to study International Finance again at the same university.

As a fresh graduate I could not find a job relevant to my degree because I did not have any working experience. As a result I had to work as a chef assistant for almost a year. I started applying for volunteer jobs in Finance and eventually I did get a job with Mudchute Park and Farm, a charity based in the Isle of Dogs. After three months they offered me a salary and increased my hours.

From that point on my career path was much clearer. I went on to work for the National Health Service (NHS) and after that I moved to the London School of Economics (LSE). Two years after I left Mudchute I was asked to become a member of the charity’s Finance Committee. Committee members included established finance professionals who had experienced working for some of the top companies in the city. At that point I was working as a junior accountant and my appointment was only made possible due to the strong personal relationships I had managed to build with some of the members, the mutual feelings of trust and respect and my extensive financial knowledge about the project. This was my first experience on how leaders plan, interact and the strategic thinking behind business decisions for small non-for-profit organisations

I currently work as a finance partner at the London School of Economics. I am responsible for advising and helping budget controllers/holders with financial management decisions, budgeting, costing and financial analysis.

I am also responsible for implementing, supervising, developing and analysing the School’s pay cost forecasting models.

My initial impressions of London was that it is very diverse. No matter the ethnic background, people can always find activities relevant to their cultures. Accommodation and transportation are very expensive. The traffic is terrible mainly because councils have the power to close roads when performing construction works that in some cases can take weeks if not months. The crime rate is quite low. There are certain areas in East London that have a high crime rate but in general most areas in London are very safe.

I live in New Malden which is a beautiful suburb in south west London. It is ideal for families so my wife and I are very happy we moved into the area shortly after the birth of our daughter last year. Commuting to central London is very easy (25min to Waterloo) and the train service is quite regular (a train every 10-15 minutes).

I like many things about London. The public transport is very well organised, although expensive. London consists of a multicultural set of people from different backgrounds, religions and experiences with a high sense of inclusion. I like the fact that Londoners are very polite, respectful and with a high sense of fairness. Also the career opportunities are amazing. As a Christian Orthodox, I like the fact that there are many churches in different parts of the city that, apart from the Sunday service, organise many activities such as Sunday school for children, Hellenic dancing and language classes and many other activities.

My life at the moment sees me working full time work, spending time with my wife and young daughter and also studying for an Executive Masters in Global Management at the LSE. I find it very challenging to balance all three.

When I’m asked what I miss most about Greece, I know the most typical answer I can give is the weather however London is terrible when the weather is hot, so instead I will say my family.

A couple of years ago I was able to get involved in a campaign to raise money for the homeless people of Athens. Raising these funds was the brainchild of my good friend and renowned journalist Billy Cotsis. We held two events, a fundraising dinner and a Greek night out. Both were a great success and we were able to raise 1500 euro. Given my financial background I was responsible for safekeeping the funds raised and transferring the funds to Klimaka (a Non Government Organisation in Greece) at the end of our campaign. I also had some involvement in the decision making and organisation of some of our events.

I do feel like I have two patrides. The United Kingdom has welcomed me, given me an education, a job and a great career, and for that I will always be thankful.

My wish for Hellas would be for all Hellenes to come together to love each other and be happy when our fellow Hellenes succeed rather than trying to sabotage their efforts. If we look into our history every time we were united we managed to achieve great feats (Alexander the Great, Byzantine empire etc.). In contrast in the defining moments of our modern history (1821, 1922, 1945) instead of getting together to succeed we fought each other. The world is facing massive threats and I am feeling that the next defining moment for Greece is not far. My wish is that all Hellenes will be united when it arrives.”

John Tsolkas, London

Gina Mamouzelos

Gina is a third generation Greek Australian who grew up immersed in her Greek heritage, including the language, traditions, culture and listening to her grandparent’ mesmerising tales about life in Greece. Passionate about ensuring the Greek language is not forgotten among the younger generations, in 2002 she became a panel member on the SBS Greek radio show ‘Let’s Talk Openly.' She graduated with a Media and Communications degree from the University of Sydney and has put her lifelong passion for writing to use working in social media, public relations and advertising. Gina now joins GCT's team as a writer.

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