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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 4 February 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2017 9 NEWS in the 1950s, where Assumption Church boasted a very large parish whose flock often lived in close proximity to the church. Third generation Chicagoan Tom Kanelos offers: "My mother was born in the shadow of that church. The Assumption Parish is like the 'mother' of so many other Chicagoland and American parishes." To further his point, he of- fers: "Dozens of priests came out of that parish, and it is rare to find a community in America not connected, in some way, to this parish." The last recognisable Greek- town was in Lincoln Square in Chicago's Northside in the 1970s, as the last major wave of Greek immigrants bought up properties from suburbanising Germans to form a large enclave of homes and businesses around St Demetrios Church, one of Chicago's largest. Since the 1990s, this final Greektown has largely dispersed, but when we lived there, from 2002 to 2005, there were still several Greek businesses and restaurants. In this neighbourhood, even a few years ago it was possible to conduct all one's business and social transactions in Greek. As in other locations in the diaspora, the Chicago Greeks would concentrate themselves in ‘Greektowns’, which in Chicago's case migrated with the times. The first Greektown was just west of the Chicago River, near the railyards in what was − and is − a key food market. Today this area is still known as ‘Greektown’, with several blocks of Halsted Street hosting a plethora of restaurants, kafeneia, a few ethnic stores, an impressive Hellenic Museum − although almost no Greek American residents. Greeks' centre of gravity migrated from the original Greektown to a location in Chicago's West Side As in other major Chicago Greek hubs, St Demetrios once boasted a full-time parochial school, Solon Academy, which now only has afternoon and Saturday instruction. A few Greek day schools continue to function, but the age of large parish schools seems to have passed. Several churches, and the Hellenic Museum, continue to offer afternoon and weekend Greek language and culture classes. Dance and sports events continue to be strong reference points for Chicago Greeks, and the Diocesan Junior Olympics, held at the end of May every year, attract thousands of athletes from Chicagoland and surrounding cities. Another Chicago Greek tradition is the National Hellenic Invitational Basketball tournament, an annual event started in the years of the Great Depression to assist Greek youth, and it continues a nearly 90-year tradition, drawing in Greek teams from throughout the Midwest. Chicago Greeks joined the descriptively named ‘White Flight’ out of the city and into the suburbs, and parishes today are to be found throughout ‘Chicagoland’, an urban area of 9.7 million spanning three states − Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The urban churches retain a large following of suburbanites who have strong family or village ties to one church or another, but, like other white Americans, Chicago Greeks are by and large suburban, with social, political, and educational norms similar to their neighbours in what is, unfortunately, one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Early on, Greek Chicagoans tended to concentrate in the food service, small business, and real estate sectors, and a family restaurant (‘diner’, in American parlance) was and is likely to be Greek-owned in the area. Urban legend has it that gyros and flaming saganaki cheese were invented in Chicago Greek restaurants. Greeks today are now very well represented across industries and professions. Greek professional organisations, such as bar or medical associations, are very large and often form key social and networking venues for Chicago Greeks. Just as Greeks moved to the suburbs, and into the professions, they also joined other Chicagoans in an exodus to the ‘Sunbelt’ − warmer climates with more dynamic economies, as Chicago and other midwestern industrial cities increasingly stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s. Chicago Greeks are heavily represented in Sunbelt cities such as Phoenix, Arizona, the west coast of Florida and a number of Texas cities. In these newer Greek communities, with fewer Greeks, regional syllogoi tend to fold, as the next generation is more American and largely intermarried; identification with being Greek is more likely to be church-related or adherence to cultural norms rather than a strong tie to a Greek region, village, or island. In this most American of cities, Chicago Greeks are at every stage of assimilation, from a sizeable contingent of recent arrivals (often aided by family or fellow villagers) to fourth or fifth generation Chicagoans, both intermarried or full Greek after more than a century in America. At my former parish, St Demetrios, I spoke to a yiayia born just before World War Two, whose grandparents had immigrated to Chicago at the turn of the century. Her daughter married a Chicago Greek, and her grandchildren represent the fifth generation to be born in Chicago; they continue to go to church and to Greek school. Most of their lineage is from a handful of villages around Tripolis. Her story is by no means unique, though there are others who remain connected to Greek culture via a great-grandfather who married directly into the American mosaic. It's all part of Greek Chicago. L-R: Cr Mary Lalios, Anastasios Vlahos, Elpida Tellis and Spiros Bassiliadis. Greek community leaders in Whittlesea honoured on Australia Day Four Greek Australians were nominated in this year’s Australia Day awards for their outstanding contribution to the community ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS This year's Australia Day awards in Whittlesea inadvertently turned into a celebration of the much-loved Greek leaders of the community, with four nominees being of Greek Australian background. While the award ceremony takes place each year on January 26, local councillor Mary Lalios says they had never before had such a strong contingent from one sector of the community. "It's great to see such a strong contribution being made by our Greek community," Cr Lalios told Neos Kosmos. "Especially Taso (Anastasios Vlahos), being involved in the community for 53 years; that's just amazing." Anastasios Vlahos was a nominee for Senior Citizen of the Year for his ongoing service to the Greek community over five decades. A volunteer for the Greek Orthodox community of Whittlesea, Mr Vlahos was also the founder of the Whittlesea and Districts Greek Elderly Citizen Club, and founder and key contributor to the purchase of the community building in Lalor. Over the years, he also established relationships with the RSL, and has hosted commemorative ceremonies for days of Greek national significance. Also nominated for Senior Citzen of the Year were Jim Papadimitriou and Spiros Bassiliadis. Mr Bassiliadis was recognised for his voluntary services at the Panagia Soumella Association of Whittlesea and has assisted with organising activities for the community. Meanwhile, Elpida Tellis was nominated for Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year. She has worked as a volunteer teacher at the Greek Orthodox parish of Agios Nektarios, has volunteered at the Grace of Mary Aged Hostel in Epping, and also served as president of the northern suburbs Community of Cypriots women's group. While the City of Whittlesea boasts the fourthlargest population of Greeks in Victoria, with approximately 9,000 living in the area, Cr Lalios says it was a pleasant surprise and an honour to celebrate the achievements of her fellow Greek Australians. "As a fellow Greek it gives you the honour and pleasure to see people from your background being awarded. It was fantastic, especial- ly this year being such a strong contingent, it's absolutely amazing," Cr Lalios said. "For everyone who was nominated, it's just a privilege to be nominated, and it's such a hard decision because everyone does a great job." This year, a total of 24 generous individuals were recognised for their contribution to the community, with four finalists selected by the Australian Day Committee. Formally awarded by Mayor Ricky Kirkham were Glen Wall as Citizen of the Year, Tabitha Anderson Young Citizen of the Year, Elizabeth Pratt Senior Citizen of the Year, and Trevor Carroll was Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year. Three thousand people turned out to the ceremony on Australia Day at the Whittlesea council offices in South Morang, where along with the awards, 150 new Australians had their citizenship conferred, followed by an afternoon of food, music, face painting and an impressive display of fireworks. This year's Australia Day ambassador was former premier of Victoria, John Cain.
28 January 2017
11 February 2017