Life Stories

Location on the Walking Tour
The Cataraqui Cemetery, 927 Purdy’s Mill Road.

Audio Clip
Listen to Afro Ioannidis speak about her experience immigrating to Canada as a domestic worker. The following audio clip is in Greek.

See English Summary
By the time she moved to Montreal, Afro visited the service that assigned the girls to families looking for housekeepers. They would do small interviews to place the girls in houses, asking the girls what types of houses and situations they would want to work in (such as in large families or small, a large house or small, etc). Afro was 23 and she was working for a woman who was 28 at first. She had two children. Afro was finished work at 4 every evening and she didn’t know what to do or where to go. Afro had borrowed 20 dollars to immigrate to Canada. That’s all she had when she came here. On Wednesdays and Sundays Afro had time off from work. She met other people in a church she attended and soon made a circle of friends. Canadian families that hired housekeepers like Afro treated their personnel exceptionally well. Life quality improved for these women in Canada. At that time, in 1963, there was still no indoor plumbing system in Greek villages. The first family Afro worked for was a Jewish family that treated her very nicely, although there were difficulties in communication due to language differences. Afro had learned English in Athens, but she couldn’t have a conversation here. She had learned formal English, and now was trying to learn informal phases, such as saying “hi” instead of “how do you do?”. Afro eventually started attending gatherings of Greek people, and they would help each other.

This section of the Kingston Greek History tour will focus on the general narrator stories of those who we interviewed for this project, as well as on some of the immigration stories of women within the community. The Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston serves as the location to reflect on the Life Stories of our community members. It is in this cemetery that many members of the Greek Community are buried, to the extent that the Cataraqui cemetery has its own Greek section.

In memoriam for those who have passed away within our community, we have compiled this album of some of the gravestones in the Cataraqui Cemetery. This is by no means an exhaustive look at all those who have passed away within our community. Please click here to view them.

WOMEN’S IMMIGRATION TO CANADA: IMMIGRATION AS WIVES

In an article in Greek News Agenda titled “Rethinking Greece: Yiorgos Anagnostou on Greek America, Greek American Studies and the Diasporic Perspective as Syncretism and Hybridity”, Yiorgos Anagnostou states that the typical immigration stories of “perseverance, endurance, and hard work” that “[permeate] Greek American self-representation” (although the same can be said for Greek Canadian representation) are largely male-dominated. He argues that a narrative with emphasis on socioeconomic mobility, especially as a marker for success, is “a male one”; and women tend to emphasize “civic and community contributions” in their narratives of immigration. This means that not only the experience of immigration itself, but also the way in which the experience of immigration is described, differs between male and female voices. Female voices in immigration stories are much needed, as their experiences tended to be largely different.

While immigration stories of Greek Canadians tend to be male-dominated, the decisions around family immigration itself tended to be male-dominated as well. It is important to provide examples of a female point-of-view for these immigration stories, in order to understand what this journey was like for Greek Canadian women at the time. In the stories of those we collected for this project, many women spoke about immigrating to Canada in order to join their husbands. This sometimes meant leaving behind their own families forgoing their own life trajectories in order to build a family in a new country. Making this choice to immigrate to Canada was an important decision that Greek Canadian women faced, and it is fascinating to listen to how women chose to take this path – venturing out into the unknown, saying goodbye to loved ones and former dreams, with hope for a better life overseas.

WOMEN’S IMMIGRATION TO CANADA: DOMESTIC WORKERS

One way that the usual immigration narrative – that husbands brought wives over to Canada – could be reversed was through the domestic working program, which brought over 10, 500 Greek women into Canada. This program was run between 1951 and 1963 (Noula 2013, 516). For some time, this was “the only way Greek women could get into Canada”, at least as independent immigrants (515). According to Mina Noula, who wrote about this labor scheme which attracted “peasant Greek girls” and trained them for the type of domestic workers middle class Canadians expected, states: “the Greek domestics who came to Canada during the 1950s arrived at the beginning of the largest influx of Greek migration to Canada and were typically the first of their families to emigrate” (518). This was a new concept, since it was only really in the start of the 20thcentury that women could even immigrate to join their working husbands let alone immigrate themselves in order to work. These women could eventually even sponsor family members to come to Canada.

Afro Ioannidis, a member of our own Greek Community, came to Canada through this domestic working program. She and her husband, George, had already been trying to come to Canada with great difficulties. Afro applied for the domestic working program, and Afro remembers the day when she saw a woman from the group she applied to and the woman asked her if she was ready to leave. This is when Afro learned that she had been accepted into the program, and that she was about to leave to be a housekeeper in Canada. She immigrated to Montreal with only $20 in her pocket. Afro remembers having to do an interview in order to be placed in a home. She was 23 years old, and she was working for a woman who was 28 years old with two children. Afro would work until 4pm every evening, and then she “didn’t know what to do or where to go” afterwards. Eventually, she made circles of friends. Afro had learned English in Athens, but she couldn’t have a conversation. She learned proper phrases gradually, such as saying “hi” instead of “how do you do”, as she had only learned the formal way of speaking English.

Canadian families that hired housekeepers like Afro treated their personnel exceptionally well. Afro believes that quality of life improved for these women; for example, she says, in 1963 there was no indoor plumbing system in Greek villages, yet here they were growing accustomed to such luxuries. It took a few months in order for the paperwork to go through to bring her husband to Canada.  Afro and her sister were the first people in their family to leave Greece. It was unusual for women to be immigrating independently at this time, and so it is a unique situation. Afro and her husband lived in Montreal for 7 years before moving to Kingston.

References:

The gravestone of a late member of our community, in the Greek section of the Cataraqui Cemetery.
The gravestone of a late member of our community, in the Greek section of the Cataraqui Cemetery.

NARRATOR STORIES: THE FIRST WAVE OF GREEK IMMIGRANTS

Zakos
Peggy Geracimo and Margaret are two of the granddaughters of James Zakos. Peggy’s father was Chris Zakos and Margaret’s father was Thomas Zakos. According to the wishes of the two narrators, the interview was not about their own personal lives but about the family as a whole. James Zakos (Dimitrios Zekios) came to Kingston in 1914 and together with his family owned several businesses. The Zakos family was an important and well-known family from the first wave of Greek immigration to Kingston (pre-WW2 immigration wave). In 1914, when James moved to Kingston, he opened the Olympia fruit and vegetable market. He brought his older children to Canada shortly after that, and later he brought his entire family over from Greece, including his wife, in 1925. James and Helen Zakos opened a series of other successful businesses afterwards. James and Helen lived at 297 Division street. When the Zakos children grew older, the ones remaining in Kingston “all lived within blocks of each other”. Kingston was small back then, and “Palace Road was the end of Kingston”. The Zakos family remained very close. The Sakells, another early Greek family in Kingston and a family connected to the Zakos’s through marriage, would often join them. The Zakos’s were a big group, and “all the cousins were together all the time”; Margaret and Peggy recall that it felt like they were all one big family.
Maria Karis-Brousalis
Maria is the daughter of Frank Karis who together with his uncle Peter Karis were one of earliest Greek families to settle in Kingston during the early 1910’s. Frank Karis married Anastatsia Kontos who was born in Canada from Greek parents. The family was involved in the confection and ice cream making business. Maria married Ted Brousalis, a Greek immigrant who owned and ran restaurants in Kingston. In this interview, Maria speaks about the growth of the early Greek community in Kingston, including the purchase of the church. Her family, as early and experienced Greek immigrants, helped those who were newly arriving to Kingston. They opened their doors to newly arrived Greek people, giving them a place to stay, helping them find jobs, and looking after them. They would take them to doctors, for example, if they didn’t understand English. “A lot of people passed through our house,” Maria said. Maria provides important information about the Karis family in her interview, and she also speaks about her own children and their experience growing up in the Greek Community.
Spiro and Maureen Sakell
Spiro is the son of Andrew and Crysanthy Sakell, some of the first Greek immigrants to Kingston, who immigrated in the 1910s. In his interview, he speaks about his family and the successful businesses they owned here. After working in the family business, Spiro decided to pursue pharmaceutical studies and became a pharmacist. He is married to Maureen Sakell, and both are very active members of our community. Since Spiro has been in Kingston his entire life, he clearly remembers the Greek community in Kingston almost from its very beginning. Spiro gives us the unique perspective of someone who was in AHEPA – an important Hellenic organization in Kingston through much of the twentieth century – and someone who saw the community throughout all of its different phases. Maureen became part of the Greek Community in Kingston when she married Spiro Sakell. In her interview, she speaks about her extensive involvement in the community – especially her involvement with Folklore, an important annual cultural event in Kingston from the 1970s to 1990s. Maureen was also part of the Daughters of Penelope, the female auxiliary group to AHEPA, and so she provides insight on what it was like to be part of what was once a central Hellenic organizational body in Kingston. Maureen also speaks about what it was like to marry into a Greek family, and how she and Spiro keep up the Greek cultural traditions for their children and grandchildren.

NARRATOR STORIES: FAMILIES AFTER WORLD WAR TWO

Mike Kanellos
Mike was born in 1928 at Hilliomodi, of Corinth Greece. He came to Kingston in the early 50s to join his brother Theodoros, after fighting in World War II and in Greece’s civil war. Within this interview, he speaks about his years in both wars. After World War II, Canada allowed everyone that served as soldier in Europe to come to Canada freely, and so Mike came to Kingston. Initially he worked at the Davies Tannery for 11 years, and afterwards worked for Queens University as a janitor for 25 years. At the same time he owned a cleaning business with his wife and made several investments in real estate. In his interview, he also speaks about his family, and meeting his wife. Unfortunately, Mike passed away on October 3, 2018, shortly after his interview was recorded. We hope his story may be remembered.
Fil Menikefs
Fil came to Canada in 1951, following his brother Leukos who came to Kingston for studies at Queen’s University. Instead of attending university, Fil began working in construction at a time when very few Greeks were in that industry. He eventually bought a dairy bar from Manos Tryfonopoulos and ran it for 20 years. He married his wife, Maria, in 1966 after her met her on a trip to Cyprus, and asked her to follow him to Canada. In his interview, Fil speaks about his marriage and his children. He witnessed the growth of the Greek community, and the establishment of the Greek church, so he speaks about what the early years of Kingston’s Greek Community were like. Both Fil and Maria were heavily involved in the Church Council.
John Karkoulis and Maria Triada Karkoulis
Maria Triada (married to Peter Karkoulis) is the brother-in-law of John. Maria Triada was born and raised in Tripoli, Arkadia, Greece in 1942. She graduated from high school in 1961 and married her current husband, Peter Karkoulis. The Karkoulis family immigrated back to Canada in 1962, and Maria Triada joined them. In her interview, Maria Triada speaks about her strong academic (and athletic) abilities and her dreams to study in University; how she met her husband; her experience immigrating to Canada; how she saw the Greek church become established; and much more. Maria Triada was one of the first Greek School teachers in our community, as well as one of the first Sunday School teachers. She has been very active in our community, from being in Philoptohos to being a chanter in our church. John Karkoulis and his two brothers, George and Peter, own the Travelodge Hotel. He was born at Thana, Tripoli in the prefecture of Arcadia in Greece. He came to Kingston in the early 1950s to join his older brother George and his younger brother Pete who were already living in Kingston. The three brothers, before buying the LaSalle Hotel in 1966, owned a restaurant at Princess and Division. John was involved with the establishment of the Greek Community’s Church in the early 60s. The meeting that was held to organize an official Greek Community in Kingston, involving the archbishop Athenagoras in the 1960s, was held in the Karkoulis’s LaSalle Hotel. He worked hard towards the purchasing and renovating of the Greek Orthodox Church on 121 Johnson Street; he purchased and brought over Church materials to Kingston from Athens. In his interview, John speaks about his experience immigrating to Kingston with his brothers, his experience establishing successful businesses, and more.
Andreas and Cleo Frantzeskos
Andreas and Cleo Frantzeskos are Greek Cypriots who came to Canada after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. They lived in Saskatchewan for years and then moved to Kingston in 1994. Andreas grew up in the village of Boghazi in Cyprus, before moving to England to pursue studies in electrical engineering. Before moving back to Cyprus, he worked in Nigeria. The Turkish invasion occurred while Andreas and Cleo were living in Ammohostos, Cyrpus. “My wife was ready to give a birth at that time. We left early in the morning when we heard bombs, taking nothing with us,” he says. He and Cleo stayed in Southern Cyprus for two years, before Cleo’s brother sponsored them to come to Saskatchewan. In his interview, Andreas describes the shock that arriving to Canada was. He and Cleo had three children, all of whom ended up studying in Kingston, and so they moved here. He describes the support the Greek community gave them during this time. Cleo was born in the city of Ammohostos, in Cyprus. Before the Turkish invasion, Cleo had studied in universities in both Rome and Athens, and had been working. Cleo and Andreas got married in Ammohostos in 1971. The pain of the Turkish Invasion still hurts. They visit Cyprus yet they cannot go back to their city and their house, which Cleo describes as a big wound. Her passion for preserving the Greek language and culture pushed Cleo to establish a Greek school in Melville. In Kingston, Cleo was a Greek school teacher for more than ten years, having a huge impact on the youth of our community.
Afro Ioannidis
Afro (Afroditi) is a Pontian Greek (or Pontic Greek) who was born in Nea Kerasounta of Preveza prefecture in Greece. Her grandparents and her father came to Greece in 1922 as refugees from the south shores of the Black Sea, the area of the Pontian Greeks. She came to Montreal in 1964, as a domestic worker – a program organized between the Greek and Canadian governments in order to send young Greek women abroad. In 1971 she moved to Kingston with her husband and her two children. Her immigration story is unique, as she was the one who brought her husband over to Canada through her work status. This is contrary to most immigration stories, in which a husband brings his family over. In her interview, Afro describes her immigration experiences, her experiences in Kingston, and speaks about her family.
Manos Tryfonopoulos
Manos immigrated to Kingston in 1954 with his late first wife, Maria, with whom he has two children. He describes his experiences in these early days of the Greek community, when the community was divided between those who went to the church services of a priest from Ottawa and those who went to the church services of a priest from Watertown. As the son of a priest, church was always an important part of Manos’s life, and so he quickly became involved in the religious life of the community. Eventually, he became involved in community council as well and made efforts to bridge the gap between these two divisions of the community through organizing youth activities. He started the Greek men’s soccer team for Kingston (circa 1970) and was its first manager and coach. Manos is a long-time chanter in our church: there is not a single Sunday you will not find him up at the front of the church, singing hymns from memory. If you watch our recorded church service in the Video Archives, you can clearly hear his voice. Manos worked very hard to make his way in Kingston, owning a shoe repair shop at one point where he met Shirley, who he is married to today. As a very active member of our Greek community, Manos’s interview provides valuable insight into its history.
Pandelis and Voula Bettas
Both Pandelis and Voula Bettas were interviewed for this project. Pandelis was born in Hiliomodi, Korinthias. In the 1960s, Anastasios (his older brother) moved to Canada, followed by George and Peter. Later they brought their sister Georgia. Finally their parents, along with their sister, Ypapanti, immigrated to Canada. Peter worked for the restaurant owned by the Karis family (Superior Restaurant) when he first arrived in Kingston. He worked several other jobs before finally opening his own business, the “Olympian Billiards and Restaurant Take-out”. He worked there for 43 years and then he retired. Pandelis’s restaurant was popular in the Greek community, and he worked long hours to make his business successful. In the interview, Pandelis also speaks about meeting his wife “through a photo”, and he speaks about his children. Voula was born at Halki of the Corinth prefecture in Greece. She came to Canada in 1965 to marry Pandelis, who she met through an arranged marriage. Voula was 19 years old when she arrived in Canada. She has three children and worked for 26 years at the hospital. While her children were growing up, she was very passionate about up-keeping their Greek language and heritage, and brought them to Greek School and Sunday School every week.
Peter Fountas
Peter, his mother and his brother came to Kingston in 1965. Peter’s father had been to Canada before on his own. Peter lived for some time in Toronto. He and his family owned and ran restaurants, including the Ms. Kingston Delicatessen. Peter was a president of the Greek community for a while. In 1965, when he arrived to Kingston, the church had just been established. Peter was part of the choir and was a chanter until the 70’s. In his interview, he describes his active involvement in the Greek community, watching the Greek community grow, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his time in politics.
Toula Leos
Toula was born in 1930 at Stadio, Arcadia Greece. She came to Canada in 1953. In 1963 she married Louis Leos, and their wedding was the last Greek wedding hosted in St. George’s Cathedral before the Greek Church was bought in 1964. Both Toula and Louis were extremely active in the Greek Community throughout their lives. Together they owned businesses, such as the GJP Restaurant on Princess Street. In her interview, Toula speaks about her experience immigrating from Greece to Kingston, her experience being involved in the Greek Community from its beginning within the current church, and much more. Toula is still a very active member of the community in Philoptohos. She and Louis (who unfortunately passed away) have two daughters, Niki and Marina.
Voula Stathopoulos
Voula was born into the Anagnostopoulos family who immigrated to Canada in the 1940s. In her interview, she speaks about the difficulties of immigrating to Canada as a child, with learning a new language and becoming accustomed to a new culture. She speaks a lot about her family life. Voula moved from Belleville to Kingston when she was 21, meeting her husband, Tom Stathopoulos, here. Together, they have been successful entrepreneurs in Kingston throughout the years. She has tried to teach her children important values, such as putting family before work. She also wanted her children to have an education because she never had one. Voula is currently the president of Philoptohos, and an active member of the community. She has seen the community grow, arriving in Kingston before we even had a church of our own, and she worries now about the declining number of people who attend the church and other Greek cultural events. She speaks about what it means to be a Greek Canadian – to live within both cultures – and how incorporating and recognizing both cultures in our daily lives, especially among youth, is the best way to ensure the Greek community continues on.
Chris Nikas
Chris Nikas arrived to Canada at a very young age, and worked hard to become a successful entrepreneur, eventually owning four businesses in Kingston. He owned a coffee shop, two restaurants, and a variety store. In his interview, done in English, he describes his immigration journey and how he built his success up from nothing – coming to Kingston with only $20 in his pocket. He speaks about his family; he is married to Murva Nikas, a non-Greek who became very involved in the Greek community. He has two children, Jim and Tony, and one grandchild, Christina. Because Chris has been in Kingston since 1951, he has been a member of our Greek community for a long time. He speaks about his memories of the community both before and after the purchasing of our church. Chris also sponsored many people to immigrate to Canada from Greece and helped new immigrants significantly throughout his life, often helping them find employment opportunities and places to stay. Now, he speaks about enjoying his retirement surrounded by family. His wife, Murva, has assisted with this project as well through providing us with her own historical facts and memories as an extremely active member of the Greek Community since the 1960s.

NARRATOR STORIES: RECENT COMMUNITY MEMBERS

George Katinas
George Katinas is the Project Lead of the Kingston Greek History Project. In this interview, he discusses his immigration to Canada, his experience in Kingston’s Greek community, his interest in being involved in this project, and much more. Although George was born in Canada, he has no memory of it. George’s Grandfather had immigrated to Canada in 1912, owning a candy shop in Smiths Falls. George’s parents immigrated to Greece when he was young. George immigrated to Canada after high school, a decision that was in part made because he had heard about his family’s memories of Canada. He also had a support network here. Alex and Ethel Lampropolous, Greek Kingstonians, had baptized George. When George first immigrated to Kingston, he “craved all things Greek”, but he pushed himself to form connections outside of the Greek community. This is in contrast to most immigration stories, since most connections for Greek immigrants are made through the Greek community. George describes his culture shock in immigrating to Kingston, including his initial reaction that there was no “philotimo” – an essential part of Greek culture. George eventually married someone who wasn’t Greek, whom he met through Teacher’s College, and tries to preserve the Greek culture and language through his daughter, Athena. George is passionate about the Greek history project: he loves the ‘democratization of history’ – to record the histories of everyday people whose stories may be omitted from the usual history we hear about.
Paula Antonakos Boswell
Paula Antonakos-Boswell is an extremely active member of the Greek community in Kingston – from being a Sunday School and a former Greek School teacher to being heavily involved in the church council. Paula is also the Community Lead of the Kingston Greek History Project. Paula’s parents, Angelo and Bessie, immigrated to Canada in the 1960s, opening a successful restaurant in the Prescott area. Paula moved to Kingston for University in the 1980s, and quickly encountered Kingston’s Greek community. In her interview, she speaks about growing up Greek, about her involvement in the Greek community, about marrying someone who wasn’t Greek, and much more. She lives in Kingston with her husband, Rick Boswell, and her two daughters, Angeline and Alexandra.
Fr. Matthew and Catherine Penney
Both Fr. Matthew and Catherine Penney were interviewed for this project. Father Matthew Penny was our community’s priest from 2017 – 2018 although he was involved in our community since 2014. Catherine is referred to as the “Presbytera”, or the wife of the Priest. Fr. Matthew and Catherine came to Kingston in in 2014. They were not born into the Greek Orthodox faith. Instead, they converted to Orthodoxy after University. They studied in Thessaloniki, and both speak fluent Greek. While Father Matthew finishes his PhD, Catherine is working on her Master’s degree in Social Work. She wants to do social work so she can help people in a practical way, according to Orthodox values. In her interview, she describes her journey in discovering Orthodoxy, her role as Presbytera, and her inspirational beliefs and experiences. Catherine wants “to be someone who people are comfortable around. [She wants] to be someone who helps others, and someone who is open and who people can speak to.” She also helped our chanters in Church significantly. In Fr. Matthew’s Video-style interview, he introduces Kingston’s Koimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church, as well as some introductory concepts and facts about Orthodoxy. He shows us the symbolic meaning of many of the aspects of an Orthodox Church, discusses the role of the Priest, and much more. Sadly, our community said farewell to Fr. Matthew and Presbytera Catherine on August 19th, 2018, as they headed back to Saint John, New Brunswick to lead a parish there.
Fr. Chrysostomos Achilleos
Fr. Chrysostomos is a beloved former priest for our Greek Community, and is currently a priest in Sarnia. Kingston’s Greek Community has a special place in his heart because it is here that he had his first parish as an ordained priest. In his interview, he speaks about the Orthodox Religion, the role of the Priest, the role of the church in the Greek community, and much more. We also speak about Fr. Achilleos’s family: his wife Presbytera Dina, and his children Maria, Joanna, Nektaria, and Theognostos.
Dr. Glyka Martou
Glykeria (or Glyka) Martou was born in Kavala, Greece, and moved to Canada in 1994 with plans to become a medical doctor. She studied at University of Waterloo and University of Toronto. She became a Canadian citizen in 2009. When she arrived to Kingston’s Greek community, she found it amazing to see how Greeks kept all their traditions while being in Canada. Glykeria is a successful plastic surgeon who leads a team for breast reconstruction surgery for breast cancer patients here in Kingston. She has been recently featured in the newspaper for her incredible work. She and her husband, Tasos Papalazarou, have two sons named Yiorgos and Pavlos.
Olga Xenodoxidou
After completing her Master’s degree and after teaching in Thessaloniki, Olga moved to the United States. Once she met her husband, Aris, he received a job offer at Queen’s University and so they moved to Kingston together. Olga describes her difficulties leaving her family to move to Canada permanently, and her difficulties adjusting to life in Kingston. Olga began working at Queens too, and eventually became a Greek School teacher in the Greek community in Kingston for 7 years. As Olga describes, (translated) “it happened once a week, every Saturday from 9-3. It was fantastic. She better organized the school, initiated traditional Greek dance lessons and introduced more Greek culture and language to students. She found that she had introduced many things to the children, such as the 10 Greek dances they learned perfectly.” In her interview, Olga also describes the birth of her son, George, and her passion for preserving the Greek language and culture for her son.

These stories are only based on the narrators included in this project, and based only on the information they have given us about themselves and their families in their interviews. We know there are many other families, and many other stories, that have yet to be told!

To read the full story, click here