Written by: Angeline Antonakos Boswell, KGHP Researcher
LOCATION ON THE WALKING TOUR: 316 Queen Street, the old location of the Karis family home, whose doors were open to many Greek immigrants to Kingston during this time. The Karis family helped new immigrants find employment, find shelter, book doctors appointments, and more
AUDIO CLIP 1: LISTEN To Peter Fountas describe his journey by ship from Greece to Halifax as a child.
AUDIO CLIP 2: Listen to Andreas Frantzeskos describe needing to flee Cyprus for Canada after the Turkish invasion in 1974, recorded on the same day (July 20) 44 years after the invasion
The end of World War II and the end of Greece’s Civil War, accompanied by Canada’s more liberal immigration policies at the time, brought about Canada’s largest wave of Greek immigration in the 1950’s-1960’s. Kingston saw a large increase in the population of Greeks at this time. With their famous entrepreneurial spirit, many also went on to own businesses – as the typical Greek-Canadian immigration tale goes, many arrived with “nothing in their pocket” and worked their way up to success through hard work and dedication.
This section will look at background information about this wave of immigration from Greece to Canada, and will look at the stories of our narrators included in this project who immigrated between the end of World War II to present day, told roughly in chronological order. We will look at the push and pull factors for their migration, and what the journey was like coming from Greece and arriving in Canada for the first time.
The Largest Wave of Immigration
Greek immigration to Canada reached its peak in 1967 (Tastsoglou 1997, 123). During this time period between the end of World War II and the end of Greece’s subsequent Civil War (1946-1949), around one million Greeks had migrated from Greece, seeking economic and political stability in other countries – mainly in Western Europe, the United States, Australia, and Canada (Kassimi and Kasimis, 2004).
During this time, Canada was adopting a more liberal immigration policy, whereas the doors for immigration to Canada had been virtually shut for many years since around the beginning of World War I. Now, Canadian immigration policies were even encouraging the sponsorship of friends and relatives to Canada (Chimbos 1980, 29).
Most of the Greeks migrating during this time were from rural areas, and were mostly “uneducated” and “unskilled” (by their new host society’s regulatory standards). This had historically made immigration more difficult for Greek immigrants to Canada, such as the example we saw in this walking tour’s section on Immigration Pre-WWI, wherein James Zakos was able to immigrate to Canada only because he was a merchant, and thus able to contribute economically to Canadian society. Historically, immigration had been restricted to certain racial groups, with Southern Europeans historically being a less desirable population for immigration (Canadian Council for Refugees, A Hundred Years of Immigration to Canada). During the Post-WWII era, however, the regulations for immigration began to be based more heavily on skills rather than on country of origin, “although Europeans retained the right to sponsor a wider range of relatives than others” (ibid). Greeks seeking to immigrate to Canada had some advantages navigating the new immigration regulations, due to the already-existing Greek communities in Canada who had settled here before WWI. Thus, due to Greek Canadian sponsorship of friends and relatives, as well as existing “employment schemes” for Greek Canadians, the Greeks had a relatively “easier entrance into Canada” (Library and Archives Canada). Over 100 000 Greeks migrated to Canada during this post-WWII time period, which we measure as lasting up until 1971.
During this time, the primarily-rural Greeks were gravitating towards urban communities in Canada. The search for a better life, including more financial and educational opportunities, was the primary motivator (Chimbos 1980, 35). The influx of Greeks migrating towards these urban centers resulted in the formation of clusters of Greek communities in many cities, as immigrants sought to be closer to relatives and fellow Greeks (ibid). Often, Greeks would cluster into the same employment niches – especially restaurants! – for the same reason.
Greeks would have been attracted to the prospect of immigrating to Canada through, among many reasons, seeing the money sent home by friends or relatives who had done so before (Century Man: The Father Salamis Story). Many of the individuals interviewed for this project also heard stories about Canada from friends and relatives, influencing their decision about where to immigrate to once they had decided to leave Greece. The importance of existing Greek connections is also crucial in motivating immigration to certain areas. It is within this context that our own Greek community in Kingston received its largest wave of new members.
Stories from Our Community
Toula Leos was born in 1930 at Stadio, Arcadia Greece. Her younger brother, Jimmy, had immigrated to Canada and Toula’s father asked her to move to Canada too in order to look after him. He was 15 when he came here, and Toula immigrated to Kingston in 1953. The Zakos family invited Toula into their home. Eventually, Toula’s other brother, George, also came to Canada in 1955. Toula missed life in Greece at first, but things began getting better when she met other Greeks. In 1963 she married the late 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.
Toula speaks English at an elementary level, and found the language barrier difficult. Her husband spoke a higher level of English, and he very much enjoyed being in Canada. They both felt that Canada provides a good quality of life, and Toula has no regrets about moving here. Toula found that Canadians were very polite when she first arrived, and were very welcoming to the Greeks. She and her husband did not feel uncomfortable about speaking Greek here.
Fil Menikefs came to Kingston for educational pursuits in 1951, following his brother Leukos who came to Canada in 1948 to attend Queens. Fil’s father was a high commissioner of the British government in Cyprus. He was governor of the district of Pafos. When Leukos finished high school his father wanted to send him abroad for undergraduate studies, and he had a millionaire British friend who suggested Queen’s University. Fil was accepted for Engineering studies at Queen’s. When Fill arrived to Kingston for the first time, the Greeks living in Kingston were the ones who had arrived before the war. There were 3-4 big families.
At that time, there were no other Cypriots living in Kingston, apart from him and his brother, although more immigrated to Kingston later. The interactions between the Greeks who arrived before this wave of immigration and those who arrived afterwards was, according to Fil, positive.
Fil’s first year in Kingston was very difficult. He ended up not attending school, choosing to work instead. Feeling despaired, since he was unhappy in Canada and was not even doing what he immigrated here to do, Fil wrote a letter to his father saying he wanted to return home. He came from a wealthy family in Greece where he had everything. His father advised him to give it some more time, and to tour around Canada. After some time, Fil met more people, saw more of Canada, and decided to stay.
Mike Kannellos decided to move to Canada after World War II, since Canada allowed all those who had served as a soldier in Europe to immigrate here freely. Mike’s brother, Theodoros, and his family had moved to Kingston first, paving the way for Mike to come. When he moved to Kingston, he found work as a chef at RMC, among other jobs.
The ship he took to come to Canada was called the “Volcania”. Beforehand, he took a ship called the “Dolphin” from Athens to Napoli (Italy). In Napoli, he waited a week for the Volcania to fill up with passengers – around 1500 people – until it could embark for Canada. When Mike travelled from Athens to Napoli, he met a father and daughter from Sparta. The daughter was about to move to Montreal, and the father asked Mike to look out for his daughter on the ship to Canada, as she was only 16 years old. He protected her like she was “his own daughter” until they both arrived in Halifax. When Mike arrived in Halifax, it was January 1st. It took three days to get from Halifax to Kingston by train.
Maria Karis Brousalis‘s family – the Karis family, an early Greek family in Kingston – opened its doors to the newly-arrived Greek immigrants during this time, giving them a place to stay, helping them find employment, and more. “My mom would look after them,” she says. Since they were already well-established in Kingston, they sought to ease the transition into this new society for newly-arrived Greeks. Some other community members also helped out the new Greek immigrants during this time. The Karis family, Maria recalls, would even accompany these new Greeks to doctors appointments, since many came knowing no English. “A lot of people passed through our house,” she said.
John Karkoulis came to Kingston in 1953 to join his older brother George and his younger brother Pete who were already living in Kingston and were waiting for him. His first impression of Canada, since he arrived in March, was that there was snow everywhere. In Greece it had be 25 degrees, and when he saw the snow here he said “where am I going?” The Canadians were good to the Greeks overall. He did feel that some people ‘had in the back of their minds’ that they were better, even if they didn’t express it. He experienced some instances where this showed, such as when someone told him he needed to speak English in this country when he was speaking Greek behind the counter of his restaurant. He slowly learned English. He feels that Canada is a great country. His parents eventually came to Canada too. John, George, and Pete were successful entrepreneurs. The three brothers, before buying the LaSalle Hotel in 1966, owned a restaurant at Princess and Division. Today, they own the Travelodge Hotel.
Pandelis Bettas‘s older brother, Anastasios, had moved to Canada first, followed by his siblings George and Pandelis. Later on, they also brought their sisters Georgia and Ypanti, along with their parents. He took the ship “Olympia” over to Canada. Pandelis remembers that some days on the ship were calm, while other were stormy. One day before finally arriving to Halifax, there was an emergency on the ship, due to the bad weather, and Pandelis was afraid he wouldn’t survive. No one was waiting for Pandelis when he arrived in Halifax: he had to wait for the immigration officers to process the passengers’ applications and tell them exactly where to go to head to their next destination.
Halifax to Kingston was a two-day train ride. Pandelis arrived in Canada in December, and so his first impression of it was that it was very cold. On the first day, the train had broken down, and the passengers had to wait until it was fixed in order to get to Kingston! Once in Kingston, he worked several 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.
Pandelis’s wife, Voula Bettas, came to Canada in 1965 to marry him. She met Pandelis through an arranged marriage, and she was not even 19 years old when she made the journey to Canada – a country she knew nothing about, apart from that it was “very cold”. Pandelis was already living with his family at the time, as they had all immigrated to Kingston. Supported by her mother, Voula made the decision to immigrant to Kingston via a ship from Greece and then a train from Halifax, a route many Greek Kingstonians took. She and Pandelis needed to be married within 40 days to ensure her legal status in Canada. Voula and Pandelis were eventually able to sponsor Voula’s own mother to immigrate to Kingston and live with them, as well as her brother and sister.
Voula Stathopoulos’s parents immigrated to Canada in the 1940s. At first, her father (Elias Anagnostopoulos) arrived in Canada in 1947, followed by her mother (Georgina Founas) and her siblings. Voula has an older brother, an older sister, and a younger brother. Voula’s uncle had been living in Bellville for years, and it was he who sponsored her father to come to Canada during Greece’s Civil War. Elias had been a police officer, and he was in danger during the Civil War, so he fled to Canada. He had to wait 6-7 months for his immigration papers to be processed.
Voula was 21 when she moved to Kingston, following her sister who was already living here. A promotion at work also led her to Kingston. Eventually, her parents ended up moving to Kingston as well. Voula was working at Loblaws during this time, making “a lot of money for those days”. In the following sections of the walking tour, we will see how Voula met her husband, and how they went on to own businesses in Kingston together.
Chris Nikas was 16 years old when he was working delivering fruits in his home town of Tripoli, then named Thano. He remembers looking over to the mountains while on the farms. “I felt from that time that I wanted to see what was on the other side of these mountains,” he said. He wanted to travel: “it was in me”. Chris knew of people who had immigrated to Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. He applied to immigrate to Canada, the country he knew best, since others he knew had ‘done it before’. Chris was sponsored to come to Canada by Peter Karkoulis, another member of our Greek Community, and husband to Maria Triada, included in this project. Both he and Peter were from the same town of Tripoli in Greece.
Chris was working in a tavern in Tripoli when he served the Greek ambassador’s chauffeur. Somehow, they started talking, and Chris served him a great lunch. This led to the chauffeur ‘owing Chris a favor’, as he put it. This came to use in his journey to Canada. It would have taken Chris weeks of waiting, he feels, if the ambassador’s chauffeur did not know him and owe him this favor. Thus, Chris was able to skip the lines: he remembers walking beside the chauffeur through the line of people waiting to see the ambassador. When they got to the ambassador, the chauffeur said, “excuse me, this young man is from Tripoli.”
He was told he could go to Canada that December of 1951. Before he left, Chris met a man from Tripoli who was also going to Kingston. Once they both arrived, they met up again. Chris was able to buy a house when came to Kingston, and he let this new friend stay with him rent-free. Over the course of his early time in Kingston, Chris was generous enough to let many people stay rent-free in his home, including the many family members he later sponsored. Chris estimates that, including the children of those he sponsored, he helped between 50-60 people immigrate to Canada. He would help them with whatever they needed too, including helping them find jobs or providing them with a place to stay if necessary.
Chris’s Canadian Citizenship certificate, with his full name before it was anglicized.
Chris was only 18 years old when he came to Canada, arriving with $20 in his pocket. He struggled: he didn’t know the language, and he barely knew anyone. “I didn’t have anybody or anything,” he says. Eventually, Chris found a job working at George Karis’s restaurant, making $18 a week.
Chris brought both his brother and sister over from Greece in 1954, sponsoring and supporting them. Chris and his brother, Gus, entered into partnerships from the time Gus arrived in Canada until retirement. Together, they owned the Downtown Coffee Shop, and they would go on to own five more successful businesses throughout their lives. The Embassy Restaurant, located at 314 Princess Street, was one of these businesses.
The late Ted Brousalis had his story for this project told by his wife, Maria Karis Brousalis, through her own interview, and by his daughter, Kristina Brousalis, via her blog. Ted immigrated from Greece to Canada, through arriving in Halifax, in 1960. The ship he was on was called the “Queen Frederica”. According to Kristina, the ticket would have cost $285.30 US and the duration of the journey would have been 14 to 15 days. He was initially seeking to stay with his grandfather in Illinois, but the easiest way to get to the United States was by passing through Canada, and then applying to immigrate to the US. As Kristina says:
“So Ted came here on a landed immigrant permit having promised to marry someone here – this was something that had been set up as a sham for him to get here in the first place. However, once Ted got here, he decided he liked Canada. I’m not sure why as he had a bunch of crap jobs in his first few years here. He ended up in Montreal working in a nylon factory for 50 cents an hour – the factory was hot and the workers had to buy water from the boss to keep going.” –(https://bespokebybrouhaha.me/2008/08/25/ted/)
Ted eventually “ended up in Kingston”, working as a dishwasher while simultaneously taking English classes at night school. Eventually, Ted went on to meet Maria Karis and own his own business.
Peter Fountas came from Athens. His father moved to Belleville in 1956 in order to work and bring some money back home to Greece. He eventually returned home in 1958 and stayed until 1965. Peter’s father then moved back to Canada for a few months before the entire family immigrated, in order to prepare their future home and get settled. Peter immigrated to Kingston in 1965 at the age of 11, along with his mother and brother, to join his father. They took a ship to Halifax. Peter had a great time on the ship, and remembers it fondly. He was in a cabin with his mother, his brother, another child named Yianni. Peter’s mother and brother got sea-sick, and so Peter spent the remainder of the 11-day trip running around and playing with Yianni. He still has tremendous memories of it. There were very rough seas, and he remembers that people from Spain came with boats offering goods and toys for people onboard to purchase. After their arrival in Halifax, they took a train to Kingston. It was Halloween the night they arrived, so it was very cold. Peter will never forget when he went to the grocery store to buy bread for the first time, and all they had was sliced bread. He couldn’t find a French loaf and wondered how he could ever live here without bread.
Immigration from Cyprus
After World War II, many Greek Cypriots began to immigrate to Canada. The peak of this migration followed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, after which over 200, 000 Greek Cypriots were fleeing Cyrpus (Library and Archives Canada). Today, there are over 25, 000 Greek Cypriots in Canada (ibid).
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. Before the Turkish invasion, Cleo had studied in universities in both Rome and Athens and had been working as a high school teacher.
Cleo was born in the city of Ammohostos, in Cyprus. Cleo and Andreas got married in Ammohostos in 1971. The Turkish invasion occurred while Andreas and Cleo were living there. “My wife was ready to give birth at that time. We left early in the morning when we heard bombs, taking nothing with us,” Andreas says. The pain of the Turkish Invasion still hurts. They visit Cyprus yet cannot go back to their city and their old house, which Cleo describes as a big wound.
Andreas and Cleo stayed in Southern Cyprus for two years, before Cleo’s brother sponsored them to come to Melville, Saskatchewan. In their interviews, both Cleo and Andreas describe the shock that arriving to Canada was. Before coming to Canada, Cleo already knew it was a big place that was very cold, with many trees. She had seen a photograph of frozen trees. She loved Canada, and she dreamed of coming here from Cyprus. When Cleo came to Canada, a lot of it was like she imagined but at the beginning it was also a shock. She was coming from a big city like Ammohostos and she moved to the small city of Melville. She was shocked by even the little things, such as that there was no drug store open overnight.
There were only two other Greek families in the area at the time. Andreas worked as an electrician to a contractor. Later, he found a job in the repair and maintenance field, and eventually they bought their own business selling sporting clothes and shoes. Cleo also attended the University of Regina while living in Melville. Andreas and Cleo’s three children all went to Kingston to pursue post-secondary education. Evangelos was studying at RMC and Savvas and Chrystalla were studying at Queen’s. Andreas and Cleo moved to Kingston to join them in 1994. At first they were renting a house and after 2 years they bought their own house, which is where they still live today.
When they moved to Canada, they wrote to and called their family often. It was more difficult with no technology back then. They were familiar with the English language as both had attended schools where English was taught. In Kingston, they met many Greeks through the church and formed strong relationships with many families. Moving to Kingston was difficult, and trying to find employment was especially difficult. The Greek community helped them a lot, Andreas says. He describes how he worked for the community at first and then the community’s priest helped him find a job at the LaSalle hotel, which was his last job before retirement at the age of 66. As for Cleo, her passion for preserving the Greek language and culture motivated her to establish a Greek school in Saskatchewan. In Kingston, Cleo was a Greek school teacher for ten years, having a huge impact on the youth of our community. Cleo and Andreas still visit Cyprus every five years or so.
Recent Immigration Stories
Although George Katinas was born in Canada, he has no memory of it. George’s Grandfather had immigrated to Canada in 1912, owning a candy shop in Smith Falls. George’s parents immigrated to Greece when he was young. George immigrated to Canada after finishing high school in the 1980s, 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. His parents had lived in Kingston at some point, and his father had close friends such as Fil Menikefs, and the Karkoulises. George recognized that he had a network here that would support him if he came to Kingston. This doesn’t mean that coming to Kingston was easy: George was on his own for the first time, away from from immediate family and close friends.
The language barrier was difficult to handle as well as well. He took some English classes before he came here which were insufficient for regular conversation. People spoke too quickly in reality. The climate was very different. It was cold, and he was used to warmth and having access to the sea. What was hardest for George was that he was used to having a close knit support network in case anything happened. Now, he was uprooted and had little support. He had to push himself to make his own connections for the first time, rather than relying on his family. 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 existing 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.
As a kid, George would visit his grandfather who would tell him stories about his life in Canada. The main theme of his stories was what a wonderful country Canada was and how organized it was. He would describe the stores he owned, such as a candy shop, and would give George drawings of his store. George’s father had a reverse immigration story since he migrated back to Greece. George’s story is different than his grandfather’s because he wasn’t an economic immigrant; he didn’t have to leave for any reason apart from interest in Canada. George feels this is an important distinction that changes the whole story.
Glykeria Martou graduated from high school in 1993, wanting to be a doctor. Her uncle had moved to Canada in 1973 and he suggested that Glykeria attend a Canadian university to study medicine. She immigrated here in 1994. Glykeria finished her residency in 2011, and afterwards she decided to return to Greece as she was married with two children. Unfortunately, Greece struggled with their financial crisis. She and her husband decided to move permanently to Canada as the situation in Greece was not getting any better. Eventually there was an opening in the Kingston hospital, which was a great career opportunity for Glykeria. She became a permanent resident of Canada in 2004, and became a Canadian citizen in 2009. Originally, Glykeria had come to Canada under a student visa. Glykeria came to Canada under a student visa. This status constrains the opportunities for scholarships and work, and additionally, getting into medical school and law school as an international student made the competition very high. Residency was also not allowed for international students and Glykeria did not hold a work permit at that point. Glykeria joined the University of Toronto as research associate and she got a permanent resident status that allowed her to do her residency. The process of immigration is very time-consuming, and it is easy to get discouraged.
When she arrived to Kingston’s Greek community, she found it amazing to see how Greeks kept all their traditions while being in Canada. Eventually, all of Glykeria’s efforts paid off, and she is now 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. She also created an organization in Greece for breast reconstruction. Glykeria doesn’t plan to move back to Greece, but she keeps a very close relationship with her family and friends there. Greece is a huge portion of her life. Above all, she says, she is Greek. Now she is also Canadian, and she feels doubly blessed. Unfortunately, due to the financial crisis many young well-educated Greeks immigrate to other countries such as Canada, and Canada is very lucky to have them.
After completing her Master’s degree and after teaching in Thessaloniki, Olga Xenodohidou moved to the United States to pursue further education. Once she met her husband, Aris, he received a job offer at Queen’s University and so they moved to Kingston together in the early 2000’s. Her first impressions of Canada were very bad. The weather was too cold, and she did not have a permanent residence yet so she had limited employment options. She had to wait a while to be able to work. Olga spoke to her family over the phone on a weekly basis because there were no internet platforms yet, like Skype. Things started to improve when Olga began working. She started working at Queen’s as an event organizer for the Chemical Engineering Department. Today, she
works at Queen’s as an English instructor for engineering students. Olga also became became a Greek School teacher in the Greek community in Kingston for 7 years.
As of 2006, there were about 242 685 people of Greek origin in Canada. According to the 2006 census, 82% of Greek Canadians lived in Ontario and Quebec, and in large Canadian cities (most notably Montreal and Toronto), Greeks have tended to cluster into communities or neighborhoods (Chimbos, The Canadian Encyclopedia). Greek immigration to Canada has significantly declined since the 1970s.