A Greek Family Table in Wisconsin Reveals the Past

A view of the skyline of the Madison Isthmus and Lake Mendota from Picnic Point. (Photo: Wikipedia/Av9)

When Kathy Brozyna visited the home of Helen Sarakinos for the Madison, Wisconsin-based Cap Times, it was for The Family Table feature focused on food. She got the story of the grandparents too, and how they came to America.

Sarakinos is the daughter of a trained chef. Both of Helen’s parents were born in Greece. Her grandfather was from the island of Corfu, while her grandmother grew up in an isolated village in the mountains of Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula.

Papou left Greece as an adolescent, joining the Merchant Marine. He and the rest of his crew abandoned ship, leaving their tyrannical captain one New Year’s Eve in Montreal. “My dad was an illegal immigrant in Montreal,” said Helen.

He met her mother, whom Helen then described as “fair and gray-eyed,” in a boarding house in Montreal.