PALM SPRINGS, CA – Carol Pappapetru-Hallas grew up in California, in a family with Greek roots. The third-generation Greek-American did not go to a Greek school, however, nor did she attend an Orthodox Christian church. She had also never visited the home of her ancestors.
“I guess they thought it would not be important to us kids..." she told The National Herald about not learning to speak Greek from a young age. Pappapetru-Hallas never ceased, however, to feel a love for Greece and a pride in her heritage.
After researching her DNA research, she found herself and her own family on an amazing trip to Greece for the first time, where she was reunited with relatives she had never met though they shared the same roots.
“I know one thing. When I arrived in Greece, it was like returning to home, like I belonged there, although I was in the country for the first time. I was not born there, but I was home... I know it sounds strange, but that's just how I felt,” she told TNH.
"I just love Greece and everything about it. I did not have the typical Greek upbringing, we did not go to a Greek Orthodox church or a Greek school, since my father was not particularly religious. When we went to the church, we went to a Baptist church, with my mother and us, six siblings. I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers,” she added.
She always felt drawn to Greece. "When I was still a kid, a place that I wanted to visit was Delos, which fascinated me," she said. “Even my husband is 16% Greek, according to the survey. We learned it before we left for Greece... he did not know it, in spite of his last name.”
Carol's story was reported by Sarah Young in the Independent, noting that the Greek-American’s mother had roots in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and her father, Nick Pappapetru, was a second-generation Greek American.
Growing up in California, she assumed she knew all about the past and the origin of her family. She knew, for example, that Jennie Kachevas's grandmother (Jenny Katsivas) had originated from Homatero, Pilias in Messinia and her grandfather, Vassilios Pappapetru (Vassilios Pappapetrou) in Melisochori.
Her great-grandmother was Evdokia Terpiti. She immigrated to the United States in 1905 and married her grandfather, Nick Kachevas (Nikos Katsivas), with whom she had seven children. Her grandmother, Jennie or Jeanne, married her grandfather Vassilios Pappapetrou in 1926.
The Katsivas family, Carrol told TNH, arrived in the USA via Ellis Island in New York. They then settled in East Moline, Illinois. Her grandfather, Nikos Katsivas, had a food cart and sold hot dogs. It was one of the many jobs he did, as he also worked in restaurants.
Later, her grandfather, Vassilios Pappapetrou, was the owner of a Canton, Illinois tavern in the 1940s. He and his family moved to California in the 1950s.
DNA research revealed that Carol is 39 per cent Greek, and this led her to explore her roots further. So she planned her first ever trip to Greece.
“My grandfather died in 1947 so I wasn’t able to ask him about our Pappapetru roots which are still a mystery,” she said, the Independent reported. However, investigating her grandmother's side, she found out more about her identity during her visit to Greece.
Among the findings, that she is a descendant of Theodoros Kolokotronis, on his mother’s side, as Pappapetru-Hallas said, "My friend Margarita did a lot of research about my ancestors and my cousin Christos, who lives in Australia, confirmed it to me. There is a book about the origins of my family from Homatero, where this information is found and I’m related to him on his mother's side with the Katsivas family.”
The trip to Greece
Pappapetru-Hallas visited her ancestral village Homatero with her friend Margarita. She decided to ask a group of local men outside a tavern if they knew anyone with the surname Katsivas who still lives there.
Much to her surprise, they all raised their hands. They were all cousins. Her new-found family members then introduced her to someone who knew her grandfather very well.
"He came right over and it was my great uncle I didn't know I had. It was so awesome, he took us to his house and I found out my great-great-grandfather had built it,” Pappapetru-Hallas said, the Independent reported.
Her cousins ??in Greece also told her that when members of the Katsivas family had immigrated years ago, they went not only to the United States, but some went to Australia instead. Pappapetru-Hallas found and contacted more cousins ??in Melbourne and hopes to visit them one day in the future.
Pappapetru-Hallas told TNH about her enthusiasm for her "epic" journey, as she describes it. And it does not end there. She is learning Greek with the help of her good friend, Roula, who is from Corinth. “I will return to Greece, I want to a great deal. Unfortunately, it will not be this year..., she told TNH.
“If it were not Margarita, my epic adventure in Greece would not have happened. I can not thank her enough for what she has done for us. I owe her a lot and I look forward to returning to Greece to see her again,” Pappapetru-Hallas said.