BOSTON – One of the Greek-American community’s most prominent businessmen and philanthropists, George Behrakis, a proud son of Lowell, Massachusetts, which is known as the Acropolis of America, spoke to The National Herald at the end of the event titled Acropolis of America: The Greek Community of Lowell 1874 – 2020, organized by the University of Massachusetts – Lowell. Behrakis spoke about the city’s Greek Community, Hellenism, education, family, and Orthodoxy.
He said that “Hellenism begins at home. The Greeks settled in Lowell very early, and as the Consul General mentioned it was the third largest Greek community in the United Stated and the first Consulate for the New England area was established here in Lowell…they came from all over Greece and the islands, even from Turkey.”
He also said “we are very proud that the University of Massachusetts put the exhibition together, which is something to be cherished by all young people – not only of Lowell but of the surrounding areas of New England…who should come and visit to see the exhibits of the people who came to America either through Ellis Island or other places like Canada and Savana, GA and it is a great tribute to how far the Greeks have come in one hundred years.”
Behrakis reminded that “We have everywhere great Greek philanthropists; we have businessmen, professors, physicians, dentists, accounts, pharmacists, we have really become very successful here in America.”
Asked if he reminisced about his parents after seeing the photographs of the exhibition, he said, “of course, of course, because I grew up on Market Street in Lowell and we all went to college. Even though they didn’t have money they worked hard and they made sure all in my family had an education, which is very important. The Boston Globe one time mentioned that Greeks are highly educated; when they came from Greece they wanted to make sure that their children received an education because that was really the starting point in making their life to blend in with the American Community. Education is very important and the Greeks always loved education because we were the fathers of education. Look of what we created in Greece with philosophers, scientists, psychologists, archaeologists, you name it, it all came from Greece and every other country followed that; they wanted to make their country like Greece.”
Behrakis cares a lot about the Community’s youth. He said, “I think what is important is that we have to give this to our young people so they can see how successful the Greek Community in America was. Whether you come from Lowell or from Chicago, or Astoria, New York, or Atlanta, Georgia, Denver, Colorado, or Los Angeles, the Greeks have made a mark and we are very proud. We are a small Community but we have become very successful. Wanting to be our own bosses and becoming very important and working hard is what put the Greeks on the map here in America. Look, the Consul mentioned Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, Billirakis down in Florida; let us look all the other Greeks [in politics] like the Sarbanes family. Look at State Representatives and Senators all over the United States. We should be proud of them and support them. We have done very well. We have blended in with the culture here but we still maintained our roots, and our Faith, Greek Orthodoxy, and the Greek language. I think it is very important that the children continue to speak and understand Greek. Greek is a difficult language to learn but many words in English come from the Greek language. I am proud to be Greek, I am proud to be Greek-American.”