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Politics

Diana Demoulas Merriam Speaks about Her Greek Roots and Giving Back

April 21, 2019
Yannis Sofianos

IPSWICH, MA – At the beginning of the 20th century, circa 1914, a Greek couple left behind their country in search of opportunities and a better future, taking the difficult road of immigration.

Athanasios (Arthur) Demoulas and his wife Efrosine (nee Souleimanie) immigrated to the U.S., not knowing, like tens of thousands of Greeks, very much about this new land.

Only they could share the story of what they went through, all the hard work, in order to raise their family and to achieve success in business.

They also never forgot Greece. Their children and grandchildren have also maintained unbroken ties with their place of origin, Kalambaka, and continue the family tradition of contributing to the homeland.

Diana Demoulas Merriam, a granddaughter of Athanasios and Efrosine, was recently featured by local media, as the donor and soul of the Kalambaka Library.

The National Herald reached out to Trikalakids.gr journalist Eleni Holeva and contacted Demoulas Merriam for an interview to further expand on her vision for Kalambaka Library and to share her family’s history.

TNH: Tell us about your family and how they came to the United States.

Diana Demoulas Merriam: My grandparents, Athanasios Demoulas and Efrosine Souleimanie were born in Kalambaka, Greece. My grandparents left around 1914 to go to the United States.

They settled in Dracut, Massachusetts and raised their family. They had six children, John, George, Fotene, Telemachus, Ann, and Evangelos. My grandfather Athanasios opened a small business in Lowell, selling lamb, Greek sausages, and other items he had from the farm they lived on.

When my grandmother left to go to the United States, she left behind her three sisters and one brother. Today, I have many second and third cousins whom I see regularly when I travel to Kalambaka.

TNH: When was the first time you visited Greece?

DDM: The first time I came to Greece was in 1971 with my family; my father, George, my mother, Evanthea, and my siblings, Fotene, Evan, and Arthur. While in Athens my father George Demoulas tragically passed away on June 27th, and we returned to the U.S. I did return to Greece and went to Kalambaka with my husband Peter, and our four children, Stefan, Nicholas, Evan, and Danielle in 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2015 when the library opened its doors on July 19, which would have been my father’s 96th birthday.

TNH: What was your family’s occupation in the U.S. in the first years and when do you remember your father telling you about his birthplace and the way he tried to contribute to his homeland?

DDM: My father’s occupation was in the supermarket business. He and his brother took over the small business from their father and built a very successful supermarket chain.

Over the years, my father visited Greece many times, and my grandmother’s brother Christos Souleimanie came to the United States as well. My siblings and I always heard stories about Kalambaka and the work my father was doing there. He helped build the High School and St. Vissarion Church.

TNH: What are you currently working on in the U.S.? What made you decide to donate to Kalambaka?

DDM: My husband and I currently own a wine business. I spend most of my time working with different Philanthropic charities. I decided to donate the library to Kalambaka because of the close family ties I have to that area.

TNH: Tell us a few things about the Kalambaka Library. What is your vision for it?

DDM: My Vision for the Kalambaka Library has always been to offer Education, Access, and Opportunity to all. We continually offer workshops, seminars, and presentations during the year. Schools from the surrounding regions visit the Library to hold classes, tour the library, and acquaint themselves with the various technologies we offer. Public speakers offer information, ideas, and expertise on various topics.

We held 15 such speeches in 2018 with 330 overall attendants. The workshops provide children with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education and skills based on elementary robotics. We offer IT workshops to adults and senior citizens and farmers with basic or no computer skills, along with instruction modules on Internet Communication, Electronic Transactions, Job/Career, Portable Devices and Safe Use of the internet. The library offers classes in English and Russian, as well as book clubs.

We have current and future collaborations as well. One of my favorite is our collaboration with the Trikala Police Department. In the summer of 2018, the Library and the Trikala Police Department agreed to deliver books to the surrounding villages. Books chosen by the library or ordered by the public are transported in police vehicles for distribution to village schools. The library collaborated with the Rousanou Monastery and the National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Foundation to embark on the project of “Digitization, management and cataloging of the collection of manuscripts of the Holy Monastery of Rousanou.”

This project is representative of our support for Greek Culture and tradition, and contributes to the preservation and worldwide dissemination of the Hellenic heritage. In 2018 the Library launched a partnership with the American Farm School in Thessaloniki to develop and deliver an educational and counseling program aimed at farmers in the wider region. Thirty sheep and cattle breeders with selected for free training which ran for six months.

TNH: In what other areas would you like to contribute to the local community and Greece in general?

DDM: I believe the library will continue to look for programs to enrich the lives of the community.

TNH: What sparked your interest in wine and cooking? Does your Greek heritage played a role in it? What do you think when you hear the word “filoxenia” (hospitality)?

DDM: My love for cooking and wine started when my husband and I were on our honeymoon in France in 1982. We enjoy entertaining friends and family all year long, and, of course, my Greek heritage plays an important role in my life.

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