Greek-American Stories: Father’s Day Remembered

June 17, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

A father should be every daughter’s hero.He should be persevering, affectionate and know a thing or two.That about describes my father.I know I’ve written about him before but as Father’s Day approaches, I’m grateful for one more opportunity to write a tribute to him.

I recall so many things he’d taught me, like Ancient Greek myths, proverbs, tale of Greek heroes, history and politics.I was the only kid in fifth grade who knew the name of Alexander the Great’s horse when a teacher challenged the class.I asked him why his passport stated he was Italian.He explained that Italy occupied the Dodecanese Islands because Turkey sided with the enemies in WWI.So, they had to give up an area they owned.But, they gained their independence in 1945 when Italy sided with the enemies in WWII.He was proud of his aunt, Antigoni Zouroudis, who fought for that independence.She set up schools where the children learned Greek instead of Italian; she tore down the Italian flag and raised the Greek flag and went to jail for it.

Papa went fishing in the Long Island sound, brought by porgies and flounders.He once joined friends to go hunting in upstate New York until, one day he brought back a large, beautiful, brown and white dead rabbit.I felt shock at the bullet hole, petted it, spoke to it and cried, bitter tears.My father never went hunting again.

For a time he gather certain materials, bringing them to his apartment in upper Manhattan where he lived for over sixty years.He meticulously carved a ship, thirty inches long, melted tin cans to form an anchor, strung up the ropes for the mast, shaped the pieces that formed the loading hulls and painted the sides of the ship that was a replica of his father’s ship.His father, Nichola Zouroudis, was Captain and owner of the Evangelistra, a two mast ship that traveled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea taking and bringing cargo.He was the only captain in the islands with a diploma.That model ship has a place of honor in my home and I feel special bond with it.One day it will have a place in the museum in Simi.Pap was, through that hobby, reliving his former life of family and wealth before coming to America.

Papa played the guitar, sang, painted beautiful canvases in oil and earned three medals for excellence in amateur wrestling. He was also a sergeant in the National Guard.He dressed well, earning the nickname, “Lordos” from his many friends.He loved animals, particularly cats, and told me loving stories about his childhood pet lamb, Arnali, who’d wait outside of school for him; they’d go swimming together, sleep together and spent endless hours playing together.When Arnali grew small horns, papa painted them gold.But when his father died suddenly, financial matters ended their wealthy life style.An uncle, a much disliked member of the family, put an ugly end to Arnali.Then, he questioned which brother would go to America.Recalling Arnali, papa happily volunteered before his older brothers.He was just fifteen years old.

Papa and I were much alike in many ways.I too paint oils on canvas, appreciate nature and love animals. I like to walk great distances, create things, be with my kids and grandkids and talk with friends near and far.I discuss history and politics with close friends and family.But, I wish I could hear him tell me stories once again.Story time was family tie for me.I feel deep satisfaction and happiness watching my sons-in-law being fatherly to their children, my grandkids.I am writing this hoping you all cherish your families every day, not just on holidays.Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there who love who they are, love family time together, make every moment with their daughters and sons glad they have a father.


A number of friends and colleagues who are intensely interested in Middle Eastern matters took issue with my National Herald article (‘Middle East History’, May 18, 2024), arguing that Israel is a colonial enterprise that has failed to integrate into the Middle East, like the Crusader states of yore.

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