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Immigrant Stories Today: From Mytilini to the USA, Due to the Crisis

ATHENS – Born and raised in Mytilini, Lesvos, to an American mother and a Greek father, Milteva Andonellis is one of those forced to leave Greece in the midst of the severe financial crisis that hit the country years ago. It was in 2011 when her family, for financial reasons, was going to follow ‘Plan B’ and move to the other side of the Atlantic.

Her American mother had met her father in Ohio and in 1992 she made the big decision to move to Greece and build her life there. As for herself, Milteva notes that during the years she was growing up in Mytilini, there was the – particularly useful, as it turned out later – inviolable rule that only English was spoken at home. In addition, the connection to America was not lacking as over the years she had traveled several times to her mother’s birthplace.

As for the big decision to immigrate to the United States, Milteva explained that it was her parents who decided in 2011 to move as a family. Until then, her father ran a cheese factory on the island of Lesvos and when the crisis started in Greece, he was forced to close it, leaving him without a job. The United States was probably the family’s almost always ‘Plan B’ option which due to circumstances was to be activated in the early 2010s.

Milteva Andonellis. Photo: Courtesy of Milteva Andonellis

“I had just finished the first year of high school and I didn’t take the news so well. I had grown up in Greece all my life. I had family, friends, and plans for the future and now I had to pack my whole life into a suitcase. I didn’t even know when I would be back. After I moved, it took me several years to adjust,” she confessed.

Today, Milteva works as a lawyer in Chicago.

“My parents and I originally moved to the state of New Hampshire when my father got a job. Then I went to university in New Hampshire, and in my third year I decided to study abroad (something like Erasmus). That’s where I met Jay, my boyfriend from Chicago. After a few years together long distance, I moved,” she said, briefly recounting her own life journey in the United States.

She commented that she likes Chicago very much “not only because it has life and lots of restaurants, bars, etc. but because it has a huge lake.”

“It is so big that you can only see the horizon, and it reminds me a lot of the Aegean,” she noted.

Milteva Andonellis and her boyfriend Jay. Photo: Courtesy of Milteva Andonellis

In fact, regarding the Greek community of Chicago and her related contacts with her compatriots, Milteva noted that she goes to the Greek church and volunteers in the Philoptochos. At the same time, she participates in the Hellenic Bar Association, as well as in The Hellenic Initiative (THI). Indicatively, she also mentioned that on March 25, she is going to help organize a reception at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.

Finally, when asked if she has ever thought about what her life would be like if she had not left for America, Milteva answered: “Yes, I thought about it often, especially at the beginning. But now I’ve built my life in Chicago, and I don’t think about it as often. I’ve thought about moving back in the future, but for now it’s enough for me to go back every summer.”

Milteva Andonellis, member of the Hellenic Bar Association. Photo: Courtesy of Milteva Andonellis

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