The Immigrant Experience: Coming to America 

February 17, 2020
Nick V. Economy

DECATUR, GA – I came to America at the age of 4 as a legal immigrant from Greece with my father, mother, brother, and sister in 1937. My father, at the age of 16, had immigrated to America through Ellis Island in 1907 and soon became a citizen which he considered an honor. He went to California and worked at odd jobs and finally for the railroad. Wanting to serve his country, he enlisted in the Army during World War I and in 1927 went back to Greece, got married and had a family.

Seeking a better life for his family, he brought us to America, landing on Thanksgiving Day in New York and after a few weeks arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. How appropriate it was to have landed in this Great Country on the day of Thanksgiving. One of the first actions he took soon after we landed was to have us apply for legal status and become citizens.

My father loved this country and all that it stood for, working hard to support his family. We lived on Central Avenue, just south of downtown Atlanta, and close to the Greek Orthodox Church where my father served as sexton. He was a kind and gentle man but a strict disciplinarian. Whenever I misbehaved, I soon discovered that a belt was more than just for holding your pants up. I guess I should be grateful that my father did not wear suspenders otherwise he would have hung me from the rafters.

I started working at age 8 and whatever I earned went to help support the family. When my brother and I became of age, my parents had no objections when we both decided to serve our country by joining the military. My brother John joined the Army, and I joined the Navy. I took it a step further and later served in the Marine Corps with the 4th Marine Division at the Naval Air Station in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

After I enlisted, my father took me to the Atlanta Terminal Station for my trip to the San Diego Naval Training Center. As the train pulled up at the loading platform, my father turned to me and slapped me. When I asked what that was for, he said it was a reminder for me to always be good. He then hugged me and kissed me goodbye. I must admit the slap had a lasting impression on me.

After my tour of duty I worked for the U.S. Government and retired after 42 years of service as the Director of Information Technology with the U.S. General Services Administration.

I applaud all hard-working immigrants who come to America for a better life and for the opportunities this country makes available to all of us. Immigrants, however, must earn the support and the loyalty that America has to offer and the way to do this is to enter legally and apply for citizenship. I did it and I love America for it.

I have been married for 59 years to Angel Chotas Economy and have three daughters, Cathy Hays Sinatra, Claire Hope Gilmore, and Anthea Vickey Economy, and three grandchildren, Jamie Walter Gilmore III, Sophie Hays, and Anna Gilmore. My wife is the niece of Nick D. Chotas, one of the founders of AHEPA and the first Supreme President of AHEPA.

Nick V. Economy, a naturalized U.S. citizen and resident of Decatur, Georgia, was born in a small village called Nedousa in the mountains outside of Kalamata.



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