George Malamos and his sister and two brothers are 2nd generation Greek-Americans. He was born Pensacola, Florida; his grandfather immigrated to America in 1904.
Living the full Diaspora experience – Greek school, Greek Orthodox Church, etc. – ‘OXI Day’ was part of his life, but first only as a holiday.
“There was always a luncheon after Church in the Annunciation of Pensacola, but I didn’t know what it was all about”
When he was 14, however, the chance to celebrate in Greece caused him to realize that the Greeks did something special after October 28, 1940.
“I went to the parade in Volos, and I saw all the flags and the students, and the soldiers” – there might have been a tank to impress him too.
“The atmosphere, the enthusiasm of the people caused me to feel the same way and then I learned the actual story after starting to ask myself questions while I was in Greece: “What is this about? Why do they call it OXI?”
He searched and learned about the history of Greece’s WWII triumphs and travails, from the Italian Ambassador’s ultimatum that was rejected by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, hence the ‘OXI – No!’ to the fierce Greek resistance that pushed the Italian invaders back into Albania – ultimately wrecking Hitler’s plans for the invasion of Russia, constituting a turning point in WWII.
“When I returned to States I wanted to continue to learn and to help celebrate this holiday about Greece. By the time I was 17 I read some books about the full significance of the OXI. The Greek resistance was one of the bricks in the wall that stopped Hitler.”
He was also impressed to learn that the heroism in Greece turned around public perceptions of the humble Greek immigrant. He learned as well about endeavors like the massive AHEPA war bonds fundraising efforts.
Malamos noted the importance of the bond campaign even for Greece itself. “After the war, Greece was devastated, but the Americans recognized what the Greek people did, and the importance of the role Greece played when other countries in Europe just put down the guns and let the invaders walk in. That appreciation prompted America to help Greece through the Marshall Plan and the grants of “the blessed Liberty Ships” that rebuilt the Greek merchant fleet.
The pride and reverence generated by his ‘OXI Day’ enlightenment, and the sacrifices of those Hellenes before he was born helped shape Malamos’ life, and AHEPA was a powerful vehicle for expressing his Hellenism and philanthropy.
At one point, he decided to be more active in AHEPA. “I reached an age where I began to see things in a new light. The United States gave everything to my grandfather, my father, and my self…and I wanted to give back to the community, first in the States, and now in Greece.”
Malamos was part of the team led by Nick Gavalas who rebuilt Daphne, Chapter 296 and eventually became its president. He is proud that Chapter 296 restored the parish’s Greek school, and he led the effort to build the AHEPA Housing Daphne #296 senior citizens complex. “I had to apply for the permits three times,” he said, but he did not give up – he also made substantial financial contributions and supervised the construction every day after work.
After full life in America and a successful career as a mechanical engineer he moved to Greece in 2012, acting on his philosophy that “you go through life, you get your degrees and jobs, you make your money, you get married and have kids, but then truly you want to enjoy life, because money is not everything. But when I came here, I didn’t want to drop my arms at my side and just retire, I wanted to help build a new Greece.”
“I recognize the importance of AHEPA and what they did for the immigrants in the States, but there are different challenges here,” that the AHEPA spirit and ethos could address, “the national problems, the Turkish threat, the economy, energy.”
He is committed to finding the best way to get the Diaspora to help.
He joined and rose to become president of one of the more dynamic AHEPA chapters in Greece, Solon #4 in Halandri, and now also serves as the Director of Greece-America Relations for Greece, AHEPA District 25.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an important part of his vision for Greece, and he helps them enter the American market.
He also wants to help young Greek professionals look at life a little differently, “to see the future from a different perspective, and to benefit from American values.” Malamos also is working to support their educational and professional pursuits through mentoring and scholarships, “because they are the future of Greece.”
The NAI!, YES! of a New Greece the Diaspora can help build.