During my recent long visit to Greece I thought about Theodore Salutos, the late Harvard professor, many times. He wrote two classic books on Hellenism in America: one titled “The Greeks in America” and the other “They Remember America” – The Story of the Repatriated Greek-Americans.
I thought of him as I met many Greek-Americans in different parts of Greece. Greek-Americans who when they heard of ‘Ethnikos Kirikas’ were ecstatic – people who, as they told me, had found their houses and businesses in the classified ads section of the newspaper. Expatriates who did not go home after work until they went to the newsstand to buy the Ethnikos Kirikas.
It is really impressive how many Greek-Americans live in Greece permanently. Greek-Americans who when they meet, feel a trust in each other, a brotherhood that connects them from the years they lived in America.
It’s too bad that they do not have a nationwide club or another form of organization.
And it is also striking that many of them hold key positions in the country’s economy.
They speak with nostalgia about the years they spent in America. With love. And with a dose of bitterness that they left. Many say they are thinking of returning – but for most, this road is closed – their age or other reasons no longer allow them.
The feelings of those described by Salutos are similar, although decades have passed since he did the research for his book.
Something similar, on the other hand, happens to those of us who immigrated to the United States or somewhere else in the world.
We leave, but in fact we never actually leave. “The city follows you,” as the poet Constantine Cavafy writes.
The years we lived in Greece, in incredible detail, remain indelibly stuck in our minds. Whatever happens to us, whatever we become, no matter how many years pass, we do not forget the slightest thing.
And yet, for some reason, we do not return for good. Mainly because in the meantime, we had families.
The Greeks who do not know a second homeland have a problem understanding us. They do not know how to handle us. On the one hand, some see us as saviors of the Nation and the rest… place us in a second category.
“How did you make your money?” they ask. “They live better,” they think. “They don’t kill themselves working like us,” they imagine.
Who knows who is right? Maybe both groups.
What is certain is that our interests are different.
Where Greece is concerned, we look at the big picture: the issues of national sovereignty, the course of the economy, investment, tourism.
They deal with everyday issues, which of course is largely understandable. Besides, we do something similar outside Greece.
However, there is a gap between us. A mentality gap. This makes it difficult for us to understand each other better.
It is also impressive, continuing with what I wrote above, that many of those I meet read both editions of the National Herald – of course, electronically.
This is tangible proof of how much the world has shrunk. Also, I believe that this fact will bring the Greek Diaspora and the Greeks of Greece closer together, because through our websites we contribute to better mutual understanding – or perhaps, to new mutual acquaintance – that can only benefit the Nation.