Monday 19 September 2016

Greek Immigrant Theodore Spako

"He came to America from a small Greek fishing village with twenty-five dollars in his pocket.  He settled in New Jersey.  Now 102 years old, he lives with his wife of seventy one years in upstate New York.  They have two daughters, four grandchildren and religious faith.  'Even now,' he says, 'I never miss a Sunday.'" 

Dancing in a Greek village circa 1920's courtesy

Theodore Spako grew up in a small Greek fishing village which had "good schools" and "outstanding churches".  When at 16, Theodore announced that he wanted to immigrate to America, his mother, having lost one son already, pleaded with him not to go.  Theodore was determined to go.  His father had tears in his eyes when he said goodbye to his son.  

In 1911, Theodore travelled in third class on the trans-Atlantic trip.  Aboard the Patris, he met a man named Gus and his father.  After 21 days at sea, the ship sailed into New York Harbor.  "What's the statue?" asked Gus.  His father answered:  "That's Christopher Columbus."  Theodore responded:  "Listen, this don't look like Christopher Columbus.  That's a lady there."

At Ellis Island, Theodore, Gus and his father joined the long queue of immigrants.  After their medical exam, Theodore noticed that both Gus and his father had an X marked on their backs in chalk.  Theodore asked if he also had an X on his back, but they said no.  He thought:  Somebody is going back to Greece; it's either Gus and his father or me.  "I just thank God....that I was admitted to the United States, that they didn't put a chalk mark on my back.'

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