CHICAGO, IL – Renowned author Nicholas Gage presented his emotion-filled experiences as a Greek immigrant in a moving lecture titled “A Writer’s Odyssey” in June before some 100 guests at the National Hellenic Museum in the Chicago’s historic Greektown.
A writer, investigative reporter, film producer, and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Associated Press, Gage, born Nicholaos Gatzogiannis, recounted his life’s journey escaping in 1949 from his communist-occupied village in Northern Greece, all the way to America, where he grew up to become a respected journalist.
His bestselling book Eleni (1983) delves into the author’s memories of WWII Greece, and touches on the bleak consequences of the Greek Civil War, during which more than 28,000 Greek children were separated from their parents and shipped to communist countries.
A compelling and intense narrative based on a personal account, Gage in Eleni brings to light the story of his mother who was tortured and executed for arranging the escape of her children (including Gage himself) from the village of Lia, and how decades later as an adult, Gage used his investigative reporting skills to hunt down and face those responsible for her death.
Of all his accomplishments, it is the celebration of his mother’s life he is most proud of, Gage said in an interview with TNH. “[Eleni] had the greatest impact on me, most of all because it tells the story of a courageous woman who represents what Greek women have done for centuries without any acknowledgement, and that is to struggle and sacrifice for their families,” he said. “I am proud to have written that work and honor my mother’s sacrifice, and through this, honor Greek women throughout the ages,” added Gage.
Eleni received the top literary prize from the Royal Society of Literature of Great Britain in 1984, was nominated for best biography by the National Book Critics Circle, and has been translated to 36 languages.
Following Eleni, Gage in his autobiographical memoir A Place for Us (1989) recounts in a touching saga, his family’s experiences as immigrants to America in the 1950s. A mix of humor, anger, and passion, this book is a testament to the hardworking spirit and determination of Greek immigrants taking the chance on a better life away from home. His latest book, Greek Fire (2000) is a dual biography of opera singer Maria Callas and her love affair with shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, in which the author brings to light startling revelations based on Callas’ private memoirs.
Aside from writing and investigative reporting, Gage has co-produced the film rendition of Eleni (1985) featuring John Malkovich as Gage, and has served as co-Executive Producer of The Godfather Part III, which was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
Gage today maintains his connection to Greece, noting that he and his three children are registered to vote in the village of Lia, the very place where his life experiences began. “I’m very strongly bound to Greece…I have many friends there,” said Gage, who visits the country three to four times a year. “I’ve worked very hard to promote Greek national issues here in Washington and to really promote the Greek achievements throughout history. Very few peoples have accomplished what the Greek people have accomplished and I think there are few places in the world that are as beautiful as Greece,” he added.
For Gage, preserving Hellenism in America is a significant undertaking by Greek immigrants, whose stories are on display at the National Hellenic Museum through a small collection of exhibited documents and items.
“I’m a big supporter of the museum…it’s something that does not exist elsewhere and it should be supported by all Greek Americans” Gage told TNH of his visit to the NHM. “I think there’s a lot more that can be done but I think they’re on the right track.”
Gage’s lecture was followed by a book signing for guests. The event was attended by His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of the Metropolis of Chicago, Calamos Investments CEO and NHM Chairman John Calamos Sr., NHM President Connie Mourtoupalas, Chairman of the National Hellenic Society George Marcus, Trustee for the NHM and the NHS Dr. George Korkos, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Society Art Dimopoulos, PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation Chairman Chris P. Tomaras, and Eirini Pentzaropoulou of the Consul General of Greece, among others.
Though his stay in the Windy City was short, Gage was pleased to visit. “I’m very fond of Chicago,” the writer said. “I was very wonderfully received and it was a delightful experience to go there,” he added.
A recipient of five honorary degrees including a 1985 doctorate from Boston University, where he established a scholarship fund in memory of his mother, Gage is an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and serves as president of the Pan-Epirotic Federation. Father to Christos, Eleni, and Marina, Gage and his wife Joan live in North Grafton, MA.