One of my first visits, shortly after I took over the responsibility for the (Greek language) newspaper 36 years ago, was to meet the author Theano Margari of blessed memory, in Chicago.
Theano wrote – and continued to write until her death – her column “Letter from Chicago” for Eθνικός Κήρυξ (Ethnikos keryx) weekend edition , a column that I read faithfully as a student – my late father used to bring the paper home.
At the time there were many Hellenes and Greek establishments on Halsted Street. I was impressed by the number of restaurants there were. A little further down, on the main street of the area, were the offices of the National Bank of Greece …
The great writer lived near Halsted Street.
I was greeted at the door by an upright, proud, independent, open-minded woman who been through a lot in her life – she was a native of Asia Minor.
“I’ve been waiting to meet you. You’re very young and you have assumed a heavy responsibility,” she said. I was about to tell her something, but she interrupted me: “And remember, Greeks do not read books, or newspapers.”
“Look at what’s going on with my books. How many have been sold? The minimum. I do not expect to live off them, but I want to people to learn…”
She was a great writer. Among the best in the history of the Diaspora.
There is a paradox – for me which I have not yet managed to answer even though so many years have passed. Something which comes back more intensely to my mind every time I visit Chicago:
How come with so many dynamic Hellenes, with many communities and societies, and many prominent Greeks, there is no daily Greek newspaper in Chicago that would unite, stimulate the community as a group, promote the language and religion and help preserve our identity?
Eθνικός Κήρυξ (Ethnikos keryx) of course arrives there, by mail and in recent years through the Internet. And I thank the readers – and there were many – who came up to me welcome me to their city and praise our work.
Unfortunately despite my efforts, I have not locate someone who could be our Greek-language correspondent there , although Anthe Mitrakos does a fine job for our English edition.
It is also striking that some of the biggest names in the community live in Chicago and not for example in New York:
In addition to Margari, there is the author Harry Mark Petrakis; also the writer Helen Papanikolas, John Calamos, Christos Tomaras, and until recently, Theodore Spyropoulos and Andy A. Athens.
In fact, I do not think it’s a coincidence that the only Greek American Museum is in Chicago.
So what is going on?