New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Petros Sarantakis, researcher and author of several books on Arcadia and other Greek destinations, is back in his ancestral home in the village of Kerasia, Arcadia, in the Peloponnesos, to resume work on his study, “Arcadian Immigration to America”, made possible by an additional two-year grant from the Pan Arcadian Federation of America.
Mr. Sarantakis presented a slide lecture of selected parts of the study at the Greek Press Office in New York on December 4. He expressed great appreciation for Arcadian support for the project and for the warm reception he received in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Stanford, Boston, Lowell and New York.
The occasion was also a cause for celebration, first because a huge slice of Arcadian history will be made known to the public in the to-be-published book of the finished project, and second that the Pan Arcadians have showed such solidarity in awarding what has now become a four-year grant that enables Mr. Sarantakis to collect even more material from Arcadians in this country.
But the most important part of the presentation, said Sarantakis, was his appeal to Arcadians and their organizations in the U.S. to locate more historical materials and mementos such as pictures, letters and publications to enrich and complete the study.
Arcadians, your photos and other collections are crucial to our recorded history. As we all know, any delay at all in the collection of materials will yield a less significant result; there is no time to lose.
Some numbers regarding the extent of Sarantakis’ research under the first two-year grant: Sarantakis visited 279 places and met with an approximately 700 appropriate Arcadian contacts who gave him “the best of their recollections”; elderly villagers were of especial interest. He has had telephone communications with 283 more individuals who were very important to his research: current or former presidents or secretaries of the parochial councils of villages, presidents or members of the board from cultural or fraternal organizations in Athens or in Arcadia, mayors, pastors, educators, authors of local books and editors of Arcadian newspapers. These individuals were very important along with all those who have written and recorded moments from the Arcadian immigration in various journals Arcadian and not. His research has also involved studying 170 local books, another 130 of general Arcadian interest, and 58 newspapers, periodicals and journals.
Noting just a few of Sarantakis’ 61 slides of people, places, and events significant in his study, including Arcadians and Arcadian descendants who have distinguished themselves in public life, business, and academia, a beginning slide was about “the first Greek immigrant to disembark in Florida in April 1528”, the adventurer and explorer Theodoros Greco, said to have been Arcadian. Sarantakis playfully mused that perhaps Greco came from the ancient lineage of Evandros the sovereign of Palladium (1300 B.C.), or of Agapinor, king of Tegea, who colonized Paphos, Cyprus upon his return from the Trojan War.
Theodoros Greco’s story in the New World isn’t known, but the first recorded Arcadian pioneer immigrants to America were Constantine Kanellos from Partheni, who went to Lorrain, Ohio in 1865 and Vasilios Saltouros, from Kollines, who reached California in 1876, said Sarantakis. Records were also found of the following pioneer immigrants at the beginning of 1880’s: In 1881 Dimitris Antzaklis, Christos Bouzianis and Petros Jovanis, left their village of Kosmas Kynourias, to begin a new life in America. The two later ones went to the State of Idaho, while there are no records of the first one. In 1885 Vassilios Argyropoulos from Dara emigrated to Chicago, Panagiotis Bouzianis from Tripolis emigrated to America but it is not known where he settled, while in 1886, Aristeidis Sourlas from Vlahokerasia was one of the first Arcadian immigrants to Pittsburgh.
A series of photos revolved around the topic of Arcadians in the U.S. who, inspired by their “nostalgia for their ancestral homeland and their boundless love for everything Hellenic”, donated their village properties to the local community, parish or school for construction of public works and established endowments or foundations for the benefit of the public.” This sentiment is poignantly echoed in the living will of a Tsitalia-born New Yorker, Christos Sarris from 1949,,, which reads, “Due to the fact that our motherland is facing great difficulties and is not able to cover the needs of our Nation, we the Hellenes living abroad, shall do our utmost to support Greece. I have decided to offer my house to our community council of Tsitalia, to the benefit of our local school”.
Noting that churches are at “the epicenter of the Arcadians of America benevolent activity in their patrida,” Sarantakis said, listing a series of parish churches and their bell towers, cemetery churches, and a large number of small chapels in the countryside (many dedicated to St. Nicholaos, protector of sailors, who looked after them during their long transatlantic journey). Some of the largest and more elegant parish churches in several villages have been built by Arcadian immigrants, he said.
According to records found, the Arcadians of America constructed a total of 94 schools in Arcadia to further the education of the local students. “With the exception, perhaps, of Epirus, I don’t believe there is any other region of Greece that has benefited more than our beloved Arcadia by its own Diaspora… Not even the smallest village of Arcadia and almost no family was without at least one its members to have immigrated to America and the vast majority had benefited from their care.”
Discussing the first and second waves of immigration from Greece in some of the photos. Sarantakis said, “The first Arcadian immigrants, hard-workers used to the harsh conditions at the Arcadian countryside originally settled to the Midwestern States, particularly in Nebraska, moving gradually to the West in states such as Colorado, Utah, Nevada and, finally, California, where they worked for South Pacific laying thousands of miles of the legendary railroad tracks connecting Chicago and San Francisco. Others worked hard at the mines,” said Sarantakis, about photo 15, and for photo 16, “A large number of immigrants from Arcadia settled at the large industrial centers, working hard under very harsh conditions at factories in Lowell, Lynn, and Ipswich Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan. However, a great number of Arcadian immigrants remained at the industrial centers of the U.S. North, especially in Chicago, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Pa and some smaller cities such as Canton, Youngstown and Akron, Oh, and Gary, Indiana…. “
During this second phase of his study, said Sarantakis, “The research should be spread to all 330 villages and outposts of Arcadia and to expand to the 150 years of Arcadian immigration to America and the equal years of contributions of our compatriots to their motherland”.