Queens College adjunct sociology lecturer Katerina Hantzandreou’s parents moved from Greece to Wilmington, Del., where her father’s siblings lived in the ’70s. Hantzandreou was born there, but in 1985 the family moved to Woodside in search of more opportunities and culture.
Those details, along with other questions like when she attended Greek school (age 6), if she likes Greek music (very much) and if she would live in Greece (no, but she’s not sure if she could live anywhere except New York City), are all documented in a bilingual interview as part of the first oral history project devoted to New York City’s Greek-American community.
“I am Greek ethnically,” Hantzandreou said at the launch of the Hellenic-American Oral History Project: Greek Americans, which she called “an important reflection on how much that affects you.” The event was held at Queens College on Thursday.
Two years ago sociology professor Nicholas Alexiou began collecting stories from Greek-Americans who left Greece between 1960 and 1980, the so-called “second wave,” and their children.
“The Hellenic-American Oral History Project promotes understanding of New York City’s Greek American community, capturing its transformation over time,” Alexiou said.
The first step of the project is a database of 23 interviews, data drawn from the U.S. Census and other surveys, maps reflecting the change of Greek immigrant settlement patterns, demographics and a historical overview of the Greek-immigration to the United States. The public information can be found at qc.cuny.edu/Academics/Degrees/DSS/Sociology/GreekOralHistory.
The second wave of immigrants didn’t leave Greece because of two world wars like past generations, but instead came to find opportunity they couldn’t find at home, Athenian Society of Astoria President Panos Adamopoulos said.
“There’s a sense of getting something we couldn’t in our homeland,” Panos said.
This second wave to New York City also spread farther than Astoria, home to the city’s biggest Greek population, to areas such as Whitestone and Bayside. But, Hantzandreou, whose family purposely decided to live outside Astoria in order to assimilate more into American culture, said they visit the neighborhood about three or four times a week.
The interviews also touch on what could be a third wave of Greek immigrants brought on by the country’s economic crisis and how they are being welcomed.