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Preservation of American Hellenic History
Helene Mavis (Nitsa) married Stanton Hugh Avitabile on 1 September 1956 while he was still a medical student. They had five children: Lynn, Scott, Keith, Bruce and Gregg. Helene lived the life of a wife, mother and community activist in Glastonbury Connecticut until April of 1978, when she suffered a brain hemorrhage and died at the age of 47. She is interred at the Coburn Cemetery in the small town of Sherman in western Connecticut.
Jason married Panayota Gianopoulos, Bette, on 3 September 1960, in California. They have two daughters, Demetra and Reveka Evangelia.
Lily lived to hold in her arms and bless all seven of her grandchildren. She and Jimmy left the brownstone on Ovington Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 1959. They moved to a newly built home in Demarest, New Jersey, only a few miles from Dr. DeTata and his family who lived in Closter, New Jersey.
Lily never fully reconciled herself to her move from Brooklyn. She died on 4 February 1967 at the age of sixty-two, succumbing after a second stroke; the result of the high blood pressure that plagued her throughout her life. Lily's internment at the Englewood Cemetery, Englewood, New Jersey was on 8 February 1967, after one of the most severe blizzards in New York City's recorded history. For the two days that her body was at the funeral home, snow drifts across the avenues in New York City were two and three feet high. Nonetheless, on each of two nights, with temperatures falling to ten below zero, more than one hundred visitors paid their respects, and more than one hundred attended her funeral service.
In 1968, seeking to renew himself, Jimmy returned to Greece for the first time, to Athens, to Kastoria and to his village of Mavrovo. In 1916, it had taken over thirty days including two weeks in a ship's steerage for him to reach New York City from his village. Fifty-two years later the trip from his home in New Jersey to his village lasted but eighteen hours. Almost every summer thereafter he flew to Athens and then to Kastoria where he drew strength from his homeland, and from visiting friends and relatives. After each visit to Greece, he said: "It gives me a lift!" One summer he had the joy of having Helene and his granddaughter, Lynn, accompany him.
In 1985 Bette, Reveka and I joined Dad on a three week driving tour that included Attica, Thessaly, Macedonia, Epirus, Acarnania, Corfu, and the Peloponnesos. We met for the first time members of the Mavrovitis family from Egypt including Myrto and Mischou Mavrovitis, Rena Mavrovitis, and their families; visited Kastoria and our family there; and were introduced to Bette's aunt and cousins in the village of Menolon, outside of the city of Tripolis. Her aunt, Thea Christitsa, and cousins Georgia and George Vasilopoulos, hosted a wonderful dinner for us in a small summer cottage in the middle of their farmland. Everything we ate was from their land, including the wheat in the bread that had been baked in an outdoor oven that morning.
Jimmy flew to California at least once each year to visit Jason, Bette, and his granddaughters, Demetra and Reveka. And he frequently drove to Connecticut to see his son-in-law, Stan and his grandchildren.
Jimmy died on 8 February 1989, at the age of eighty-eight. He had retired at sixty-five to be with Lily. After her passing he went back to work half time, taking pleasure in his contacts in the market, and from his frequent visits to see his nephews, Thanasi and Nick Mavrovitis, who he regarded almost as sons. The money he earned made travel possible, and for the first time in his life he was able to put some savings aside.
In the end, Jimmy joined the love of his life, Lily. Their grave is at the Brookside Cemetery, 425 Engle Street, Englewood, New Jersey on the right hand side of the east side circle.
Papou lived a long life, surviving Adela by almost thirty years. He died in a nursing home in Little Falls, New York in 1990, having lived there for more than ten years, close to his family from Italy. He was one hundred years of age.
Jason and his wife, Bette, live in Sonoma, California.
Third Class ship travel was the mass transportation of its day, designed specifically to bring hundreds of thousands of poor immigrants from Europe to the shores of the United States.
The following is a partially fictional but reasonable account of Eleni and Evangelia's journey to America.
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On a hot day in July of 1912, at the port of Piraeus, Eleni and Evangelia waited to board their ship to America. In a processing room next to the wharf where the S.S. Macedonia was being loaded they were given a rudimentary physical examination, for if found unhealthy at Ellis Island they would be shipped back to Greece at the ship owner's expense.
After the medical examination, Eleni and Evangelia were segregated into the Third Class Women's Group. Single men and women were separated into their respective gender groups, and married couples with or without children formed the third group.
Once on board, Eleni and Evangelia were taken down into the bottom of the ship, below the water line. There they found a large hold filled with bunks, three or four high, that had pseudo-mattresses of stretched canvass. A single blanket (no pillow) was on each bunk.
Eleni selected two bunks and crammed what few possessions they had into them, leaving enough room for them to stretch out to sleep.
The ship left its mooring and entered the Bay of Salamis in what was a gentle sea. Nonetheless, within a very few minutes, the ships motion, stale air, noise and fear nauseated several passengers. There was one communal toilette with no privacy. Slop buckets were provided for emergency use; elimination or nausea. There were no bathing facilities; only a cold water tap and sink.
Dank, cold moisture condensed on the bare metal hull of the ship.
Meals were self-served from huge tureens; generally stews made with the least expensive meats and vegetables. There were few stewards serving Third Class. But the ship owners had reason to feed the passengers well enough to assure their good health on arrival at Ellis Island.
Days passed. The ship left the Straits of Gibraltar behind and entered the Atlantic. Seas roughened. The noise of the hull as it ploughed through the water and the pounding of the engines and groan of the turn screws created such noise that sleep was almost impossible. There was no entertainment. The passengers played cards, sang songs, and if there were a musician on board with a clarinet or a bouzouki or mandolin, they might even have danced.
The smell of unwashed bodies, slop buckets, and vomit was near unbearable. On days that weather permitted, Eleni and Evangelia huddled close together on the Third Class deck and breathed fresh, cold sea air for the hour or two they were permitted the luxury.
After seventeen nightmarish days and nights, Eleni and Evangelia debarked at Ellis Island. Herded along through one processing station after another they were confused and fearful. Evangelia did not have enough money to buy rail tickets to St. Paul. Officials helped her send a telegram to Christos, who, in three days time, wired funds back to her at Ellis Island. Eleni purchased the railroad tickets, and with Evangelia was on her way, sitting up in a coach without any knowledge of the language, how to purchase food, or where she and Evangelia were going.
Eleni had never in her life seen so much land. The train rumbled past vast forested mountains in Pennsylvania, and miles of farmland in Indiana and Ohio. The rail yard in Chicago frightened them as their car was disconnected from one engine and connected to another for the trip across the plains of Wisconsin to Minnesota.
Three hard days passed before the conductor motioned for them to get off the train. They had arrived in St. Paul and found Christos waiting.
Ship owners made fortunes in Third Class passenger transportation until the immigration gates closed in the early 1920's. The ships were then either quickly converted to serve a new "Tourist" class with modest but far more comfortable accommodations than Third Class had been, or scrapped for the value of the metal remains.
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