The history of Greek immigrants told in their own words is now live.
The Hellenic-American Oral History Project features 23 Greek immigrants who share their stories in both English and Greek. The videos tell the tales of Greek-Americans who left Greece between 1960 and 1980, known as “second wave” immigrants.
This second wave of immigrants actually changed the cultural landscape of Queens, as Astoria become home to the most Greeks outside of Athens.
The project at Queens College was funded with grant money from the Starvros Niarchos Foundation. The videos are available at www.qc.cuny.edu.
Nicholas Alexious, Queens College professor and director of the Hellenic-American Oral History Project, said that he came up with the idea about a year ago.
“They opened their heart, and that isn’t an easy thing,” he said, adding that their stories give continuity to the Greek community at a moment of transition.
Alexious said there is a gap that exists when it comes to the history of Greek immigration to the United States. Today, there are roughly 1.3 million people of Greek ancestry in the U.S. and about 178,000 of them in the New York City area.
Interviewees reflected a wide range of viewpoints and backgrounds to ensure that the stories and experiences tell a complete story. Alexious said he would like to add even more testimonials in the future if the funding can be found.
Katerina Hantzandreou, a sociology professor at Queens College, took part in the project.
Hantzandreou’s family immigrated from Greece in the 1970’s, landing in Delaware to live with family until they moved to New York City seeking more opportunities.
She said that immigrants from Greece are proud of their roots. Hantzandreou said that many of the Greek immigrants she knows and their children still speak Greek and attend a Greek-Orthodox church.
“This will affect all kinds of students because we all have an ethnic background and some people are raised to have a strong affiliation with their cultural background, and those who were not exposed to that might take it into consideration,” she said. “We should all be exposed to it and take pride in it.”