It’s time for the next installment in a series of Q&A with Greek-Americans living in Greece. This time, we caught up with Chicago Native Anna Goritsa.
Meet Anna Goritsa
We’re having so much fun profiling Greek-Americans living in Greece, and sharing their stories about why they moved to Greece, what they’re doing, and why they stay. Let’s meet Anna Goritsa!
Maria A. Karamitsos: Tell us about your time in Chicago.
Anna Goritsa: I grew up on the Northwest side. I’m an alumna of Socrates School. My parents owned a diner at Harlem and Foster. They both worked very hard to provide for our future. What amazed me about my late father was that, although he immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 and moved to the Chicago when he was 25, he never forgot his roots. He was a strong believer in πατρίς, θρησκεία, οικογένεια – country, religion, and family. My brothers and I grew up proud of our Greek-American heritage, believing in God and supporting not only our family but also our community.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
AG: Peloponnese: My late father was born in a village in Prosymna in Argolis. My mother was born in Makrisia, near Ancient Olympia.
MAK: Tell us about your Greek community connections in Chicago, prior to leaving.
AG: At Socrates School, where I interacted daily with other Greek-American children and teachers. There, many lifelong friendships were formed. As a teenager and adult, I continued to be active in the Greek-American community especially within Holy Trinity’s activities and groups — GOYA and YAL. I was a member of various Hellenic clubs within the greater Chicago area.
MAK: Did you attend university in the US?
AG: I studied at DePaul University, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., and University of Illinois-Chicago. I studied political science until I discovered that I love travelling. In fact, prior to moving to Greece I worked for United Airlines which was the beginning of a 25-year career in the event-travel business.
MAK: Do you still have family in Chicago? Do you visit often?
AG: My mother, brothers, relatives, and most of my lifelong friends still live in Chicago. I also have relatives scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada. We try to visit every 3-4 years.
MAK: When did you move to Greece? What precipitated the move?
AG: I moved to Athens on June 10, 1997 to marry my husband, who was from Greece. I’ve lived in Athens ever since. We have 2 beautiful boys, ages 19 and 11.
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
AG: Living in Greece was a dream come true! I always wanted to live here. Nothing beats the weather, of course, and there is nothing like waking up in the morning and having Kyrio Kosta (a neighbor) saying kalimera — good morning — to you leave the building. My neighborhood remains a yeitonia where everyone knows your name.. They’re glad to see you and worry when they don’t.
Also, getting away is so much easier than what it is Chicago. In 15 minutes I can be down at Faliros beach, in 10 minutes I can hike up Ymmitos Mountain, in 5 minutes I can walk to the Kallimarmaro Stadium. I can go on and on about why I love living here. But, in every “life changing” decision or move, adjusting can be very difficult — especially when you’re living in Greece as a native and not as a tourist!
When I stopped comparing my life in the USA with my “reality” in Greece life became easier. Number one survival quote when you move ANYWHERE in the world is:
“If you can’t beat them, join them….”
MAK: Give some perspective on being a Greek-American living in Greece.
AG: When I first moved here, I was the “Americana” in my neighborhood until many realized that I am more of a Hellene than they were. The great thing is that the Greek-American — or I should say the Greek “something” — community here is amazing!
I’m an active member of many Greek-American organizations. I do volunteer work to help/support many Greeks who are in need, particularly now that we are in a recession. The U.S. Embassy in Athens hosts many local events to unite the American community in Greece.
MAK: What kind of work you do? How’s it going?
AG: My passion is promoting Greece, and I have been doing that since I’ve been here. I’m an event/travel consultant with extensive experience in airline travel, event management, logistics of meetings and corporate fields. As an independent entrepreneur in Greece, I’ve had the privilege of working with multinational companies and with the biggest names in the entertainment and political scene in Greece and the Balkans. In 2004, during the Athens Olympics, I was honored to work with an amazing international team and company, and be actively involved in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Unfortunately, since the crisis, events coming in from abroad are scarce. The travel industry here in Greece may show a constant rise, however, what actually pays the bills and helps the local economy are events, meetings, and conferences. The great thing is that many international companies still believe in Greece’s potential. Presently, I am cooperating with one of those companies. It’s US-based, and affiliated in the health and wellness sector in Greece. I consult groups of individuals, team leaders, and independent entrepreneurs on how to develop their potential by improving their health, nutritional habits, and mindset, which in turn betters their personal and professional lives.
MAK: With all the challenges, why do you stay in Greece?
AG: Good question. No one can argue that the quality of life in Greece is better and healthier than anywhere else in the world. Yet, we do face many challenges. Many of us have lost our jobs; paychecks have shrunk and surviving here day-by-day is very challenging. It’s an ongoing battle. I consistently look for ways to better our lives in Greece, and the consulting work I’m doing has helped tremendously to improve my health and mindset. On the one hand, I want my sons to return to North America because I believe their potential and options here are limited. On the other hand, I’m optimistic and I believe that opportunities do exist during trying times. However, even if our children leave for better opportunities or jobs abroad, as parents we should pave the way for them to return and help their homeland.
MAK: Why is it important for Greeks to stay, and work through it?
AG: The socio-economic crisis here, unfortunately, has forced young, educated Greeks to leave in search of a better future. For others, the idea to emigrate is not an option. For many of us who do have the option, we believe that we cannot “surrender” to these trying times. We must fight for the country that has given so much to the world. We must never turn our backs on our history because history reminds us of our roots and our resilience as a people.
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
AG: GREEKS ARE NOT LAZY! I become very angry when I read posts or articles stating how the average Greek is lazy. The statistics prove that the average Greek works longer hours for less than the average European. The Greeks are resilient and have managed to pull through war, hunger, and foreign occupation so they will manage to pull through this crisis as well. It’s only a matter of time. We are philoxenoi — hospitable, generous, and welcoming to all. That’s what makes tourists return year after year.
MAK: What can Greeks outside of Greece do to promote Greece, and to help?
AG: Here are some ways Greeks of the diaspora can promote Greece:
- Hellenization: educate our children and other citizens of the world about our history, culture and language.
- Food and drink: promote Greek products by holding a party with your pappou‘s olive oil or wine, and the ever popular Greek yogurt.
- Congresses and conferences: hold your next company trip or conference in Greece and hire a local agency to organize it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: Remain proud of our Hellenic Heritage.
Until next time…
We hope you enjoyed meeting Anna Goritsa. We’ll introduce you to another Greek-American in Greece soon.
Connect with Anna Goritsa: Email, Facebook, Eye on Success Forever, LinkedIn
Meet other Greek-Americans living in Greece: