Welcome back to our longest running and most popular series, featuring a Greek-American in Greece. This month, meet Entertainer, Maria Chryssanthi “Athena Marie” Frangos.
Q&A with Greek-American in Greece Maria Fragkou
Many Greek-Americans have returned to the motherland and are committed to stay. In this series, we’ve highlighted many Greek-Americans living in Greece, who are devoted to their adopted home. This time, let’s meet Maria Chryssanthi Frangkou, also known by her stage name, “Athena Marie”, who grew up in New Orleans.
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born and raised? Tell us about your time there.
Maria Frangkou: I was born in Rhodes Island. Rodos to be exact. My father was Greek and my mother is American. We left when I was almost one year old. I was raised in New Orleans, LA.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
MF: My father was born in Kos Island. In the 1950’s, his family migrated to Rhodes. Today, my family is spread between Rhodes, Kos, Athens, and Annavysos.
MAK: Talk a little about your Greek community connections in your town, prior to leaving.
MF: Like most Greek-Americans, I was enrolled in Saturday Greek school after returning from my first trip back to Greece at eight years old. When I wasa growing up, my father was mostly at sea, making it difficult to learn the language. However, now that live here my Greek is definitely getting much better. “Siga, siga” as we like to say here!
MAK: Do you still have family in the U.S.? Do you visit often?
MF: My mother’s family all resides in the South between Louisiana and Texas, due to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
MAK: Did you attend university in the U.S.? Tell us about you and your career.
MF: I studied Music Production for some time in my mid-twenties. However, since the age of 15, I have been a performing artist gaining experience within all aspects of the industry. From performance art, dance, to theater and film, my career in entertainment has allowed me to travel at times, doing what I absolutely love most.
MAK: When did you move to Greece? What precipitated the move?
MF: We had been living in Chicago for a couple of years. We went to Greece in August 2017, however we decided to stay in December. To be completely honest, I unfortunately had a terrible experience partnering with and producing for a brand new River North nightclub. As soon as I realized it had become a very hostile working environment I just knew it was time for something greater and that I deserved much better. I never allowed myself to be uncomfortable in any working environment, no matter how much money I was making. I knew it was finally time to pack a few bags and head to Greece not knowing what would lie ahead of us whatsoever. Also, I had a great deal of unfinished business to tend to as well since my father’s passing in late 2013. I was definitely distraught as to what had just happened in River North, but it was finally time for the next chapter. And, being able to raise our daughter in Rhodes meant that we could actually make a difference in all of our lives. The kind of difference I always longed for as a child.
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
MF: Living in Greece is obviously a dream come true for a Greek-American like me. The island life surrounded by the Aegean is indeed incomparable! Adjusting hasn’t been so bad as we dreamed of being here even before my father passed away. He would always say that we could make that move here all together once the “economy was better”. So for years, it kind of scared me to do so. Especially, since my dad was no longer with us. But what I’ve realized, is that it’s really what you make of your own life to be able to adapt to any place, in my opinion. For me, being a freelance artist allows me to go anywhere in the world. As such for my husband as well. However, we definitely miss our neighborhood in Rogers Park, right on the beach! What a ‘Great Lake’ Michigan is!
MAK: Tell us what kind of work you do. How’s it going?
MF: Currently, I am creating my own show concepts and putting them to life whenever I get the opportunity. I am a self-managed performance artist/producer and vocalist. I am blessed to say that I am living my dream, performing and producing unique entertainment right here in Greece!
MAK: Give a little perspective on being a Greek-American living in Greece.
MF: My biggest difficulty is not yet being fluent in Greek. I can say my line of work allows me to meet everyone here and it is indeed all in who you know.
MAK: With all the challenges, why do you stay in Greece?
MF: Rhodes is truly a wonderful place to raise a family. It’s very safe here. Not at all what I’m used to coming from cities like New Orleans and Chicago, unfortunately. There is indeed a certain quality of life found here by all, especially from ex-pats coming from much harsher environments.
This first year has been an amazing time getting to experience the changes of seasons and holidays here. I truly feel blessed that I made the right move last year after the upsetting experience I faced before leaving.
MAK: Why is it important for Greeks to stay, and work through it?
MF: In my opinion, everywhere in this world has its ups and downs. Especially, financially AND politically. You just can’t get away from these types of issues as we all know. You may be able to make more money in other countries, but you’ll certainly spend it all due to all the greater expenses you’ll accumulate. Being self-employed (on a highly touristic island) with a unique brand to sell allows me to be free. And I like it this way.
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
MF: To not listen to what you hear in the media about all Greeks being lazy as they are very hardworking, especially in the summer. Most work 10-11 hour days or more. In my opinion, the daily 2-hour siesta time you hear about only helps maintain a healthier mindset/lifestyle. Too many people around the world are severely overworked leading to many health problems.
MAK: What can Greeks outside of Greece do to promote Greece, and to help?
MF: To visit as often as possible and help spread the word about their beloved country and how beautiful and pure their country is. As it’s been said time and time again…we survive off of the tourism. And boy is it already in full swing again and it’s early in the season!
Meet another Greek-American in Greece soon!
Thank you to Maria Frangkou for sharing her story! Meet another Greek-American in Greece soon.