My Grandfather's Story

By SSG

The Ganas family was at one time a part of the Greek aristocracy. Greece has traditionally been a democracy; an English style aristocracy never truly developed. Yet the Ganas family managed to control the local village by possessing the tools necessary for survival; the village mill and distillery. The family’s economic control naturally led to political power in the village of Tsamanda, in the region of Epiros in northern Greece. The village of Tsamanda was a small farming community. Each family possessed a farm and was relatively isolated; houses were often a half mile from the nearest neighbor. It was a farming village with distinct role for men and women. Women tended to the crops, garden, and household, while the men focused on hunting and herding sheep. The game in Epiros was abundant, and consisted primarily of wild boars, mountain goats, and birds.

The community activities were focused on the Greek Orthodox church, located near the center of the village. The church provided people a chance to gather together and celebrate. Attending services on Sunday not only demonstrated religious piety, it provided the villagers with companionship and a break from the monotonous farm work. In Greece all celebration was focused on the church; rather than celebrating a birthday, the Greeks would celebrate the feast day of the saint whose name you bore. Vacations and parties that were not sanctioned by the church simply did not exist. Music and entertainment was limited to the religious festivals where the villagers would sing traditional music, often accompanied by a bouzouki or other Greek instrument. Village life was very simple. The clothes worn were all homemade and were made of wool. Bread was the staple food, and a resonated wine called Retsina was the common drink. The houses were designed for a single family, and were built out of mud brick and stone. The house my grandfather grew up in had walls two meters thick; his grandfather had been a revolutionary in the fight for freedom against the Ottomans in 1908 and had designed the house to "stop Turkish musket balls". Life the in village was peaceful, however the villagers were among the most patriotic Greeks and actively fought against the Turks, Italians, Germans and communist invaders.

My Grandfather was born in 1929 and was baptized Spyridon Michael in the Greek Orthodox church. He had twelve brothers and sisters, four of whom survived into adulthood. His two brothers, Andrew and John, are still alive today. His brother Andrew now lives in Cape Cod, while John lives in the family manor in Tsamanda.

Life in the village was difficult for my grandfather. His father came to America in 1913 and spent 14 years here while his wife and family stayed in the village. After returning from America he began raising a family and became active in the local politics. My grandfather was raised primarily by his grandparents while his parents worked. His grandparents were very friendly, but very strict and religious people. They had him go to church every Sunday and always say grace at meals. While his grandparents were strict, his father was very liberal and was a good parent.My grandfather grew up in the village and attended school up to the six grade when his life drastically changed. In 1942 his grandfather died, and the Italians tried to invade northern Greece. My grandfather and his family traveled south to the city of Athens and lived there during World War 2. Following the war they moved back to the village, and the Greek civil war erupted. My great grandfather became a fighter for the republic, and was involved in numerous attacks on communist guerrillas. My grandfather became involved by becoming a message boy and carrying information between the local village militias. By 1947 the communist revolution had destroyed much of the village and had left my family with almost nothing.

By the time of the revolution my grandfather was in his twenties, and on December 12, 1948 he married my grandmother , Angela, after two years of courting. They had three children, and on December 24, 1955 they arrived at Ellis Island in New York City. The Greek civil war had left the nation bankrupt, so my grandfather brought his young family to Massachusetts, where he used his connections in the Greek community to find work at Table Talk bakery. Worcester had a large Greek population, and was the home of a large Greek orthodox cathedral. My grandparents continued to speak Greek, and slowly learned English from their children who attended public schools.

In America Greek life still focused on the family. After several years at the bakery, my grandfather worked at a small Greek owned pizza shop, and later opened his own restauran, which has been operated by the family for over 28 years. My grandfather recently retired from the family business, and stresses how important hard work and family is to being successful. I take a lot of pride in knowing how my family struggled to be successful and managed to survive. My grandfather has taught me the most important lesson of life; family and freedom and the only two things worth fighting for.

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