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Plaque marks Greeks’ arrival in Canada January 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.

The first Greeks arrived in London, Canada in 1900, fleeing the poverty of their homeland.

By 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, they officially organized as the Greek Orthodox Community.

Yesterday, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best helped unveil a plaque at city hall that marks the 106 years Greeks have lived in London, and the 71 years, to the day, since they organized.

“London is our home, and thank God for the people who came before us who organized the community. Our transition would have been much more difficult if they hadn’t,” said James Giannoulis, president of London’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community.

Giannoulis came to Canada with his mother when he was 16. His father and sister came before to help Giannoulis’s widowed aunt with four children.

“We really love this city. We grew up here, our homes are here, we had children here, our businesses, we got our education in London. It’s home. “Thank you to the pioneers . . . they made it easier to transition to the Canadian way of life.”

The Greek community in London can trace its origins back to a single settler in 1900, Peter Karkambasis, who came to Canada because of “poverty in the homeland.”

“Other immigrants come because of political problems in their homelands or because of wars. The Greeks came because of poverty,” said Gary Kerhoulas, one of the organizers of yesterday’s unveiling. Although born in London, he can speak fluent Greek and is very involved in the Greek community. “We want to thank the city for Canadian democracy, Christian spirit and giving us the freedom to be ourselves,” Kerhoulas said. “In ancient times, the centre of Europe was thought to be in Greece . . . in this city, the hub of this city is this building,” he said at city hall during his speech prior to the unveiling.

After a brief prayer led by Greek Orthodox Rev. Elias Drossos, DeCicco-Best said she is proud to represent the diversity of Londoners. “You celebrate all the things that are unique to you and yet you are still a part of London,” she said. “But you still know where you come from.”

The plaque hangs in the lobby of London City Hall.

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