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This article was published 20/3/2017 (1493 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Dino Chouzouris first immigrated to Winnipeg with his family from Greece in the 1970s, the pressure to assimilate into a predominantly white, English speaking community did not go unnoticed.
"I remember people tried to change their names to make them sound more Anglophone," Chouzouris, president of the Greek Community of Winnipeg, said of his years as a teen in Canada. "It was very interesting to have to go through that."
One of the first groups his family connected with when they arrived in 1974 was the Greek Community of Winnipeg and St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church (2255 Grant Ave.), which helped his family acclimatize to life in Winnipeg — a purpose the community still serves today. Founded in 1917, the Greek Community of Winnipeg, Chouzouris said, was a place for his family to practise their religion, connect with other Greek expatriates in the city, and embrace their culture.
Now you baptize your child and you call him Costa, you don’t change it to Dino, and you don’t anglicize it at all.
After 100 years of Greek immigration to the city, the fear held by parents that children would lose the connection to their heritage has faded, Chouzouris said.
"Now you baptize your child and you call him Costa, you don’t change it to Dino, and you don’t anglicize it at all. And it’s a good thing — it’s something to be very proud of," he said. "It gives you a sense of identity."
That feeling of identity and belonging can be attributed to the work of the Greek Community of Winnipeg and its founders, Nancy Vardalos Ginakes said.
Vardalos Ginakes is part of the committee organizing the Greek Community of Winnipeg’s centennial event on March 25 at the Victoria Inn Hotel & Convention Centre (1808 Wellington Ave).
"I think it’s so important to acknowledge and recognize the people who decided to become organized and create a legal entity and a constitution, and I want my children to be aware of that and I don’t want that information to ever be lost," Vardalos Ginakes said.
At the time the first Greeks were immigrating to Winnipeg, locals held prejudices against the ethnic minority, Vardalos Ginakes said. Despite the challenges her ancestors faced, they pursued business opportunities, cultural and religious education, and charity work.
"The pain and the anguish has to be recognized," she said. "Imagine the circumstances, the difficulties and how inconvenient life was back then. They still had the wherewithal to get organized — it was important to them."
Irene Adamopoulos’ parents immigrated to Canada in the ’50s and the Greek Community of Winnipeg was an important fixture in their lives as they launched their own business endeavours.
"It wasn’t only a religious place — it was a meeting place for them and also a place to keep their culture," she explained.
Adamopoulos’ dad came to Canada and worked on the TransCanada Highway before settling in Winnipeg and opening a Greek store on Pembina Highway.
"It was really great growing up knowing I was part of the community, in good times and in bad," she said.
Today, Adamopoulos owns The Greek Market (1440 Corydon Ave.) where she continues to promote Greek culture, cuisine, and life to the community at large.
"That’s the base of this store, to pass on the passion that we have for our Greek heritage," she said. "It’s our pleasure to be able to support the community and The Greek Market really believes in doing that."
For more information or to purchase tickets to the gala, which features entertainment from the Kefi Greek Folk Dancers of Manitoba, call 204-889-8723.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.