Friday, April 6, 2012

Beyond Barbecue and Baklava: "How Greek Immigrants defined Birmingham" article


"Beyond Barbecue and Baklava:  How Greek Immigrants defined Birmingham" article by Phillip Ratliff, published online on The Weld.


"Though details may differ, the key points of Triantafillos Balabanos’s journey to Birmingham were like those experienced by other Greek immigrants to the city in the early 1900s. Balabanos began his journey in Tsitalia, a small village in Greece’s mountainous southern peninsula, then continued across the Aegean Sea to Piraeus, Greece’s main port, near Athens. There, Balabanos boarded a newly commissioned Greek passenger steamship, the Athinai, bound for New York Harbor. Crossing the Atlantic took about 13 days and likely included stops in other European ports. The Athinai reached New York on Sept. 27, 1909. Immigration officials processed Balabanos’s entry into the United States at Ellis Island. Recent law required the Athinai’s captain, Guiris Coulouras, to testify that Balabanos and his fellow passengers had been examined by the ship’s doctor and would not carry tuberculosis into their new country. Balabanos himself had to indicate whether he could read, if practiced polygamy and, in wake of outbreaks of imported political discord, subscribed to anarchy.


Balabanos indicated his destination as Birmingham, specifically, the Reliance Hotel at the corner of Fifth Avenue North and 26th Street. The Reliance, a smartly positioned venture owned by T.N. Balabanos and James Shakelares, operated across the street from Terminal Station. Work at the Reliance and possibly at other footholds in the family empire would fund Balabanos’ five trips back to Greece and pay the dowry of each of his five daughters." ...... READ MORE











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