Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

Who are those Lerians?
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Who are those Lerians?

Lerian Reunion
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ZOE THEODORAAnd why are they smiling?  They are smiling because on August 20, 2000, over 50 immigrants and their descendents from Leros attended their first gathering since the 1970s.

On that day the reunion was held at the 14 Carrot Café on Eastlake Avenue in Seattle.  Leros, the small island in the Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey in the eastern Aegean Sea, was the original home of a number of Seattle families.  Eleftheria (Terry) Xenos Proios, café owner, provided the venue and many brought foods for a light supper.  Terry had also assembled a large number of photos and artifacts from Leros which prompted story telling and the sharing of memories.

As noted in A History of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox FOOD DISPLAYChurch and Her People (Academy Press), it had been almost 56 years since the original American Lerians Association was established in Seattle.  The organization sought to provide assistance to the people of Leros after World War II had devastated their island.  The Association was also formed to promote social, business and recreational relationships among its members. Funds raised at annual gourmet dinners went to enable the islanders to regain a life of peace, freedom and prosperity.  The organization continued until the late 1970s.

Planned and coordinated by Zoye Marinopoulou Fidler and Theodora Cokinakis Geokezas the event brought together over 50 immigrants and their descendants from Leros.  Family names included Cokinakis, Marino, Nicon, Courounes, Cheredes, Therson, Nelson, Xenos, Cotton, Matantos, Angel, Manus and Karanicolas.

effie and matandosThis was indeed a festive occasion and many present delighted in seeing old friends and acquaintances.  Some had not seen each other since leaving the island as children or young adults.

John John, executor of the John Angel Foundation, spoke of the Foundation’s ongoing contributions to the Island.  These included the establishment of youth centers, school improvements and a sailing club for youth.  He recounted his recent visit and the hospitality shown by the island families.  This visit was the precursor to exchanges between dance groups from St. Demetrios Church in Seattle and the Artemis group from Leros.

MUSICIANS    more singers

John Nicon provided music on a hammered dulcimer, the western version of the santouri, while Jim Marinopoulos sang the traditional island song “I Bratsera.”  According to the Bratsera Hotel on the island of Hydra and Jim Marinopoulos, bratsera was a dialectical word for the fictional “mother ship” on which Greek sponge divers of the last century relaxed after solitary hours on the sea floor.  They would make up words to tell their stories.  Words to the song are often written especially for celebrations.  In this case verses were written by Zoye Marinopoulou and approved by her 99-year-old Yiayia, Irini Frangopoulou Marino.  The words were shared with those in attendance and even more smiles were seen as Lerians joined in the singing.

SOURCES: A video recording, additional photographs and documents from the event are cataloged in the Museum Collection; A History of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and her People (Academy Press).

By John Nicon, April 2011
 
PHOTOS
1 Zoye Fidler and Theodora Geokezas
2 The beginning of the Lerian spread
3 Effie Xenos Chriest and Terry Matantos
4 Partygoers enjoy music
5 Singing I Bratsera
All photos by John and Joann Nicon
 
SOURCES
Video recording, August 2000; Event photographs and documents in the museum collection; A History of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and Her People (Academy Press)