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Immigration and the American Dream

George and maria Maropoulakis
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For immigration to benefit immigrants and the nation as a whole, three factors must be present:

1. The immigration should be legal, so that the immigrants are people who are respectful of the law and not start out as cheaters and criminals;

2. The immigrants should be moral people, i.e. have a belief in a Supreme Being and an objective belief in right and wrong;

3. The environment that they enter when immigrating should be a free labor market, with zero government benefits available to them;

None of these factors are present to any great degree in the masses of illegals crossing our borders daily in response to President Obama's various amnesties and promises of amnesty, and it's destroying America.

The immigrants on my mother's side of the family are prime examples as to how legal immigration worked to build America in the past.

All of us have a story like this; we all come from tough, tenacious, religious stock here in Youngstown where I live, and where my mother's family first settled, and we should remember this with pride. Please allow me a moment to describe some of our history.

The couple in the picture, George and Maria Maropoulakis, are our grandparents, and they are both legal immigrants from the Greek island of Crete. The house that Maria eventually moved to and raised her three daughters in is located at 68 West Chalmers Ave, on the south side of Yungstown, Ohio. It was purchased by our Yia Yia (grandmother) Maria (Palavrakis) Maropoulakis around the time that our Papou (grandfather) died at age 30. It is still standing, and looks to be in decent shape.

They had 4 little girls, Argiro, Maria (our mother), her twin Ligeri, and Helen. Ligeri died at 9 months of age in 1919. Papou died in 1920, so Helen, the youngest would have been 1, our Mother about 2, and Argiro 3 years old, leaving our Yia Yia a widow. She had hard decisions to make. She took in borders and did neighborhood laundry, as well as working in a laundry on nearby Market Street to feed her 3 little girls.

My Papou came here from the Greek Island of Crete around 1915, and worked in a shoe repair shop on Watt Street downtown, with his brother Niko. He returned to Crete to marry Maria Palavrakis, my Yia Yia, and brought her back here in 1916. Around that time, the local Greek Orthodox Church, Saint John the Forerunner, was built by the local Greek immigrant community. It will celebrate its 100th anniversary in a year and a half. This is the Christian Church where my immigrant ancestors worshiped.

They first moved into a basement apartment with a dirt floor at 27 East Front Street, and lived there until after Helen, the youngest, was born. The site of that basement apartment is now the bottom level of what appears to have been a small parking deck. My Aunt Argiro told me she remembers that my Papou walked from this apartment in the snow one time carrying the youngest, Helen, to the doctor when she was sick, or it could have been our Mom's twin sister, Ligeri before she died.

After Papou died in 1920 at age thirty and Yia Yia moved into the West Chalmers home with the three girls, she realized that she needed help to raise them. No welfare checks then; family depended on family to survive, and that's the way it should be. Papou's brother, Nikos, was also here in Youngstown working at the shoe shop. Yia Yia sent the oldest girl, Argiro, then age 3, back to Crete with Uncle Nikos to live in the village of Aroni. Argiro lived on Crete for 8 years. When she returned, it was our mother's turn.

Mom went to Crete in 1929 ( these dates are educated guesses), and returned to Youngstown in 1936. She attended South High School when she returned, skipped ahead a year . She was fluent in Greek, English and French when she returned, and taught Greek to many of the Greek immigrant's children in the area, including the children of Pete Wellman, owner of many area theaters.

On one occasion in 1928 on Chalmers, Yia Yia had gone to work at the laundry, and left the 3 girls home to scrub the floor (no playing video games or watching TV back then). This was a period when all 3 girls were here in the States at the same time. Argiro and Our Mom sent Helen to walk 2 houses west to a store on the corner to get some soap.

When she walked out to the sidewalk, a big car with 2 men in straw hats grabbed Helen and tried to kidnap her. When she started screaming, they released her and drove off. This was reported in the Youngstown Vindicator. A few weeks before, another little girl had been kidnapped and murdered in the neighborhood. A few years ago, I spoke to the then next door neighbor, Bill Patrinos, who recalls hearing the screams from his back yard when he was a little boy. His family home is the white house partially pictured to the left.

Yia Yia died in 1946, just before the marriage of our mother and father. I never was fortunate enough to meet either of our grandparents on our mother's side, but I visit them frequently at the local cemetery where they were laid to rest.

Argiro married Adam Tzagournis, and they are the parents of local Attorney George Tzagournis, Dr Manual Tzagournis, dean emeritis of the Ohio State School of Medicine, Dr. Louis Tzagournis, Dr. Charles Tzagournis, and Pharmacist William Tzagournis. They grew up on Williamson Avenue, also on the south side of Youngstown. Helen married Paul Saridakis, and they had four children, two of whom are doctors, and one an RN. They lived in Cleveland, but Uncle Paul lived here for a while, working at our Uncle Adam's bar on Poland Avenue, the Republic Cafe, across from gate five of the Republic Steel mill. We in the family just called it "The Place". Our mother married Vergil Denney, a farm boy from Fowler, they had seven sons, 6 who grew to adulthood, all successful. But that story is for another time.

The descendants of this poor and simple, but hardworking and religious,Youngstown Greek legal immigrant household, our Yiayia and Papou Maropoulakis, now include (not including spouses) an incredible 24 college graduates, many with advanced degrees, 14 doctors, 4 lawyers, 3 CPAs, several military veterans and at least one successful business owner.

The religiosity, work ethic, respect for the law, morality, and family unit with which this was accomplished is missing from the illegal alien influx that we see occurring today. It must be stopped, and we must insist that individuals, whether immigrants or not, work for a living, and feel entitled to enter illegally and get welfare. See: http://conservativepost.com/illegal-aliens-attack-border-patrol-in-san-d...