Christos Famous Pizza, located in downtown North Adams, Massachusetts, invites guests into a quaint, calm, and peaceful atmosphere. It is here where I met with Mary Giannaris, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Peter. Likewise, it is here where this oral history project, defined and teased throughout the months-long planning preparation, finally became an exciting reality.

Dripping wet and shivering from the passing rain showers, I was half expecting to be turned away for soliciting and/or for leaving several puddles on the floor. Instead, I was warmly greeted by Mary, who graciously agreed to participate in the project. Joking that she had nothing to hide, we scheduled a time to conduct the oral history. I came back a few days later and we sat down for an interview.

Since Mary was the first person I interviewed, I did not really know what to expect. What I ended up recording was an interesting and enriching conversation, one of which I left with a greater understanding and respect for the migration experience. Listed below, please find a summary of Mary’s amazing story, with sound clips interjected throughout so that one may listen to Mary directly describe her own experiences. The entire oral history, with a link to its transcription, can be found at the bottom of this page.

Mary lived in Greece until she had graduated high school. Growing up was a challenge: her father fought in World War 2 and her mother performed odd jobs to get by. Everything, in particular clothing, children’s toys, and food items were all handmade or grown because resources and money were scarce.

Due to a devastate d Greek post-war economy, Mary came to the United States on a student visa and relocated to Boston. This was a logical move for Mary because she recognized that the United States had more educational and economic potential than Greece did. At 18 years old and with limited English, Mary studied to become a doctor at Emerson College. Though it was daunting to be in a foreign country with practically no money, Mary persisted. It was obvious, both from getting to know her through our interview, that Mary cares very much about others and a career dedicated to healing, compassion, and health fit her her personality like a puzzle piece.

Unfortunately, Mary never did become a doctor. College became too much of an economic burden and she was forced to give up on her dream of a career in medicine. It seemed that her immigration to the United States had been all for naught…

However, once again, Mary’s life path shifted dramatically when she met and married her husband, Peter. After living in Connecticut for a brief period, the couple moved to the Berkshires and, with a confident entrepreneurial spirit, started their own pizza restaurants.

When her family began to grow, Mary and Peter moved back to Greece so that their children could be “raised Greek.”  Since then, Mary enjoys splitting her time between the United States and Greece, although she has not been back to visit in several years.

Mary credits St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church, located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts,  as an important benefactor regarding her successful assimilation into everyday American life. She believes that the church community helped her feel“born and raised” in the Berkshires. The shared experiences between members of St. George’s, relating specifically to immigration and Greek culture, was a driving force behind significant community outreach and the construction of a large social safety net.

Even after all of these years, Mary still loves being involved with the St. George’s Annual Greek Festival, a summertime festival dedicated to Greek culture, food, music, and more. It serves as a positive representation of Mary’s celebration of Greek heritage, her love of sharing that culture with others, and her efforts to create a warm, welcoming community environment.

When speaking about her national identity, Mary describes her pride of being Greek and her pride of having the fortune to live in the United States. As an immigrant herself, Mary believes that all people, regardless of immigration status, should be treated fairly and given the opportunity to work. Without work, Mary believes, there is no way for anyone to better themselves and/or their family. Mary loves the United States for giving her the ability to better her own economic situation so that she could deliver a better life for her children and grandchildren.

To finish up the oral history, Mary discusses her views on the current immigration narrative delivered by Washing D.C. and major media news outlets. Her thoughtful and touching closing thoughts need no further introduction: listen

From the time I first walked into Christos Famous Pizza to when I left after recording her oral history, I was continuously impressed with the poise, confidence, and compassion Mary demonstrates on a daily basis. I very much appreciated her time and honesty throughout the interview process. Mary has an incredibly powerful story, of which I am honored to help tell; without hesitation, a large portion of this project is dedicated to her. For more oral histories regarding Greek migration into the Berkshires, I encourage users to continue navigating through the website.


Transcription of Dialogue

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