Arrived May 12, 1951
1. Country of Origin
Major Events that affected family at this time
During this time the revolution in Greece had just ended after the Second World War. The Germans had occupied Greece for four years. After 1944, the Revolution started in Greece. In 1951 I cane here to buy a car and ended up staying until today. I did end up buying a car in 1954. I purchased a Dodge hardtop for $2,999.00with $1,000.00 down. Back home we had a baker’s shop and small grocery store that also sold wholesale items such as, lima beans to the people of Athens, liquor and items like barley – to the only beer producer in Greece etc. Daily, the bakery produced 500 meals/ portions f food for the army base, since it was a small city and we were close by. They paid us for this service.
At Christmas time, the year I arrived I brought over my brother Jim Zivontsis and in 1952 I brought over my parents Fanny and Speros Zivontsis. Later, I brought my 2 younger brothers Chris and Ted along with my sister Nitsa, also known as ‘Helen’. We purchased our our 1st house in 1953 (108 Dewhurst Blvd.) with $4,000.00 down at a cost of $12,000.00 for the house, in my parent’s names.
Memories of this period
I came to Canada as an immigrant with a permit to travel to Canada, from another family member Mister George Pandos, who was in Canada with his wife (a Zivontsis). I remember when I left on the ship from the port Piraeus in Greece. The ship was a tour ship and they picked us up in Greece. It was a Greek ship with an Italian flag. They departed on Easter Saturday – a very important religious day for all Orthodox Christians. I experienced Easter on the ship, passing Napoli (Naples), Barcelona and we stopped in Naples. Then we passed Gibraltar and over the Atlantic. For twelve days we were all on the ship. We had a nice time on the ship. I had another friend ion the ship with me - a relative of my mother’s ‘Panos’.
There was music on the ship and we had a great journey, dancing and accordion players! One gentleman from Spain was going to New York and we had a really great journey. The food was great and people were singing. We sang Italian and Spanish songs. I remember ‘Torna Sorrento’. I spoke many languages being from my city. We also had Romanians in my city and I learned a little German and Italian during the war. I met a Bulgarian on the ship (he was going to Windsor) and I spoke Bulgarian to him also. We had wine with all meals and it was a great time with pleasant memories.
I was 21 years old and my parents were sad to see me go. I had an idea that I would go to Canada for five years – that was the system at the time. Go to Canada, make some big money and return. Noone ever did return to Greece - they all stayed.
How was Family Affected
They were sad…I was the oldest of the children on the family. Their business ran fine without me – they continued. My mother later wanted to also come to Canada where we would also bring my aunt.
We had businesses, so we were fine after the war. We didn’t experience any losses. I left for Canada on my own will. We were a city of 10,000 people when war ended. In 1940 during the war with the Italians in Albania, our barker’s shop was rented by the Greek government and the army was making bread for the war, with the Italians in Albania. Our father was working in our baker’s shop for approx. $4.00 per day, working with the team from the army. It was tough but very soon we resumed our regular lives. We did not lose any members of our family, despite strikes from Italians in our city in 1940.
Cameras were sparse at this time.
2. Settling in Canada
When I first arrived, I stayed on Bloor Street West in Toronto at 998 ½ Bloor St. (2nd floor of a restaurant) with the family that invited me / sponsored me as an immigrant. For work, Mr. George Pandos took me to work at a dry cleaning business called ‘Overall Cleaners’ at the Spadina & Queen St. area. My job was operating the cleaning machine and searching the overall and restaurant uniforms, such as pockets etc. for loose items. Education – I did not attend further education in Canada. I had finished only 4th grade back home. The Germans ad occupied Greece and took our school from us. I became a young business man helping to run the school business. My younger brothers later went on to graduate from highschool. Language – I spoke a little English because we were baking for the English army in Greece and same for the Germans. As time progressed my German abilities with language assisted me also. I was 21, so I learned very quickly. For a few months, after the cleaners job I worked in restaurants. One of my friends that I found, worked for ‘Canada Bread’ and he took me there and got me the job at Avenue Rd. & Davenport in Toronto. My English progressed as well.
I am Greek Orthodox and went to church weekly at S. George church on Bond Street downtown. That was part of the community and seeing eachother. It’s also where I later met my wife, Athanassia (aka Suzie) in 1960. At the very same church.
We cooked at the home, while staying with relatives. Food was the same. We cooked the same as we did back home, with the exception that food tasted very similar. We were not fussy when it came to meals and were fine with everything we had.
We missed family and friends and for others it was harder. We were satisfied, making $60.00 / week working at Canada Bread and so life was okay.
1st few years
After a year and a half, just as I was getting familiar and settled, I started to bring my family over. This period was my first time away from home. After being here for six months, in December I brought my brother Jimmy and in 1952 I brought over the rest of the family (5 members). Things happened quickly. All of us worked for Canada Bread and I sponsored all of them. I rented a seven room house on Shuter St. downtown when everyone arrived in Dec. 1952.
I became a Canadian citizen 3 or 5 years after arriving. I became a citizen because I really liked the country and wanted everyone to become a citizen also, from the family. At first, it was our only way to become U.S. citizens but once becoming Canadian citizens and living here, we were loyal to Canada. It made a big difference because I was very proud to be Canadian, my whole life; especially during travels.
Visit back home
After I married and had my son, we went to Kalamata, Greece to meet my in-laws. We traveled around Europe. I wanted to travel the way our grandfathers once traveled around Europe by train, and then to Canada for work. I wanted to do the same. My aunts and cousins in the U.S., named ‘Gertsakis’, went to California and never returned. I traveled back to Greece a dozen times until today. Once or twice, staying almost six months+ and touring the country. It was at first…it was a very happy time to see relatives. Greece in 1964 was better than the past, after the war. People were working, not overly wealthy, no war, so peaceful and people were happy.
Most significant challenges
I was a business man so I knew my way and didn’t have significant challenges. I had my savings and was okay.
I appreciated most, the system and the country as things were very organized. Yes, I felt at home right away because I had my relatives and a Greek community with many friends. We came from a city of 10,000 people and knew everyone that was coming here from there. The three main cities from Greece with immigration: Florina (my city) Sparta, Tripoli - all had lots of villages, with not much farming, so they immigrated.
Today, what I think of my decision to come to Canada was a good decision. Our whole family is together, in one city. That is the main thing that we are all in one city like Toronto. Others have family in Brazil, Australia and all around the world. We are all in the East end of the city here. We started in East York and I am still here in East York.