Monday, May 13, 2013

From Koroni to Stockton

Last Friday after Easter, the miracle relics of Eleistria were carried in procession around Koroni, Messinias, a small town near the tip of the left finger of the Peloponnesos where my Yiayia Evgenia Sarris was born. The original family homestead is just inside the iconic great door of a Venetian citadel ("kastro"). Panaghia Eleistra is the protector of Koroni, and on every other day you can leave her a note asking her please for assistance. 
My Yiayia was a devout reader of religious tracts and had wanted as a very young woman to be a nun. She left home to live in the convent of St. Prothromos established by a relative inside the ramparts, but her brother Poulo took her back. I keep wondering if that is why she was the daughter sent to live in the States in 1923...
Once in Stockton after marrying George Sarris in San Francisco, my Yiayia continued her religious ways as a new church was established in 1930 on Stanislaus Street. The name St. Basil's was chosen by way of a lottery;  Stamatina Xenakis had the winning ticket, becoming the sponsor who chose the name.  All that is chronicled in the book the issued by the church for its 50th Anniversary in 1980.

While my Yiayia is not listed as a founding father -- they were all men, including my grandfather -- she was very active in the church and often assumed the role of "psalti" (cantor). She was a Philoptohos stalwart producing andithoron (bread given after Communion and at the end of the service), artos (sweet breads for special occasions like St. Basil's Day on January 1st), and koliva (made from wheat berries for memorial services).  She continued to read religious books and had the traditional "iconostasis" in her bedroom. I still have the battered prayer book she kept in the glove compartment of her car to read whenever she was waiting for something or somebody. (Indeed, my Yiayia provided transportation for all the Stockton Greek ladies in her generation who never learned to drive -- always a sight to behold and rides to be avoided by us kids.)                                                
Evgenia Sarris finally went back to visit Koroni and her siblings in 1965 -- a joyous occasion, not without pitfalls. More on that another time...

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