Greek-American Families

Mandris: Jim and Politeme

Jim and Politeme Mandris

Dimitrios (known as Dimitraki) and Politeme Mandris were both born in Koumousta, Sparta, Greece. The first record of someone from our family born there is 1735. People migrated from Milia in Mani south of Sparta to hide from the Turks during the Ottoman Empire. Legend has it that there were five Mandrapilias brothers who resettled in five different parts of the country. Dimitrios (Dimitraki) George Mandrapilias was born on July 10, 1914 to George Nicholas Mandrapilias (1864-1957) and Stavroula Kontakos Mandrapilias (1881-1984). Politeme Stoubos Mandrapilias was born on December 2, 1924 to Christos Panayiotis Stoubos (1891-1939) and Emilia Stathakos Stoubos (1900 -1976).

They both came from big families. Dimitraki was the third of seven children: Elias, Constantina (Karkambasis), Dimitrios, Panayiota (Exarhakos), Panayiotis, Vasilios and Christos. He was the only sibling to emigrate to the United States. Two stayed in Greece, three others emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and one sister lived between Greece and Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, where her son’s family lives. Politeme was the oldest of four children: Politeme, Georgia (Karkoulas), Panayiotis and Alexandra (Orfanakos). Politeme’s father died of Parkinson’s Disease when she was fifteen just before the war started. In 1940, Dimitraki was drafted into the Greek Army and was stationed in Albania at the beginning of World War II. He and his brother, Elias, were captured by the Italians and spent two years as Prisoners of War on the island of Procida in Italy. The British rescued them and took them to Alexandria, Egypt. They guarded the exiled Greek royal family there until the end of the war which he said was relief from his other experiences during the war. Dimitraki returned to Koumousta during the midst of the Greek Civil War in 1945.

After the war ended Dimitraki and Politeme were married on September 15, 1946 at Ss. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Koumousta. They moved to Xirokambi, Sparta, Greece, the village in the valley below Koumousta where George was born in 1947. After the Greek Civil War ended in 1950 and ten years of war, they considered moving to America. Dimitraki’s father, George Nicholas Mandrapilias, contacted his nephew, Nicholas Demetrios Mandris, Dimitraki’s first cousin, and asked him to help Dimitraki’s family come to the United States. This was fifty years after the turn of the 20th century, when Nicholas was 15 and George had contacted John and Katherine Prevas (the Godparents of Nicholas’ sister, Pota Mandris Conits) in Baltimore and asked them to sponsor his nephew, Nicholas. When Nicholas arrived at Ellis Island, the Mandrapilias name became Mandris for the American branch of the family. Dimitraki’s other first cousins in Annapolis were Nicholas’ siblings, Louis Mandris, Pota Mandris Conits and Vasilo (Cecelia) Mandris Lewnes.

Nicholas and his wife, Helen Mandris, sponsored Dimitraki and his family. He traveled on the S.S. Nea Hellas ocean liner, arriving in Annapolis on June 6, 1951. Friend Nitsa Morekas and her family were also on the boat but settled in Baltimore. The Nea Hellas had transported the last Jewish refugees from Europe to America before World War II started. It then transported troops and after the war, once again became a passenger liner. When Dimitraki arrived in America, he became James George Mandris, also known as Jim, Jimmy or Dimitraki. The first year after he arrived, he worked at Mandris Restaurant and lived with cousins Cleo and Mary Apostol. Mary and her sister, Georgia Nichols, helped him get settled and became his “Annapolis” sisters.

Politeme & Dimitraki Mandris 9/15/46

Politeme & George Mandris 1952

About a year after Dimitraki’s arrival in the U.S. his wife and son came to the states. On March 24, 1952, Nicholas and Dimitraki drove to Hoboken, New Jersey and picked up Politeme and George from their voyage on the S. S. Nea Hellas. They had traveled with cousins Kuli, Potitsa Pedakakis and their son who were on route to London, Ontario, Canada. They stopped at the home of Nicholas’ daughter, Crossie and son in law George (Peck) T. George in Brooklyn Park for a late dinner and arrived in Annapolis on March 25th. It was now Maryland Day, Greek Independence Day and the Greek Orthodox Feast Day of the Annunciation. Those three celebrations on the day they arrived made them feel certain they would be Greek Americans!

They lived on Main Street for several years where they could walk to visit friends and relatives, go shopping and to church. Some of the families that lived in the immediate downtown area around Duke of Gloucester Street were the Alvanos, Apostol, Bounelis, Christo, Drakopulos, Kyriacou, John and Elefteria Lewnes, Mandris, Nichols, Palaigos, Panos, Pantelides and Pappas families. From the day they first stepped foot in America, friends and family were always there to offer a helping hand or great memories. Mary Apostol helped Dimitraki prepare the apartment for the arrival of his family. Rose Mandris went shopping with Politeme to buy American clothes. Alexandra Fotos, Effie Pappas and the Leanos family brought over some furniture. Not to be forgotten were the Sundays when George Pappas would come to get them for an afternoon outing. Since he couldn’t navigate the three flights of stairs up to their apartment, he would drive up to the Maryland garage and throw pebbles at their kitchen window. This would get their attention to go downstairs to meet him. Dimitraki soon began working at Annapolis Yacht Yards, Freezer Box Division and stayed there until he retired. His friend, Steve Nichols, worked with him before he moved to Baltimore. Over the years, his friends Angelo and Ted Goudounis and George Chiras also joined him.

The Greek community in Annapolis had recently completed the construction of their church on Constitution Avenue. Many parishioners had settled in town in the earlier part of the twentieth century. The 1950’s brought another wave of newcomers from Greece. The earlier immigrants embraced and mentored them through their transitions in their new homeland. Some of those who came when Dimitraki and Politeme did were Paul and George Alexiou, Stelio and Louis Charas, the Drakopulos family, Mike Kokkinos, the Kyriacous, George Leventis (a Leanos cousin) and others. John Charas went back to Thessaly, married and brought back his new bride, Effie. They would frequent Sandy Point with the Drakopulos and Kyriacou families.

John Kyriacou would sometimes pick them up in his van for a Saturday or Sunday at the beach. Later beach days were spent at Bay Ridge Beach and Beverly Beach.

At Sandy Point, Christine & George Mandris, Toni Drakopulos, Melanie Kyriacou, Diamond Drakopulos, Jack Kyriacou, Teddy Drakopulos & Nicky Kyriacou

Conduit Street, Nick Apostol, Ann Nichols, George Mandris, Georgia Apostol Yeatras & Leilani Mandris Sifakis

They joined and became active at Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. It was not only their church, but the social center for the Annapolis Greek Community. In the early twentieth century there were many Spartans in the community. As the years passed, people came from all parts of Greece: Cyprus, Macedonia, Thessaly, other parts of Peloponnesus and the islands but also Turkey and Canada, England and Germany. The church grew and became an assimilated community of not only Greeks but families that were Albanian, Armenian, Lebanese, Russian, Syrian and others. Politeme joined Philoptochos in 1952 and has remained active throughout her life. This began decades of baking, events and best of all lifelong friendships. They would often go to Baltimore for dances, picnics and other events to socialize with other Laconian friends most who they knew from Greece. The Laconian Society was created in 1924 because so many people came early to Baltimore from that part of Greece.

Front row: Stasi Drakopulos, George Mandris, infant Teddy, Diamond & Toni Drakopulos, Ted Samaras.

Second row: Nick Mandris, George Drakopulos, Dimitraki Mandris, Theano Alvanos, Daphne Samaras, Politeme Mandris, Sophia Drakopulos, Helen Mandris, Bessie Samaras.

In 1955, they welcomed their daughter, Christine at Anne Arundel General Hospital.

They had spent the night before delivery at the Apostols. Since fathers were not allowed in the delivery room. Mary Apostol took Politeme to the hospital to have the baby. The next year, Nicholas and Helen Mandris were the Godparents with Father Eustratios Spiropoulos.

Their friend, Harriet Anastasakis helped them find their next home. She had moved to Annapolis from Harford, Connecticut when she married Steve Anastasakis, brother of Despina Leanos. She was another mother figure to Politeme. Harriet’s son Jimmy and granddaughter, Melonie still live in Maryland. Dimitraki and Politeme moved to Locust Avenue in the Homewood area of town where several Greek families eventually lived: Abramedis, Adviotis, Agapites, Alexopoulos, Anastasakis, Keshes, Kokkinos, Nicholas, Piera, Samaras and other families. In 1957, Bill and Mary Pavleros told them about a house for sale next door to them. Dimitraki and Politeme soon bought that home on Taylor Avenue. They knew Bill’s family as they came from neighboring Greek villages and had mutual relatives in Greenville, South Carolina. Mary was cousins with Helen Manis and moved to town when she married Bill. Politeme and Mary would spend days gardening in their side by side gardens. Sometimes Bill would make Manhattans to refresh them while they gardened! Not far from there were the Charas, Fotos and Leanos families. Daphne and Chris Efsathiou moved to town to be the Greek School teachers and also lived close by. Chris Efsathiou later became a Greek Orthodox priest.

Politeme knew how to sew but had not yet begun to work in America. One day, Sinnie Pappas Fassiadis told her about a doll factory in town that needed someone to work on doll clothes. Not only did Sinnie tell her about it, but she brought and picked up boxes of materials for Politeme to work on. She started her Sewing business on Taylor Avenue in 1959 and continued to run it until she retired. Her friends would often come over and visit while she was sewing. We spent many a day chatting with her customers while they waited their turn with her. Several of her friends also had sewing businesses around town. Vayia Goudounis took over Mrs. Skordas’ shop on West Street next to John and Maria Kyriacou’s dry cleaner and tailor shop. Theano Alvanos was on Conduit Street. Theodora Filiopoulos worked from home. Stella Filiopoulos at Johnson’s on Maryland Avenue. Others worked at the Naval Academy.

In the late 1950’s, Dimitraki and Politeme each had a brother move to Canada from Greece. We went to Canada to see them and it was the beginning of our many trips there to visit our family. So many people from the Xirokambi area moved to Toronto that they created the Xirokambito Society. Politeme’s Theo Jimmy Stathos (Stathakos) immigrated to Greenville, South Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century at age 15. His brothers, George, Pantelis and Panayiotis and their families also moved there. These moves started our trips south to visit over the years.

In 1966, Dimitraki and Politeme finally travelled to Greece. They had not seen their mothers and some siblings in fourteen and thirteen years. We arrived in Athens, then Xirokambi and finally in Koumousta, where a crowd of women surrounded and embraced them. Over the years when they would go to Greece, they travelled to other countries in Europe and also Israel and Turkey. Their most treasured trip was to the Holy Land where they also saw Politeme’s mother’s cousin Loukiano Stathos, a monk.

Viola Panos, Politeme Mandris & Chris Fotos

Effie Charas, Politeme Mandris, Evanthea Psomadakis, Despina Leanos

Effie Pappas, Mary Pavleros, Alexandra Fotos

Emilia Stoubos (Politeme’s mother), Politeme Mandris & Elefteria Lewne

In 1969 and 1970, they sponsored Politeme’s sisters Georgia Karkoulas and Alexandra Orfanakos and their families to come to America from Greece. They lived with us before job opportunities took them to Baltimore. Some Sundays we would go to Baltimore to visit. Our family now had siblings and first cousins close by. On other Sundays, we visited friends or relatives or people came over, typically unannounced. The visits usually were all generations with lots of storytelling. We always looked forward to having and going to nameday parties.

In 1980, Dimitraki retired. He then spent the next year building their home in Hillsmere.

Our friends, Costa and Filipa Filiopoulos, who were stone masons completed the brick work.

One Saturday, they gathered with Dimitraki, George and some other friends and relatives to raise the roof on the house. Quite a few Greeks bought or built their own homes in the community.

Tom Siomporas was the first when he bought several lots in the early 1960’s for his family and built his home there. At that time, everyone wondered why he was moving so far from town. It was a mere ten minute ride! Tom would call Dimitraki to go fishing and crabbing on the South River. They spent many a day on the water in Tom’s boat. Mike Kokkinos and Angelo Goudounis who lived close by would often stop and get him for their walks together. Some of the others in Hillsmere were the Alvanos, Chiras, Filiopoulos, Goudounis, Kafouri, Katchevas, Kokkinos, Kyriacou and Siomporas families.

They continued to be very active at the church. Dimitraki, with AHEPA, where he served as treasurer for several years, the church parish council, volunteering and lending a hand when something needed to be repaired. He enjoyed making Iconstasia and gifting them to friends and family. Both were avid gardeners. When they moved to Taylor Avenue, the property had a large Magnolia tree on it. We all loved that tree. Dimitraki grew new trees by burying low branches of the existing tree. From time to time, he’d put a sign in the front yard and sell some. He would more often gift them to friends and family. The Magnolia tree at the church is one of those trees. Politeme has been a member of Aghia Anna Philoptochos since she moved to Annapolis. Over the years, she held various offices, chaired different baking committees or just helped out. Her baking specialty was Diples. She and Sophia Drakopulos learned to make them from Helen Mandris, Anna Nichols & Elefteria Lewnes in the early days. Later on, friends would go to church to make Diples, bringing table tops and rolling pins made by their husbands.

George and Christine grew up going to school in Annapolis. When they graduated from college, they began their careers; George in Advertising and Christine in insurance. George served as President of the Advertising Club of Baltimore, the first and oldest in America and was on the Board of Directors of Maryland Public Television and the Signal 13 Foundation for the Baltimore City Police Department. The 1990’s brought additions to the family. Christine got married to Mark Turner on June 29, 1991 at Ss. Constantine and Helen on Constitution Avenue where their children, Polina, born 1992 and Samuel born, 1994 were later baptized. Constantine and Stella Filiopoulos were their wedding koumbari and Godparents to Polina. Sam’s Godmother was Stacey Ponticas Kula. Their youngest son, James who was born in 1996 was named for Dimitraki was Christened in the church hall on Riva Road just before the new church interior was completed in 1997. His Godmothers were Kathy Stylian and Mandrapilias cousins from Toronto. Father Kosmas Karavellas presided over these happy days.

Politeme & Dimitraki Mandris 1991

George Mandris, Polina, Sam, James, Mark, Christine Turner & Politeme Mandris

In 1996, many friends and family helped Dimitraki and Politeme celebrate their 50th anniversary at a party in Baltimore. Fifty years had passed since they began their lives together during the Greek Civil War. Little did they know when they decided to move to America how lucky they would be to end up in Annapolis and be part of our wonderful Greek and American community.

In the early 2000’s Dimitraki’s health began to fail. They bought a house with George and moved to Baltimore to be closer to family. He passed away April 11, 2005 and is buried at the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cemetery in Annapolis. Politeme alternated between George and Christine’s homes prior to moving again. She now lives in Berwyn, Pennsylvania with Christine and her husband, Mark Turner. Polina, Samuel and James live in the area. George, retired, lives in Baltimore. As of 2022, Politeme and Helen Palaigos, 97, nine days older and her friend since 1952, are the oldest living parishioners and Philoptochinas of the community.