History of Society
This year, spring of 1947, it is the 70th anniversary from the day that the first Greek furrier came to this country. He was from Kastoria, a forerunner, the late Vasilios Skaperdas. No Greek immigrant before him knew the art of the fur.
The fur trade for many centuries was and still is a major source of employment for the people of Kastoria. The continuous immigration to various foreign countries cam be attributed to that industry and the free spirited minds of the Kastorians, where they formed strong Kastorian communities.
The space is limited to expand our narration over the centuries, thus we will go over some events that took place in the past and also in this century.
In the last quarter of the 18th century many Kastorian families created the community of Pestis in Hungary, and among the founders were we cansee the Sakellariou family (Giannakaki). Today, the president of the Greek community of Budapest is the banker Mr. George. Fon Sakelarios, fifth direct descendant of the forerunner Kastorian immigrant.
At the same time with the Kastorian community of Pestis the Kastorian community of Boukourest in Romania was created, by the Economou and Christopoulos families. A descendant of the Christopoulos family was the famous poet Athanasios Christopoulos, who was born in Kastoria and later moved to Romania where he joined his family. He then achieved a higher educational level, he was appointed teacher of the children of the local ruler, and also wrote the codes of law for Moldavia.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, Kastorian communities were created in Damascus by the Karagiannis, the Stefanis, theSiskos and other famiies. Later followed the communities of Lipsia, Paris and the greatest and most homogeneous of all, the Kastorian community of New York.
The beginning, as we mentioned above, of the Kastorian community of New York and the first basis of the Greek fur industry in the Americas were founded by the late Vasilio Skaperda. The hardships, the distant and expensive trip to the USA, made the Kastorian immigrants of the time skeptic and hesitant, and only after seven years, that is in 1894, three cousinsof the forerunner, began the trip to America. It was the second arrival of Kastorians. A year later Spyros and Naoum returned to Kastoria. John stayed in the USA and died in 1946 in Boston.
It appears that John Samaras saw that America was a progressive country with opportunities and decided to bring his nephews Thoma, Antonio and Christo Dimou, as well as his relatives Christo and George Papanaoum.
At that time came to the America Apostolos Skaperdas, nephew of the forerunner. Thus, by the end of the 19th century there were only eight Kastorians in the Americas.
In 1902, after the arrival of four more Kastorians, Panagioti Pekmezari, Elia Halatsi, Stavrou Litska, and Ap. Papakosta, the number increased to twelve, who created the core of the New York Kastorian community. From 1902 to 1905 that number increased to 25 with the arrival of Dem. Yiaggou, Theoh. Skaperda, Alex. Papadina, Mena Skaperda, George Georgiades, Theod. Skaperda, Christou Yiaggou, Leon. Bendou and others.
In 1908, that number was over 100, and among them there were five women. From 1908 to 1910 people were immigrating in groups, thus the number reached 1,000. People were encouraged at the time to immigrate in groups, and whole families were traveling to the Americas and as a result a small Kastoria was created. Their businesses from the fur trade were going well, and nothing could stop their progress and development.
As time was passing by the Kastorian community of the USA increased dramatically, today it has a special place among the Greek communitiesin this big and hospitable country.
This is in few words the history of the Kastorian community of America, and at the same time the beginning and continuation of the Greek – American fur businesses.
Phil. P. Bakalis