Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Greece Goes to the Polls, the St. Louis Greek Community Watches

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Greece Goes to the Polls, the St. Louis Greek Community Watches

Article excerpt

As Greece moves toward a critical vote Sunday that could decide whether it remains in the eurozone, members of the Greek community in St. Louis are watching events with concern.

For many here, the economic crisis there is felt personally. They've reached into their own pockets and participated in fundraisers to help friends and family in Greece. Several have strong opinions about whether Greek voters should accept the tough terms of an international aid deal.

Nick Karakas, 88, runs Discount Smoke Shop, a chain of almost 60 stores in four Midwest states. His father started the business in St. Louis after he emigrated from Greece in the early 1900s.

Karakas said he had been sending money to support family and friends in Greece, but he has seen many calls for contributions.

"One request leads to another. I have received so many letters that make me cry," Karakas said.

International checks in Greece take two to four weeks to clear, and now with the temporary closure of banks there, Karakas has been sending cash to those he helps.

Gus Miles-Miliotis is a special adviser to the World Council of Hellenes Abroad. He also runs a website of his writings that he calls "The Hellenic Nest." Miles-Miliotis, a retired ExxonMobil executive, said the Greek community in St. Louis was relatively small "no more than 8,000 to 10,000 people" and most were not directly involved in trade with Greece because most were second- or third-generation Americans.

Miles-Miliotis said the debt crisis was keeping many Greek- Americans from traveling to Greece despite favorable currency exchange rates. "No one wants to visit a Greek island somewhere and get trapped because it is impossible to pay for fuel," he said.

One member of the St. Louis Greek community who owns property and has business in Greece is Ricardo Farias Nicolopulos, president and CEO of Brownsville International Air Cargo. He is also a Greek citizen, and his older children live in the country. He said his family was relatively unaffected by the financial crisis because they could use international credit cards and bank accounts. The environment for doing business in Greece, however, is very difficult. …

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