2010 Scholarship Recipient

Thomas "Tommy" Vrettos Fraioli

My Family’s History on Kythera

    Both of my great grandparents were born in Kythera. My great grandfather, Yiannis Alfieris, was born in 1883, in Potamos, and my great grandmother, Marigo Chlentzos was born in 1882, in Christoforianika. They both left the island when they were teenagers and immigrated to Alexandria, Egypt, in search of a better life. In 1903, the two were married in Alexandria. Yiannis' father disapproved of the marriage because Marigo did not have a dowry. The teens were very much in love and the fact that Marigo did not have a dowry did not matter to Yiannis.    

       In 1906, Yiannis left Marigo and their two children and boarded a ship to America. Once Yiannis had established himself in San Francisco, with a place to live and a job to support his family, Marigo and the children made the long trip to America. When they were both settled, Yiannis and Marigo, now known as John and Mary, had five more children. Among the five children was my grandmother Evangeline, or Angie Vrettos, as she was known by most.

    My great grandparents suffered many hardships and struggles in America, living through the years of the depression. However, through love and hard work they were able to overcome their struggles and prosper. Even so, they never forgot their homeland Kythera. In trying to preserve that love for “Cerigo,” as I’m told my great grandfather referred to Kythera, John Alfieris and several other Kytherian’s, including my great uncle Harry Alfieris, founded the “Kytherian Society of California”. They wanted to build a community of Kytherians that would share their love of the island by meeting regularly and socializing. They founded the  “Cytherian Brotherhood of General Koronaios”, on January 5, 1950. It amazes me that so many of my relatives, the descendants of John and Mary Alfieris, are still so active in this organization today, sixty years later. When I attended luncheons with my parents and grandparents, before I moved away to attend school in San Diego, it was like attending a family reunion.

    I have been lucky enough to go to Greece twice - the first time in 1996, then again in 2005. In 1996, when I was only 10 years old, we visited Kythera. I got to see my grandmother’s house in Christoforianika and my grandfather’s house in Potamos. For a 10 year old, that wasn’t really exiting but riding bicycles around the island with my cousin Stergios is what I really remember. My most memorable adventure was a hike Stergios took us on. Our journey began in the village of Trifilianika. For over an hour, we hiked up and down mountainsides, through rugged sagebrush, streams and rock. After what seemed to be an eternity, we reached our destination, the ancient city of Paliochora. We were amongst the ruins of a city ransacked by pirates hundreds of years ago. Our visit to the ruins was short lived because the sun was quickly setting.  We hurried back over the mountains, barely able to see what was in front of us, but fortunately we made it out before darkness had completely set in. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to take that hike again.

    Our next trip to Greece was in 2005. Although Greece is a beautiful place to visit, I had more fun this time enjoying the different foods. Every meal, every day, was a new and enjoyable taste. Spending the majority of my time in a kitchen, these different meals were inspiring and made me want to expand my culinary knowledge by learning how to cook these wonderful Greek dishes. 

    I come from a family of great cooks on both sides of my parents, and I am following in their footsteps. I have worked my way up to lead cook in all of the restaurants I have worked in and all of this experience is helping me work up to my goal of one day opening my own restaurant. I have been working full time for the past four years to support myself and pay for my schooling. I am currently working on getting my bachelor’s degree in business. When this is completed, I plan on continuing my education in the culinary arts so I will be able to accomplish my ultimate goal and one day open up a restaurant of my own just like my great grandfather Yiannis did over a hundred years ago.




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