By Catherine Tsounis
Former Flushing resident Catherine Georgianis of Mattituck died Jan. 7 at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. She was 81. She was born Feb. 12, 1933, in Northern Epirus, Albania to Vasilios and Agatha Conis. “Resilient, feisty, nurturing, this is Ekaterini Georgianis,” said her daughter, Maria Litos, an educator with a journalism background. “She grew up in the small farming village of Skorgiathes. Her childhood was interrupted by war. Her mother, Agathi, taught her to survive and kept her out of harm’s way from the Nazis who burned her home.”
Mrs. Georgianis youth is one of many such stories about WW II. The tragedy of Northern Epirotes is that families, parents and grandparents were separated by Albania-Greece boundaries. Modern Greek history books state the first Greeks, the Elli, came from the mountains of Epirus. Alexander the Great’s Mother, Olympias, was an Epirus princess. Mrs. Georgianis’ son-in-law electrician Billy Litos, a Northern Epirus immigrant, believes “being a hero is staying in a hostile political area and championing the right to practice one’s Hellenic culture, Greek language and Greek Orthodox religion.” Pyrros Dimas, “the Lion of Himare” is the Greek weight-lifting athlete who will go down in history as the only person to win four gold medals in his field. The Olympian is named after the legendary King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Pyrrhus of Epirus, who lived from 319 B.C.-272 BC, was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians. King Pyrrhus was an opponent of Rome. Some of his successful battles cost him heavy losses from which the term “Pyrrhic victory” originated.
Mrs. Litos explained her mother began a new life when she was fourteen by immigrating to America. She met her father, Vasilios, for the first time in New York City. “Settling in Manhattan, she completed High School and worked in New York’s garment district. She met the love of her life, her husband Demetrios, by chance when they were walking down 5th Avenue in the Greek Independence Day parade. They began more than 60 years of married life together in Manhattan, later in Flushing and finally as retirees in Mattituck.”
The couple raised two children, Nicholas and Maria, dreaming of a better future for her children. “She always emphasized education and never put limitations on what her kids could accomplish,” explained her daughter. “She showed them the value of hard work and how to be mentally tough no matter what life presents. She created a loving home for her family and was always there to guide her children. She was someone who used every moment to create something that would bring happiness to others. She beautified her modest home with her framed needlepoint in table co90lths, pillows and an assortment of houseplants that transformed her home into a mini hot house. Her home was always filled with the wonderful aromas of her koulourakia butter cookies and world famous spanakopita.”
Mrs. Georgianis was a mentor to her two grandchildren Christina and Evangelia. She passed on her many talents to them during their summer vacations IN Mattituck. She inspired a love of reading and nature in their granddaughters. Mrs. Georgianis had big dreams for the girls, encouraging them in all their goals. Mrs. Litos believes her mother “is not gone from us. Her memory will always be among the living. Her spirit will always be ready to guide us, to nurture us and to comfort us in our time of greatest need.”
Ms. Georgianis is survived by her husband, Demetrios; her children, Maria Litos of New Hyde Park and Nicholas of Staten Island; her sister Polymneia Babanikas of Bronx; and two grandchildren.