NICKOLAUS FAMILY MIGRATION STORY
Artists: Ilana Nickolaus & Clara Zander
Writer: Zach Franklin
Completed in 2018
Link to full Interview video pt 1
Link to full Interview video pt 2
Keith Nickolaus’ grandparents moved to the United States from Greece in the early 20th century. His father’s parents were from the southern part of Greece, and his mother’s parents were from the northern part of Greece.
Keith’s grandfather George immigrated to New York through Ellis Island, and didn’t know any English when he arrived. He learned English using a dictionary and would go to bus stops in the city and just talk with people to learn the language. He worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant and eventually worked his way up to owning his own restaurant.
Keith’s grandmother Edna had a more unusual path to the United States. Their family first left Greece and moved to Costa Rica, where her father got employment working on the railroads there. They then moved back to Greece, before migrating again, this time to New York. Edna’s family met George’s family in New York and they were married by their parents through an arranged marriage. Unfortunately the family soon came upon hard times during the Great Depression. George lost his restaurant after the big stock market crash of 1929 and had to become a waiter again.
On the other side of the family, Keith had another grandfather named Andrew, and a grandmother named Vasiliki. Andrew came from a town called Kastoria in Northern Greece, where there were lots of beavers and most of the people there worked in the fur trade. Andrew ended up working in the fur business when he got to the US, but was unhappy in the US and went back to Greece, leaving Vasiliki to raise their three children by herself, also during the Great Depression.
Keith’s grandparents survived many challenges, and decided to come to the US so they and their children would have more opportunity. Their descendants were able to go to college and build better lives for themselves. Vasiliki’s daughter Electra went off to college and studied dance. Then she met and married George and Edna’s son, an engineer named Tony. They moved to Los Angeles and raised a family. Their son Keith went to graduate school in UC Berkeley, and never left.