Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Greek-American's Greek Identity Crisis in Athens

ATHENS, Greece—"Hello, my name is Matt Vasilogambros," I say, introducing myself to a businessman here. I put an emphasis on the "lo" in my five-syllable surname (VA-SI-LO-GAM-BROS), rolling through the end of my name with Mediterranean ease.

It's a strong Greek last name meaning "The King Groom" or "William the Groom," depending on whom you ask. It's the name of my immigrant father who came to the United States in 1966, leaving for the promise of a new life and higher education.

"Are you Greek?" the man asks.

"Yes, my dad was raised in a village near Sparta," I say confidently, thinking he would embrace me as the prodigal son, returning home after a long absence. (I was last here when I was 6.)

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