“And the wife…” Photo of the wedding of Maria Gavaki with Peter Tsavalas. Source: Gavaki Photo Archive
A man who remained in Montreal as a “tourist” explains how he decided to get
Res.: Your wife? Where did you meet her?
V.K.: My wife has a history.
Res.: Let’s hear it.
V.K.: My wife had two uncles. One was named George,
who had passed away and the other one was
named Antonis and he has passed away as well. Anyway. One of them had a
business with my brother, they had a restaurant
in Montreal at Loriey, they had bought a restaurant together. The other uncle
was in construction and we became acquainted
in Montreal at New Palace Restaurant, because it was owned by some compatriots
of mine and from there he arranged a marriage
with my wife, but I had in mind to go back to my village to get married there,
I didn’t even want to hear it and when somebody
would say to me to get married, to get settled, this and that, I would say no,
no, no. I never said yes. Anyway, one day he
invited me to go to my wife’s house. My mother-in-law and himself were
siblings. We indeed went and he says, you ought to
see the girl, I guess, if you like her, this and that. He was hustling me,
that is. I was saying no. I saw my wife, she was
very serious back then, shy, she was young. Alright at Saint Mary Hospital as
a cleaner from 14 years old. Yes, I had heard
that she went over there and they didn’t hire her the whatever you call them…
the nuns who worked there, who commanded, the
bosses and that. She used to go there early in the morning and she was
standing at the door and she was telling her no you’ll
hire me for work, I can do the work the other ones do and because of the many
times she went there and waited, they hired her.
We’re now talking about… Anyway. It was six months since the time I first saw
her. To be honest, when I married her,
I flipped a coin, my story is very rare and we said with the guy whom we had
the restaurant together, the fast food at Frodenacht,
I tell him, his name was Chronis, I tell him Chronis look, I can’t stay any
longer, they’re not giving me another extension
to remain as a tourist anymore, I have to leave here and disappear, go to
another state, I have to go back to Greece for,
the third choice is to get married and all these hardships will be over.
Meantime, I had made friends over here as well,
I had gotten used to this, I had father Chalkias who was from Carpathos,
father Chalkias who was at Saint Trinity and he promised,
he used to tell me I’m going to help you, don’t despair, you’re going to stay
over here and I’m going to send you somewhere and
he’s going to take care of you, now these are of course things which I’m
discussing because it’s my life I had over here.
Indeed, where to marry from, he had sent me to some mister who had the Acropol
club. His name was Elias Papadopoulos and
I had to pay two thousand dollars over there, in order for him to send the
passport to Nottawa, the government to seal it
from there and to return it back. Now, about the two thousand I was paying I
don’t know. Was it his? Was he splitting it
with others? I don’t know.
Res.: I didn’t understand this well. Why did you give
two thousand dollars?
V.K.: To take care of me, to give me a visa. To put
me, I gave him my passport, my passport was a
tourist one, I was here as a tourist, in order to take care of me, give me a
visa, so that I could stay in Canada indefinitely,
but all these were schemes.
V.K.: Schemes. These weren’t right things. Because it
happened afterwards that I brought him my passport
after a little while, maybe because he told me it’d take two to three weeks
for the passport to come from Nottawa and everything
would be ok. I believed it, the father sent me over there, now the father
might have not known that there were such schemes,
he might have genuinely thought that he had an expedient to take care of
illegals and tourists. But this wasn’t the case.
It happened that during the second week which was due since the time I brought
the passport to Papadopoulos who took care of me
and had put a seal from the immigration on the visa, saying that I’m in Canada
and I’ve received a visa, a friend who had
performed the same act was caught. He was working at a fish market and many
times at a billiard at Park Avenue and Berna,
we used to meet and sometimes at Alsis restaurant, sometimes at Palace
restaurant and one day I didn’t find him, I was looking
for him. His name was Alexis. I say, I was asking the others what happened?
Did Alexis by any chance pass by, maybe by there
and he says Alexis was handcuffed and sent to Greece. I tell him why? Because
he was caught by immigration. I say here, but
here he was taken care of, Papadopoulos took care of him, why then? He says
the seal Papadopoulos put him is not a seal, it’s
something that I don’t know of. He had stolen it from immigration, he made it
himself. What all that was, I don’t know what
it was. I couldn’t find out. That moment I left and I went to Papadopoulos at
the club and I say to him I want my passport back,
because I had given him the passport along with a thousand dollars and when
the passport would be back after two to three weeks,
I would give him another thousand dollars and I was thinking with my mind that
I was ok and everything would be alright and I
wouldn’t have any issue, but the problem was actually a big one.
I was lucky because they caught that guy whom I knew, we were friends, we had
become friends and so I didn’t believe that what
Papadopoulos was doing for me was real and I went back, I tell him I want my
passport and my thousand dollars back please.
He tells me your passport is at Nottawa and it’s going to take another week
for it to return and I’ve got nothing to give you.
I got very angry because I understood that it was a scheme and I tell him
please, I talked to him nicely, please hand me my
passport, because I’m not leaving here until you give me my passport and my
money. I tell him I’m not a rich guy, I tell him
I’m a poor guy. I came over here, I’m trying to make a living and I’m working
long hours and I’m suffering. Anyway. He’s not
giving it to me. For a moment I got angry and I tell him look I’ll go
downstairs at the booth, there was a telephone booth
over here. I’ll go call the police, the police is going to come over here and
I’m going to get my passport, I don’t care anymore,
I tell him, I had decided to leave for Greece, but first you’re going to hand
me my passport and my money and since he saw that
I was mad and I was going down the stairs and running, he was shouting “You
crazy, come here!”. I go back and he says open
the passport and inside the passport there was the thousand dollars I had
given him. He gave it to me. I took it from him.
Then, we saw my wife along with my uncle, and he became my uncle of course
then, at first he wasn’t my uncle, we were just friends.
It happened that we met one more time at my brother’s and uncle Antonis’s
restaurant. They were together at Loriey where they
had the restaurant and from there we met and discussed, I told her look I’m
over here in this way, the truth is that I didn’t
want to get married over here, but since I’ve become used to the place now and
I started to like it and we’ve got a future and,
you know, my mind was always to make my own business, it wasn’t to work as a
laborer, because wherever I worked, I worked long
hours and my pay wasn’t that good. Anyways, I sat, talked for a while with my
wife, after about an hour she tells me look I
don’t want to get a person and have issues tomorrow because you’re over here
as a tourist and George you might want… and what
I didn’t tell you from the beginning, I’m baptized as Basil, but I had become
sick when I was a little boy and my mother made
a promise, she dedicated me to Saint George and I got well and I’ve got this
mark here, but if you don’t call me George you
won’t find me, while on papers I’m Basil. Anyway, this is a child’s story of
course. So, we agreed with my wife and I saw
that she was indeed a girl with brains, serious and when I returned in the
night back to the restaurant, that which I owned,
that which my brother left me, I met with the other guy whom we were together,
we owned it, and he was illegal from the ships.
He had deserted from the ships.
Res.: He ran away.
V.K.: He wasn’t here with a visa either. That is, we
had a store, we could lose it any minute but thank
God, because people were so kind over here in those years, because now things
are different, we had gotten a work permit, we
had gotten a doctor’s card, we had taken exams and we got a driver’s license,
that is, we didn’t lack anything. I saw that
indeed it’s nice over here, it’s unlike Carpathos the island. Anyway, I take
out a coin from my pocket and I say Chronis,
I say to him, if I flip the coin, I haven’t yet said the ok with my wife that
I got married, I’m going to flip it and if it
turns out to be heads, I’m going to call now and tell my wife and I’m going to
say ok that we’re going to get married, as it
happened now. If not, I say, I’m going to pack my suitcase tomorrow, I’m going
to turn up at the immigration and say to them
that I’m leaving back to Greece. I neither lose, nor win. I didn’t lose
anything, I didn’t bring anything over here.
I came with jeans, a jeans jacket and a pair of running shoes anyway. I indeed
flipped the coin and the other guy says to me,
have you lost it? Is that how you’re playing with your life? You flip your
life? The woman, if you marry her, you’re going
to live with her for all time, the rest of your life. I tell him that’s how I
feel, that’s what I do, because I was a little
confused, I didn’t know exactly, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t want to stay
right here. But since indeed it turned out to
be heads, this was the lucky one, and I said the ok, we got married within two
weeks. Because my deadline which I had from
immigration was approaching and I had to do what I had to do to leave or to
stay because they wouldn’t give me further
permit. I remember the last time I went to immigration inside and I found a
Frenchman sitting and when he talked to me,
he said I’m giving you three days to leave. Don’t you come here again. He was
sitting and standing up and sitting.
He was standing and sitting due to his anger. He says I don’t want to see you
over here again, you’re going to take
your suitcases and you’re going to leave for Greece now. You’ve stayed
fourteen months. Enough! Since I saw as well that
this can’t go on any further, I have to do something in order to leave or stay
and that’s what happened.