Athena Harris

“People have come back…because they know that this is their roots.”

Hi, I’m Tena Harris, I’m happy to meet you. I’m also known as Athena Harris but most people just know me as Tena so I’m happy to meet you. I was born and raised in Baltimore. I’ve lived sixty-two of my years here in Greektown. It was originally, always called “The Hill,” as opposed to Highlandtown because there was a little rise in the topography, but about maybe twenty-five years ago we started calling it Greektown because predominantly there were many, maybe eighty-five percent, people that lived in this area were all Greek. I just love it. I wouldn’t go any other place. When my parents were married, they had bought a home in Dundalk which is a little further, about two miles away, and when they heard that the Greek church was going to be built, the next day they sold the house, and that weekend they found the house, maybe three blocks from here. So, it’s very important, a very vital part in our lives to be near the church, to be near our faith, to be near the Sunday school, Greek school, youth groups. That’s where my whole life has been; in this area. I just feel like you’re in Greece, it’s just beautiful here. You can see the children playing and talking in Greek. Not as much now, but years ago, in the summer time, everyone had their windows rolled down. You could hear Greek music just traveling around as we sat outside. Culture is strong here. Well, we have a block, or maybe two blocks, of stores that we have the Greek bakery, we have the Greek pastry shops, we have the Greek coffee shops, we have the Greek gift shops, we the Greek grocery stores, and restaurants, as well. We have Zorba’s, we have Ikaros, the Acropolis, Samos is great. A lot of people come from all over. Even the hospital has Greek doctors and nurses and receptionists in order to communicate. My whole life is just around here. Just to come to a service is just beautiful. We do have some Greek and English, mostly Greek, but we do have English in our services and they’re just beautiful. There’s significance to everything. Originally this area was populated by the Finnish; people from Finland. There’s a building a block away that we used to call the Finnish Hall. It was a white wooden structure. There were many dances, wedding receptions there, and then our church purchased that property, and now we have a building that we use as a multi-cultural building that we have wedding receptions and baptism and bull roasts and we’re trying to repopulate. I know there are several young families that have come back. When we have the Resurrection, Easter service, everyone empties the church and we have the service, and we have fireworks. Big, blown-up, fireworks. Then we all come in and we continue until about 2:30 and then we have a lamb dinner. We don’t get home until three, four o’clock, which is okay. I’ve been here since its existence. We’re called Greek-Americans but I kind of call myself American-Greek because I’m an American citizen. I was born here. I love America. I love Greece but, I’m an American. We just live differently. We have the Greek music going on in our cars, and in our homes. They’re very proud of their homes and of their cars. Very proud, because this is theirs. They left their homes and they purchased these homes and they’re in America and that was a lot of people’s dreams. The streets are in alphabetical order so from Lehigh to Umbra, many many Greeks, many many Greeks. They’re still living here. They still maintain their homes. They still maintain their fig trees and grape arbors. It’s just beautiful. Everything has to change. We have changes in our life. Everything doesn’t stay stagnant and I think there are several people who have come back, young couples, because they know that this is their roots. They’re close to the church. They can send their kids to Greek school, and then to Sunday school, and to the youth groups and it’s really what it’s all about. The future of Greektown I see as it’s slowly re-emerging into the nucleus of the Greek but I think we’re probably going to try to expand and build a larger church. This is the focal point of the Greek community.