The Varias Family Name

The Varias Family Name

It is interesting how stumbling upon a museum can bring a happy shock to a person.

I recently visited the USA and one of the highlights of the trip was visiting Ellis Island and the wonderful history that they present about the immigrants that went to America.

While walking through in the entrance of the main building some steamer chests caught my eye.  It was amazing to see that the name of one of my relatives was displayed right there.

My grandfather Pantelis Bournias was married to Isabella Varia and lived on the island of Chios in Greece. They visited us in New York when I was a child but never lived there as can be seen in some of the photographs under the Bournias family Genealogy.

Here is a picture of the steamer trunk with the name Evagelia A. Varia Trenton NJ USA.

Ellis Island Evagelia A. Varia Chios

I hope that you too are lucky to find someone from your family ancestry within the halls that help build the United States of America.

The History Behind the Steamer Trunk of Evangelia Varias

Evangelia Armenakis Varias sailed from Pireaus, Greece to New York in February, 1952 on board the SS Argentina of Home Lines.  She traveled with her son, Dimetrius, to join her husband, Aristides Varias whom she had married in 1940 just before the Nazi conquest of Greece.  Her husband worked on freighters and joined one shortly after the wedding.  His ship was sunk by German torpedoes in the North Atlantic, though he survived and lived in Britain for about three years before joining the American army and later settling in the Trenton, New Jersey area by the late 1940s.  Evangelia raised her son in Chios, Greece throughout the forties, during the Nazi occupation and the bitter time of the Greek Civil War.  Communication during this time was difficult and it was only during the Civil War that she learned her husband was still alive and living in New Jersey as a restaurant owner.

Evangelia traveled with this trunk and had within it linens embroidered with her initials, other necessities for her new life and icons and decorative towel rack made for her personally by the monastery of Aghion Pateron in Chios in 1939 as part of her wedding dowry.  This trunk was given to her by her father, Alexander Armenakis who used it on his merchant ship which he used between Istanbul and Beirut earlier in the century.  He was a well-known captain from the period before World War I until the Second World War and he died in 1948.  His wife, Marika Armenaki, was well-known for her poetry and philanthropy.

The period of the Greek Civil War affected Chios as it did other parts of Greece though not as severely.  Nonetheless, families were divided by their allegiances to the forces of the left, EAM and ELAS, and to the right wing monarchy and EDES.  This was true of the Armenakis and Varias families in Chios which found members in each at odds.

It took some time for Evangelia to obtain the proper documentation and clearance to leave Greece with her son.  This finally occurred in early 1952 and the voyage was conducted in February of that year on the Argentina which, after leaving Pireaus made stops at Naples (from which an excursion was made for Pompeii) and Genoa before going through the Straits of Gibraltar.  The ship stopped at an English port before crossing the Atlantic, docking at Halifax, Nova Scotia and making the final stop in New York City.

Story written by Alexander Varias


Many thanks to the researchers at Ellis Island

Museum Division

Statue of Liberty National Monument - Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Notes of Peter A. Bournias:

The SS Argentina of 1929 besides bringing immigrants from Europe to the USA has a story of its own that is also very interesting.

Greek political parties

ESPO - ultra-nationalists, national-socialists and/or fascists
EDES - right wing monarchy
EAM - left wing
ELAS - left wing

Last Updated Thursday, 03 July 2014
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