Κυριακή, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2010

GREEKS OF THE WORLD: The President of the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada


The President of the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada, Mr. Gus Koutrakos states proudly:

“The Greeks of the U.S.A. and Canada are 100% Greek and love Greece absolutely”

During the meeting I had with Mr. Kostas “Gus” Koutrakos, I discussed with him his achievements so far and the goals he has set for the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada as well as the goals of the Hellenic American National Council where he serves as Vice-President. Also, I discussed with him the relations between Greek Association in the United States with the motherland and with the formal Greek State.

Like many Greeks who live in the USA and elsewhere, Mr. Koutrakos left Greece married in 1969 and began to do various manual labor jobs before opening up his own tire business in 1976. Later, working together with his brothers, he invested his assets on restaurants and opened up his own Real-estate business because he was not familiar with the work required in restaurants. In 2002, he sold his Real-Estate office and enjoys his retirement since then.

Since he retired, Mr. Koutrakos concentrates on the issues which concern the Hellenic community in the United States in general and particularly the Greeks coming from Laconia since he had been serving the Panlaconian Association of New York and Long Island from 1974-1982. In 1982 he became a member of the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada in which he has held all positions since then. In 2009 he was elected President of the Association in Michigan and was reelected in the congress of the Association in Laconia, Greece in 2010. It was actually a surprise for him that the congress in Laconia had the highest participation of any other convention considering the financial crisis that the people of the United States and Canada go through nowadays. After the decisions made in Laconia, Mr. Koutrakos believes that the rising path of the Association will continue given the fact that the number of member organizations keeps getting higher.

350,000 people coming from Laconia are estimated to be living in the United States of America and in Canada since it is very difficult to determine the exact number given the fact that there are 2nd and 3rd generation Laconian-Americans and Laconian-Canadians respectively. It is a facts, however, that the Laconian Association in the U.S.A. and in Canada are 85 and that this number is expected to become even larger.

A problem, which Mr. Koutrakos –as president of the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada– aims to solve, is the attraction and participation of young people; starting with programs which make the various local association more enjoyable to young people.

When asked about the relations and cooperation among the various member associations and the relations and cooperation between the Panlaconian Association of the United States of America and Canada and the mother land, Mr. Koutrakos said that there is a good understanding between the member associations although s the classic Laconian and Greek struggle for leadership appears at times.

As Vice-President of the Hellenic American National Council (HANC) and in close cooperation with the President, Mr. Paul Kotrotsios, Mr. Koutrakos states that he wants to “roll up the sleeves” and work hard setting the goal to “fill America” with Greek schools for each chapter. Such schools are particularly important for the preservation of the Greek identity in areas where there are just a few Greeks and many “mixed marriages”. He also expects a better cooperation between HANC and the Hellenic Associations since, as he states, “more than anything else, we are interested in Greece”.

As far as the support of this effort from the formal Greek State is concerned, Mr. Koutrakos states with astonishing sincerity that he does not expect any support or help from the Greek State – especially not at times in which it faces tremendous financial problems. Asked whether there has been any attempt by the Greek state to activate investments of Greeks living abroad in Greece, Mr. Koutrakos stated emphatically that he is not aware of such an attempt although the Greeks he knows wait for such an opportunity. He hopes that this will change in the near future.

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