Welcome Home. We are ALL One.
Here is a collection of family immigrant stories from across our human experience.
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I have to tell you a secret: my father was an illegal immigrant!
His story and resilience is why I’m proud to be a part of “Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome,” a book of poems and an album of music which celebrates American immigrants, with the spirit of inclusion, welcoming, and oneness. It is a privilege working with my co-creators Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal, as well as our two producers (which includes Jeff Oster), engineering team, and talented guest artists.
My dear father, Constantinos Avgerinos, grew up on the Greek island of Kefalonia, in the Ionian Sea between Greece and Italy. Born in 1914, the oldest son in a large family of eight children, he was nicknamed “Costas.” Tradition had him working full time by the age of 13 helping to care for his sisters and younger brother, a responsibility he carried throughout his long life.
The rugged landscape and breathtaking beauty informed his character and discipline, while the stories of Homer’s Odyssey and its hero king Ulysses would inspire his dreams and aspirations. Kefalonia is the island kingdom that Ulysses rules and returns to after his epic adventures, and my father’s village of Valeriano is not far from Ithaca, the legendary home of that man skilled in all ways of contending.
With a great aptitude and passion for mechanical engineering, Costas made his way to Athens at the age of 16 where he worked days as a mechanic and attended school at night. In 1938 he received his diploma in mechanical engineering and was accepted to work and study further in Sunderland, England. At 25, he was hired to work on the freighter Nickolas D.L. that was voyaging to Portland, Oregon.
As fate would have it, my father developed Appendicitis as the vessel was passing through the Panama Canal. Fearing that he would lose his new engineer, the captain refused to let Costas receive medical attention on land. Fortunately, my father made it to Portland on September 2, 1939 just as World War II was starting. He jumped ship and fled to the protection of his sister who lived in Oakland CA where my father received the medical attention that he needed. Amazingly, a German submarine sank the freighter Nickolas D.L. on its way back to London!
In his new found home, Costas began working, learning English and earning the US versions of his Mechanical and Civil Engineering degrees while continuing to support his family back in Greece. He said that he was most amazed by the huge buildings and cities of the U.S. and by how nicely the people treated him.
America’s involvement in WW II was fast approaching and so my father joined the burgeoning defense industries in Rhode Island and Connecticut. He helped to defeat the fascist terrors of Hitler and Tojo.
Outside a movie theater in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, he met my mother Juliana Peripoli. My mother’s family had themselves fled Northern Italy before World War I, just one generation earlier.
My father later went on to run several successful businesses employing dozens of Americans and securing multiple engineering patents.
My existence is a testament of gratitude to the welcoming spirit of this great country, the United States of America.