George and Elizabeth had travelled to Greece for George to play the part of Nicholas Kalvos in this episode of the "Heart to Heart" TV series. As it happened, this was George's first trip to Greece since 1923. When the TV work was done, Elizabeth persuaded him to go on a quest for his relatives. Here is Elizabeth's description of that quest.
After the 18 hour overnight boat trip from Rhodes we were delighted to be met at Piraeus by the film representative and one of their drivers ready to take us to the station. We had to eliminate one or two misdirections up and down streets of warehouses by the harbour before we got to the station – no signposts, no nameplate – and our studentdriver got our first class tickets, found the platform and left us. Off to Tripolis, the nearest station to Sparta which seemed to be central for our search. Little four coach diesel train on onetrack line, except for one bypass where we waited for our opposite number. Nearing Tripolis, we were astonished to see more than fifty old 'little red engine' locomotives, sitting nose to tail on an old bit of track, rusting away.
Overnight in Tripolis. Went to Tourist Police in morning for directions to Kastanya. This was the name George had in mind all his life from his father, Nicholas, and so it seemed best to start there. Ah, yes, said the T. Police, it is now called Kastorio, the name has been changed for some years. It's not far from Sparta. Bus at midday 'to Sparta. 11 hrs. Local bus at Sparta, five minute dash from one terminus to the other, to Kastorio. Along leafy lanes, then up, up, up, twisting mountain roads, lush green countryside to Kastorio (Kastanya). Wide sloping village street. Ask in shop by bus stop for hotel. No hotel here. Difficult to believe. Look around, see cafe in large building at top end of street, looks like a hotel. Two young girls serve us coffee and again, no, no hotel. No, no rooms. They get taxi driver and he says no. Suddenly he darts off and brings over Theodore Zavra, 88 year old who'd lived in America. He explains that the only place to stay is 20 minutes further up mountain. We find we've just got off the last bus to go there. So take taxi, with Mr Zavra to interpret, and get to Georgitsio and 18 room, chalet hotel. George Derros and Eva welcome us and we arrange to stay the night and go back to Kastorio to make enquiries the next morning.
When we get there, Mr Zavra greets us and introduces us to Mr Rumelyotis who says his father worked with Nicholas Koulouris and they laid the stone tiling floor of the church. Mr R. gave us a stone chisel which he said Nicholas left behind when he vent to America and left all his tools with his father. lie showed us a house belonging to a woman, Theophilopoulos, telling us that Nicholas had married her. He said Nicholas had come from Kastri. We asked about cemeteries and possible registration of names but they told us that there weren't such things. The only bit of Mr Rumelyotis's story that seemed connected to George's family was Kastri. The American cousins, Bea Davis and Eleanor Marshall, had given George Kastri, Kinourias, as the last address known to them, from their father, Basil, Nicholas's brother.
back at Georgitsio, we told George and Eva Derros – also ex "American" Greeks – that we seemed to have got to a dead end. George Derros, next day, looked in phone book for Koulourises. He found one in Sparta and phoned them. Young people, husband out, wife not much interested. When we told George D. about Kastri, he found four Koulourises there. Later that day, 'Bobby' Karalambos, our taxidriver, went by hotel. Ile always hooted if he saw us on balcony. George asked him if held be willing to take us to Kastri the next afternoon. He was to ask Mr Zavras if he would go with us.
Mr Zavra phoned and explained that he couldn't well leave his wife for so long but if we thought we'd be back about 9.30 he would be able to come. Eventually George Derros said he'd come and we were able to leave Mr Zavras who had explained that his wife was ill.
Down to Sparta, then on good, recently straightened, road up other side of valley and then off on to minor road between fields leading to dirt track along a gorge, made narrower for some distance by heaps of gravel dumped in readiness for (presumably) improvement works. Luckily we admired the Greek drivers. Tile ones we were with were always prepared to go slowly and carefully. Even so, fine dust was blowing about and it must have taken an hour to get along the gorge, cross over and go past a little lost village rising up all the time and eventually coming out high up a few miles from Kastri. This had been a shortcut which saved us from an extra 20 miles up to Tripolis and back on the better road. Kastri is spread up the mountain slope and we reached the highest part first. Bobby stopped and George D. asked a couple of women if they'd heard of Koulouris. Yes, there was certainly one family whose house was nearby. We decided to go down to the village square, parked and sat outside cafe with drinks. I had taken the phone numbers in case we decided to phone while there. George D. set off immediately to ask any and everyone about Koulourises. None of young people were able to help. He went across road to older group and then came back. He was the ideal person for this enquiry, quite happy to plunge in and chat to everyone. That done, he came back to sit with us. Almost immediately up came a rather dignified man with walking stick and said, Someone is asking about Koulourises. George D. told him we were and lie sat down. Told that George was looking for relatives, he thereupon related tile outline of George's life. Father, Nicholas, had gone to England. Nicholas's brother, Basil, had gone to America and had kept in touch. Lost touch with family when Basil died. Nicholas's son had gone to America and become an actor. George Derros interpreting all this. We were introduced to Dionysios Koulouris, absolutely delighted when he realised who George was. Dionysios went off to phone his wife to warn her he was bringing us to the house. Meanwhile, up came a man whose wife's mother was Georgitsa Koulouris (she married a Mr Pontikis and their daughter married the man who presented himself to us) obviously very pleased to be connected with this event.
Up to house with Dionysios. Ushered into what seemed to be a house still in process of being decorated and finished off. Up a few steps inside door, turn right and up a few more into a parlour. Table used as a desk, papers, lots of photos, especially from family who had gone to Canada. Mrs Dionysios, scarf over hair, smiling and welcoming. George Derros interpreting all the detail as Dionysios remembered different things. Nicholas had refused to go to school. Went off to Tripolis to work in store for barely enough to live on. Then family heard held got to England. Back in Athens in 1923 where he set up a business. Son, George, came to Athens but got ill and went home in 24 hours (actually six weeks!). Dionysios 13 at the time 73 now). Nicholas sold up business and gave proceeds to Dionysios's mother. His father had died and there were four children. Nicholas continued to send them money – or to help them in some way presumably money – from Manchester for many years. Dionysios specially glad to meet George because of that.
He wanted us to stay the night. Said they could put us all up for months – three, four months – although we didn't see where the rooms were. His wife, on our way out of the house showed its a room with bed, stove, radio, and smiled it seemed to me implying that we could stay there.
We had to eat homemade bread, wine and home preserved olives and cheese. All delicious. Small kitchen with fridge/freezer. Dionysios showed us the frozen meat and tried to make us stay for evening meal. But we had to insist that we must get back to Georgitsio that night – with George D and Bobby who both lived over there. Once he'd accepted that we were going he said we had three other cousins to meet. George D. had told us that Dionysios was not speaking to his brother, Panayotis, because they were building 'right on top of one another'. All we could understand was that there were three families and as each built his house, he deprived the next one of a wall, or windows, or something like that. So, as we went out of the' house Dionysios showed George D. where to go to find Panayotis and he stepped backbehind a building and then disappeared. We went on down to the road Panayotis introduced cousin, loan. They were a bit bemused and by then we had no time to get to know them. It was time to go. Dionysios had told us we must go again and take all the family plenty of room, according to George D.
Dionysios D. Koulouris Kastri 22398 brothers not speaking
Panayotis D. Koulouris Kastri 22179 brothers not speaking
loan Koulouris Kastri 22517 cousin
(Grandfather of all, George, had lots of girlfriends before he settled down and married.)
Based on the information that Elizabeth and George gather in 1983, Elizabeth drew up a partial family tree which was used, together with information about his mother's side of the family obtained by the Salford Museum to produce this tree:
(or download pdf - 2 printable pages).
Compiled by George Coulouris jr, December 2000, Updated March 2006.