She is Greek….She is aristocratic.
She is very intelligent, rich and very popular for her generous character. She has a philosophical attitude to life. She leads, inspires and dominates like a queen in her kingdom, with love, wisdom and faith to God.
The princes and princesses are her precious family that consists of four children -Angela (Aggeliki), Sam (Sotiris), Margarita and Van (Vagelis)- many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She was always a good Christian and Greek patriot that dedicated her life –together with her late husband, her siblings and his siblings- that generously support the Greek Christian community.
She was born in Santorini in a small village. She spent the difficult years of the Second World War in Greece and together with many other Greeks she immigrated to Canada. Calgary has been her home since the 26th of July 1959 where she lived with her late husband Kostas. She had to work hard together with the whole family with the sole purpose to “not ever starve again!” This charismatic personality is a great writer but also a stock market expert. During the difficult Canadian economical years she risked and invested everything her family had managed to save. She entrusted all their savings into her son’s Sam (Sotiri) hands with absolute faith to the freshly qualified engineer and his ideas.
Sami being a visionary, intelligent and hardworking young man, with his classmate built a solar dog house and then helped a friend build a solar earth home, based on ecological standards using solar energy. This was revolutionary at the time as ecological issues were in their infancy.
At present Sam is the managing director one of the friendliest apartment rental companies across Canada.
“Ladies & Gentlemen let’s me present Mrs Nina Kolias…”
I met Mrs Nina at her beautiful home in Calgary’s picturesque area close to the old road that drives to Banff.
The Kolia’s home is dominated by Greek classic decor. To my amazed eyes she claimed, “Don’t forget my blood is Greek”. Photographs and portraits of the whole family were spread all over the house.
The “First Lady” of late Kostas Kolias’ family sat comfortably on her sofa and went back in time recounting old memories.
In 1979 a group from the Greek community decided to publish a registry record of all Greeks living in Calgary. Mrs Kolias explains that the initial results of the task, were disappointing as the registry was limited to one long page. So she decided it would be a great idea to take over the project, and produce better results.
She describes how difficult it was to research, find records, to go through the archives and make an inventory of the all the Greeks that ever lived in Calgary. The result of all this hard work was a unique book, a historic document. She employed translators, typists and organised the publishing of a book that stands in every Greek home in Calgary.
Of course in the 80s there were no computers as such, so the total research and job was hard. She even used the yellow pages and called as many Greeks as she could find. She collected all the necessary data. The result of all this hard work is comparable to a PhD level thesis and includes all records from 1903-1991.
“I wanted to make something that it would be considered a heritage to new generations. Something of a lighthouse that would shine on all Greeks that have migrated to Calgary and others that are born here. I wanted to pass over a message. If you have willingness, faith and enjoy working, you will succeed. I wanted to show how to manage, improve and develop but at the same to teach new generations that regardless of life’s difficulties, “success is always possible.”
She interrupted the interview for a moment as she had to check on her tablet how her shares are doing in the stock market. She enjoys trading stocks as a hobby making some money on the side by guessing on how to invest. At the same time she is keeping informed as major TV channels are giving her the information she requires.
“I was a young girl when I came to Canada to meet and marry my husband, the man that destiny determined. Kostas was already a good craftsman and he was working together with his brothers George and Nikos.
They worked very hard; they lived on limited resources and saved their income. Every penny they earned they invested into real estate. They were buying properties; they were renovating and maintaining them.” She was telling me her story and her eyes had the shine of a young girl remembering all the events.
“My siblings, Trifonas, Konstadis, Pararskevas, Ninos and George Agioritis were also hard at work and managed to create the renowned Boston Pizza franchise.”
“Imagine; we were living in a small one bedroom flat with three children. Kostas was tight with money but he was always saying we are building our future now we have to be patient. I was young at the time and I had my objections to his plan but he insisted. He was generous with children’s education and slowly we set in stone our solid foundations for the future.”
Their hard work gave a light to the Greek society of Calgary for the years to come. They were an example of solidarity, good morals and charity to the community.
“The 80s, was a time of financial crisis in Canada. My eldest son Sam or Samis was fresh out of university… Engineer… by 1983; my youngest son Van was graduating from high school. Their father was trying to influence them to work for our own business and later on after the crisis they could make their own start. However, Sami came to us with great plans and dreams that seemed outrageous and crazy at the time. Logically Kostas had reservations and objections about these plans. People were saying to us, you’re throwing your money out the window by handing over your hard-earned savings to the crazy ideas, of a couple of youngsters. I believed in them. I trusted them. We supported them to help materialize their dream without any hesitation. I insisted this time, I said to Kostas unless we let them try, we will never find out if they were right, and who knows; someday they might become successful. In any case Kostas my Dear, we know how to live on a limited income; we are not scared of poverty. Finally Kostas agreed to let them take the risk.”
In 1984 the two brothers establish the Boardwalk properties company Ltd.
“In 1994 success came with God’s blessing and of course the trust of many investors.”
As our discussion develops I will emphasize on some points that I will never forget.
Lack of Luck
“Nothing happened by chance. Hard work, faith, honesty and trust in our people. We showed love and respect to all people that were working with us. Of course we were lucky. We were blessed because God gave us health. If you are not healthy is a much harder life…”
Donation and dedication
“I was always advising my two sons Sami and Vagellis to work hard and to produce things to their best standard, to respect their staff, and as they will be happy they will be producing more.”
Meaning of life and philosophical perspective.
“I taught my children to worship God and thank Him. However, things in life are not always great. They should be prepared for everything. Still God was on our side. Still in every family good and bad things happen. So we had to get familiar with death and illness. That’s how life is, ups and downs.”
It is obvious that Nina’s family has a very philosophical approach to life.
In a very content mind I wondered around the numerous photographs and left Nina’s kingdom.
Knowing this amazing Greek lady I felt very fortunate, content and wiser. She is great in her internal power, in her dedication to donation to society and in her heart, values that no university in the whole world can teach. She has great actions to show and great words that touch straight to the heart during a life journey in God’s footsteps.
Interview: Gus Floras
Photos : Gus Floras
Translated by: Costas P. , Nikki K. & Gus Floras