By Robert Lucke
Ever feel discouraged about the United States? If so, just
go and talk to Jimmy Treperinas for a few minutes and soon
you will feel much better about everything.
Treperinas is one of around nine Greek families who make
their home in Havre. During the 1950s there were eighteen
families. Many have moved on.
Jim Treperinas came to Havre from Prothermos, Greece, a
little town just outside of Athens, in 1955 when he was 16
years old. Why he immigrated is easy for him to explain.
"The thing was at that time we didn't have nothing," said
Treperinas. "The Germans had come in and burned our town and
then the Communists came in. We had no money at all. We were
just living from day to day. I didn't even have a pair of
shoes until after the Germans left."
"I had an uncle in Havre," continued Treperinas. "George
Meras. He had brought my brother over earlier and brought
seven or eight other people over at the same time. Nick
Dritshulas brought most of the rest. But anyway, my brother,
Sam Treperinas, brought me over."
Bringing someone over from Greece meant going to an
immigration office and applying for a visa. Treperinas came
by boat and never had any second thoughts.
"From the moment the boat landed in the United States, I
knew this was the place for me," said Treperinas. "Greece is
a wonderful place to be, but for me the United States is my
home. I wouldn't trade it for any other place in the world."
Treperinas came to the United States with just a dollar in
his pocket. Had nothing else until he reached Havre. A
friend got him on the right train to Chicago and his brother
and Johnny Meras met him in Chicago and guided him to Havre.
That was the 18th of June in 1955.
"You know, I loved this country and the wide open spaces
when I looked out the window of the train," Treperinas
explained. "When I got here, Oscar O'Leary put me to work at
the cement block plant on the north side. Then Joe Cech
hired me as a laborer on the rip track for the Great
The job market was a big shock in this country for
"Let's face it. If you are lazy, you are not going to make
it, but if you are not lazy, you will find a job and will
survive. Back in Greece it didn't matter. You couldn't
survive anyway. There was no place to work," Treperinas
Later, following the Havre Greek tradition, Treperinas
brought his sister and brother-in-law, George Lymbris, over
as well. And don't forget his wife.
"In 1961 my mother was sick so I went over to see her. I
met Vasilika Zesi, fell in love, married her, and brought
her back to Montana," said Treperinas.
They have two sons, George and John.
Treperinas does get back to Greece every so often.
"I try to get back every five or six years. The last time I
went back my father was 97 and my mother was 100. Both just
died in the last couple of years," Treperinas said.
These days, things are much different in Greece.
"Things are really good in Greece now. Not the same as when
I was there. These days they are ahead of the United States
in technology and there are lots of jobs," Treperinas
Still, though, Greece is not for Treperinas.
"It feels good to get back there, but there are terrible
memories that come back. I remember my dad's house. It was
two stories and had a patio and the Germans chased us
through the town. It is hard to think about that place,"
Just recently Treperinas has opened a Greek restaurant
called the Parthenon in Havre's south side.
His restaurant would make a Greek native feel right at home
"In Greece, every corner has Greek food like we have in The
Parthenon. Sort of like we have hamburgers and french fries.
Lots of lamb, goat and pork. Beef is just getting started
over there," Treperinas stated.
The Greek community in Havre, even though its numbers are
dwindling, about twice a year they all get together and
celebrate their lives here in Montana.
Jim Treperinas celebrates Havre and Montana.
"It's been a wonderful place to be. I have a lot of friends
and really love Havre," said Treperinas.
One worry is that the community does not have the business
it used to have to hold its people. Treperinas wonders what
there is here to hold young Greek or any other people in the