Who was Vicky Sarandis?
(Xiomara J. Pages)
November 7, 2014 (Her Birthday 92 years today).
This is for my sister Bertica, and my nephew/niece: Gerry and Eli...
Vicky Sarandis was my nephew's God mother. She baptized him even though not Catholic the Catholic church gave her permission to do so, since the Godfather was Tio Frank, Catholic...and Vicky belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church.
I always believe children should know the stories no one tells them nor they can find in any book or documents...So, we the ones still alive and in our mental capabilities should tell them before we can't do it anymore....so I am planning little by little to tell stories to them and my children as well.
Who was Vicky Sarandis?
An American, born in Savanah, Georgia, daughter of Greek Immigrants...November 7, 1922, she was born around the time my own father Luis Sanchez was born (1923) .
She lived in Savanah and married Nicholas Sarandis (Nick), son of Greek Immigrants as well, The marriage produced two sons: Nicky (Nicholas, Jr.) and Jimmy (James)... We got to know her first granchild, little Nick (Nicky, III).
Vicky Sarandis served in W W II as a woman directing women to help the American troops...and remained a help to Veterans. She was an strong, firm, perfectionist, hardworking, respectful, ethical human being but also a kind, sweet, and humorous lady...a combination of the best in a human being.. with many brothers and sisters who were very close, and lived around Georgia.
She helped us so much, when we came from Cuba.. She was living in Miami and was the Administrator of the Department of Oral Biology at the School of Medicine of the University of Miami with Drs. Doran D. Zinner and James Jablon, Dr. C. Mena, Dr. Luis Duany, etc.
My parents, sister and I arrived to United States October 2, 1968....Berta and I attended the English Center to practice Conversational English since we knew English prior to our coming, thanks to our parents who paid a Black teacher from Barbados (without the knowledge of the Communist government and taught us a perfect British English hiding at times in his house and other places to receive the classes; my father thought it would turn useful for us in the new land).
We wanted to leave Cuba since 1962, but the two countries USA and Cuba broke relationships and we stayed known as anti-communist and anti-Castro having a very difficult life there, until 1968 that we could finally leave the island.
We were sent to Concentration camps around 1967 and 1968, as punishment for being against the government and wanting to leave the country...My father was thrown out of his more than 20 years job (he worked in buses, Ómnibus Aliados @ Ruta 10-11 Jacomino-Vedado), and sent to work in the fields. My mother, my sister and I were sent to another camp working the fields and attending chicken farms. My mother got sick over there and was sent home. My sister and I couldn't receive our credentials from High School, they thrown us out too before sending us to the Camps......until finally we all left Cuba together in the Freedom Flights (by President Lyndon Johnson).
We studied after arriving to Miami, Bookkeeping, Filing of documents, Typing, and all Secretarial and Administrative work at the English Center, then in Downtown Miami, it was free for Cuban Refugees. We did so from October 1968 to February, 1969, when the Youth Corp. found us part-time jobs.
My father Luis Sanchez started working in an Aluminum Factory in Hialeah in the night shift, one week after we arrived, and later in the day shift until his retirement. My mother Carmen (Diaz) Sanchez, worked cleaning floors in nursing homes in Broward, but later had to stop since she got real sick with pneumonia and our father and my sister and I, didn't want her to work out of the home. So, she stayed at home, but always selling something, Tupperware, Stanley Cleaning products, AVON, selling clothes, wigs, shoes, she was always doing her own business and saving money to help us all.
After working in the Tomatoes Fields in Perrine, with my mother and my sister Berta, cousin Zunilda, Aunt Alodia...Carmen our mother took us to a Youth Corp office near St. John Bosco's Catholic Church...where they would find part time jobs for students....We prayed to the Virgin of Charity (Patroness of Cuba) in the church and went into that office. My mother didn't know English but supported us in any endeavour my sister Berta and I had.
So, in February, 1969, we started studying High School again at Miami Senior High Adult Education Center at night, and during the day, my sister Berta became a Teacher Aide to the nuns at Corpus Christi Catholic School (later during school vacations at the Miami Downtown Federal Building). I, on the other hand, went to work at the office of the University of Miami, Oral Biology, where Vicky Sarandis was the administrator. The Youth Corps will pay us but will find the place in different places who will cooperate to help students.
That's how I met her, Vicky Sarandis, on February 6, 1969. My father took me to her office, and she admired the care of a father like that. She was strict, firm, and taught me many things about professionalism and ethics at the work place. I became her excellent student, she would say. Many of the doctors and scientists in that place, will give me old dresses from their daughters so that my sister and I could dress.
One day, Vicky told me, that besides her two sons, she lost a baby girl, and probably would be my age then. So, on Mother's day that year, May, 1969, I gave her a beautiful Spanish Mantilla, so she could use it to go to her Greek Orthodox Church. I wrote on the card that accompanied the gift, that I wanted to be her "adopted daughter."
Ever since, we both treated each other, more than as co-workers, more than boss/ employee, we treated and loved each other with the same love between a mother and daughter. It was difficult for her to pronounce my name Xiomara...so she changed it for Joanne...since my middle name is Juana.
Our family became real good friends. She visited us and we visited her. My sister and I were always there as interpreters between them but the love grew and grew stronger... We ate Greek wedding cookies (which she baked for both our weddings, my sister's and mine), tried Greek Coffee....I learned Greek words and phrases....She gave me love and I learned many things with her. Every single birthday of members of my family, my parents' anniversary, Christmas, Easter, you name it, her cards first from Miami (and later from Dunedin, in Tampa, where she moved after retirement) kept coming... and letters never stopped, even when I married and went to leave in Central America while my husband then was studying Medicine. Her letters were always there or her phone calls. She would call me
"Joanne, my Adopted Cuban Daughter"...and I would call her, "Vicky, my Greek Mother."
My sister and I have decided when we were younger, that each of us would baptize the first child of the other. But Vicky was so good to us and helped us so much that we decided Vicky would be the Godmother of the first baby from us to be born, so my nephew Gerry became her godson (my sister though younger than me, married and had children before me).
You see, I worked for Vicky, from that Youth Corps but when I turned 20, later she helped me find a permanent job at the University with another great boss with whom I still keep in touch, Dr. Bernard J. Fogel. Later on, she brought my sister Berta to work for her at the University permanently, my sister was then pregnant .
After her retirement I would send her every 7th of November (her birthday) a package to Tampa, of what she loved (A bottle of White Shoulders perfume).
She was getting sick and needed oxygen (she smoke for many years), she was suffering from Pulmonary Emphysema. She would tell me in her letters how difficult it was to live like that, walking around the house with those oxygen tubes and in her nose, etc. I started to get concerned and asked my husband that we go to Tampa to see her. I had the feeling she was getting worse.
I was having very serious marriage problems but as I never did to my own parents, never told her so. She thought the world of my husband and my children, she was very sick and I didn't want to make her sad. We cared a lot for each other. So, in the Spring of 2001, we went to visit her (May 7, 2001). She was very thin and pale, but still smiling and happy to see us, and asking for the rest of the family, specially Gerry her godson.
"Joanne, honey, I miss you so much!!! ... I was afraid I die one day without ever seeing you again".... I told her likewise. I asked her for the phone numbers of two of her sisters.
About a month later, I felt that Vicky was not here among us anymore, so I called her home in Tampa, there was no answer. I then called one of her sisters, and they informed me that she has died. Nine days after I was there to visit and see her for the last time, She waited for me to say my last Goodbye.
I will never forget my Greek Mom. Never!!! I love you, Vicky, where ever you are.
Γεια σου πώς είσαι, σ 'αγαπώ
(pronounce: Kalimera, Ti kanes, Si agapo)
which means: Hello, how are you...I love you!! )
Will have to look for photos later. She would write stories too, I have several ones she wrote...have to make copies and share with all of you...I have kept them all these years....Xiomara.
This is Her obituary at the papers from Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa
· SARANDIS, VICKY (CHIBOUCAS), 80, of Dunedin, died Wednesday (May 16, 2001) at home. She was born in Savannah, Ga., and came here to Dunedin in 1983 from Miami, where she was an administrator at the University of Miami School of Dental Research. She was a first lieutenant in the Women's Army Corps during World War II. She was a member of the Greek Orthodox church and a lifetime member of Disabled American Veterans. Survivors include two sons, Nick, Dunedin, and James, Deposit, N.Y.; a sister, Helen Chiboucas Hartley, Savannah; several nieces and nephews; and four grandchildren. Rhodes Funeral Directors, Druid Road Chapel, Clearwater.