Friday, November 7, 2014

Who was Vicky Sarandis? (Xiomara J. Pages)


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.

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