As the world’s populations grow more mobile, the preservation of language and history are of the utmost importance. With the passage of generations, families and communities must maintain their geographical links to shared ancestral homes in order to carry remnants of the past into their present lives. The Immigrec Project, spearheaded by Professor Tassos Anastassiadis of McGill’s History Department, seeks to provide Greek-Canadian populations with the space to forge personal connections to Greek language and culture. Moreover, the group’s research aims to contribute to the study of Greek transatlantic migration patterns, filling gaps in the understanding of ethnic diversity in Canadian society.
In order to foster a connection to Greece within the Greek diaspora, Immigrec has invited students to engage with the histories of their family members through storytelling. On May 24th, a collaboration between the Immigrec program at McGill and the Socrates-Demosthenes Schools of Montreal culminated in a celebration at Montreal’s Hellenic Community Centre. Throughout this school year, a new educational oral history program was launched in Greek-language studies classes around the city to invite students to interview their grandparents about their migratory experiences. Devised by Immigrec anthropologist Dr. Alexandra Siotou, a post-doctoral fellow specializing in immigration studies, the program was organized through the combination of a set of insightful interviews among Montreal’s Greek community and an extensive training of research assistants on oral history practices.
The event gave students and teachers of grades 5 and 6 the opportunity to present their research findings, allowing them to honor all of the families and community members in attendance through their commitment to the study of Greece. Some students read their gathered stories before an audience of loved ones and educators, while others recited poetry, led traditional dances, and staged an original theatre production. The room was decorated with displays of the students’ individual projects as well, offering guests a glimpse into their families’ lives through assortments of photographs, heirlooms, and personal records from decades’ past.
Oral histories are an integral part of the research coordinated by Prof. Anastassiadis through the Immigrec project, as sociohistorical and sociolinguistic research is necessary to the study of Greek communities across Canada today. The nationally-focused organization conducts research at McGill University, its chapters at Simon-Fraser and York Universities doing work with Greek communities in cities around the country. The team at McGill is dedicated to the study of Greek immigration to Montreal, developing ties to the city’s Greek community through frequent public outreach events. Deliverables of their ongoing research include several publications, as well as a forthcoming Virtual Museum, an electronic database, and a short documentary of Greek narratives on migration.
Crucial to the proliferation of this research is their grassroots work with teachers and students. The Immigrec project hopes to continue its oral history programs among generations of Greek diaspora, continuing their research across disciplines and mediums in order to increase accessibility to their study. Immigrec at McGill and the Socrates-Demosthenes Schools look forward to working together over the next school year in order to unite more students in the common project of learning their communities’ stories. Learn more at: https://immigrec.com/en.