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December 13, 2012

St. Vasilios School marks 100 years

PEABODY — Look into the past far enough, and there are the Greeks.

To a great extent, our world began in Greece, as that nation’s contribution to the West includes democracy, language and culture. It’s why the study of ancient Greek history, Greek literature and even the Greek language has been offered at schools and universities for centuries.

At St. Vasilios Greek School in Peabody, it’s the modern Greek language that students practice, often communicating on iPads instead of papyrus. Regardless, the purpose here is to celebrate and preserve the very state of being Greek. And it’s been that way at St. Vasilios for 100 years.

The celebration of the school’s 100th anniversary year is coming to an end. Phyllis Dragonas, who serves on the St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Council’s education committee, notes that both the school’s enrollment and support from the community remain strong. At a time when religion often seems in retreat, the continued popularity of the school reflects the strength of the adjacent St. Vasilios Church.

On Sunday, she says, “The church is jam-packed. ... Parents come and bring their kids.”

In 1912, most of the school’s founders had come to the North Shore and specifically Peabody to work in the leather industry. Thrown into the American melting pot, they decided to do what they could to help their children and grandchildren retain what made them unique. Even as they learned and spoke English in the public schools, they would come to St. Vasilios to study the Greek language and culture.

It was considered so important at the time, Dragonas recalls, that the school was built before the church, with religious services temporarily held in makeshift settings.

Georgia Christoforos, one of the school’s teachers, is a latter-day example of the purpose of St. Vasilios School.

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