Ekaterina Robakis Kouchoukos was born in village of Lahanatha in Messinia
(Peloponnese) on October 17, 1931. She left her village and made her way to America via a long and hard boat trip when she was 24. The year was 1955. "I cried because I knew I would never see my
YiaYia (grandmother) ever again," she told us.
As the second youngest of seven children, life was hard growing up. Katerina's job was to take care of the sheep. She would walk with them in the mountains with only a shawl and no shoes. They grew everything, even the threads for their clothes from cotton plants which were spun and woven on looms.
By the time Katerina left Greece, her two older sisters (Tasia and Efstathia), and other family, where already in Chicago.
The boat from Athens was the 'Elosalem.' It took 14 days to get to New York. Katerina got very seasick and spent most of the time in her cabin. The ship was very dirty. She lost 15 pounds on the journey because all she could eat were apples and eggs. She remembers seeing frozen meat lying on the floor before they cooked it. She couldn't stomach the thought of eating it.
She remembers taking her first shower on the boat. She told herself that life was going to be good in America. Upon entering New York harbor, the captain called everyone to the deck. They all ran out and there was the
Statue of Liberty. Everyone clapped, yelled and cried. "We made it." It was September 2, 1955.
She took a TWA plane to Midway Airport.
Peter John Kouchoukos and Katerina were married November 11, 1956 at St. George Church. Her marriage was not arranged. The wedding reception was at Veteran's Hall in Logan Square with a full orchestra and both Greek and American dancing.
They lived in Logan Square and had two children. Later they moved to the north side and had three other children. They have seven grandchildren and have been blessed with a great life.