When Costa Xinos of Broomall, Pennsylvania, received his Ancestry DNA results back last year, he learned of a fourth-generation cousin from his village of Levidi, Greece. When he contacted him through ‘23 and Me’ connection service, Costa asked him where he lived, thinking Chicago or Australia, but was shocked to learn that his cousin lived just a few miles away in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The two eventually met this past year, and what they discovered was that they both shared a bond that went beyond being distant relatives.
Peter Georgopoulos, a first-generation Greek-American, grew up in New York City, in the Bronx. His parents, both from Levidi, had immigrated to the United States separately. One in 1910, the other in 1920. They eventually met, married, and had three children, including Georgopoulos, born in 1944, the youngest child. After graduating from Long Island University, he attended and earned his doctorate in Nuclear Physics from Penn State (main campus) and eventually moved into the area with his wife and son, where he taught at a local Penn State campus the next thirty years.
For years, Georgopoulos was piecing together his ancestral lineage, finding others around the world related, and placing them into a growing family tree. Through a connection at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Media, Pennsylvania, he had been told of the Xinos family, but that was more than twenty years ago, and DNA testing for the public was still in its infancy. Nevertheless, he had a brief encounter with other family members, but not Costa, and never pursued it further. That is, until Xinos took the test this past year and found that they were related.
Costa Xinos was born in Levidi, Greece, and immigrated with his family to the United States at age 5 and settled in Millbourne, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia. From ages 8 to 18, Xinos would travel back and forth from the US to Greece, where he studied in his village. In the summers, he would return to the US where he worked in a relative’s restaurant and got to see his family. Eventually, Xinos married and moved to Newtown Square, opening up Nova Mediterranian Grille, in Villanova, next to Villanova University.
When the two eventually sat down, they discovered that their relationship goes back to a mutual fourth-generation grandfather, Papaphilipas Xinos, a priest. They also learned that they had much in common, including their passion for music and history. Xinos follows much contemporary, and historic Greek music, and Georgopoulos plays the Oud and collects Greek, Armenian and Turkish music. When the village’s topic came up, who and what they knew about it, the bond was cemented. The two had each traveled back to their family village often; Xinos, who grew up there, had made frequent trips all his life, and Georgopoulos would return periodically to search out and connect to his past, all the while collecting facts and photographs.
One common thread the newfound cousins had was their village’s pride, which had a long history. Levidi played a leading role and is loaded with monuments of history, culture, and tradition. On April 14, 1821, at the battle of Levidi, the chieftain Anagnostis Striftombolas, along with seventy other Greeks, were attacked by 3,000 Turks and defeated them, Striftombolas dying the same day in this glorious battle. Another important fact about Levidi is that it is the home of Alexandros Papanastasiou, the Democratic Union founder in 1922. He is considered the father of the Republic Parliamentary Democracy and the initiator of modern agricultural policy. The statesman eventually served as prime minister of Greece in 1924 and 1932.
During the few meetings between the two cousins, Georgopoulos shared a photograph with Xinos of the village square from 1900. The photograph featured the Mayor of the village, who was Georgopoulos’ great grandfather. Xinos reflected on his time growing up in and around the same square. Xinos was so moved by the photograph that he had it enlarged, framed, and now it proudly hangs at the Nova Grill.
The relationship between Georgopoulos and Xinos has continued to grow. Georgopoulos stops in at Xinos’ restaurant regularly. The two sit, share a conversation, and a meal, much like their ancestors did back then and continue to do in the village of Levidi.