Anastasios Pogas was a man of service who cared deeply about people and the two countries he lived in. He arrived in Philadelphia from Greece as an immigrant in 1959. After washing dishes in diners for a couple of years, Anastasios Pogas began pursuing his American dream. At 15th and Arch Street, Pogas opened and ran his foodery under his new American name Ernie’s Restaurant, from the early 1960s till 1978.
Open seven days a week, 365 days a year, he would never close. His son John once asked him, “Why don’t you take off on Christmas Day? Ernie replied, “look across the street to the YMCA. Where are those people going to eat?” Community YMCA’s during the 1960s was a place that everyone counted on for assistance. “That’s the kind of guy he was,” said his son John Pogas.
Ernie was also a compatriot who helped many of his fellow countrymen immigrate and start their American journey. “I remember people sleeping on our couch for weeks and sometimes months that had immigrated to the states from Greece. “My dad helped many get their start by giving them a place to stay and a job to help them get on their feet. Eventually, many of them launched their own food businesses”, said John Pogas.
Ernie also served his homeland Greece by fighting in WWII and serving as a Greek Parliament translator. He participated in battles against both the Italian and German forces. His ability to speak in three languages, Italian, Albanian and Turkish, made him an asset to the Greek government. He was assigned to translate intercepted communications, adding to his contribution to the war efforts. Following the war and his service, he was honored and awarded a medal by King Pavlos of Greece. Today that historical moment captured in a photograph hangs on the walls of the three homes of his children who live in the two countries he loved and served, the United States and Greece. His daughter Christina lives in Athens, Greece, while his sons Andy and John reside in suburban Philadelphia.
Anastasios Pogas was born in 1911 in the village of Labove in Southern Albania, and Greeks refer to this region as Northern Epirus. He was married to Katina, who hailed from the Island of Paxos in Greece.
Next year, Anastasios Pogas’ photograph will be on exhibition with hundreds of others at the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia exhibition: Greek Diners and Restaurants “The Start of the American Dream.” The collection of images will be part of a multimedia event that will take place at the University of the Arts, Solmssen Court, and CBS Auditorium in Philadelphia. The event is scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2022. To purchase tickets or find out more about this event, visit https://bit.ly/3EiE0I4.