Director: Stavros Stavrides
Location: Montréal, Québec
Director Stavros C. Stavrides' film ‘Century Man : The Father Nicholas Salamis Story', celebrates the quiet fortitude of a Greek born priest who witnesses almost a century of Greek immigration in Canada. At 103 years of age, Father Salamis has brought comfort to over four generations of Greeks in Canada.
Born on the Greek Island of Samos in 1897, tragedy struck Salamis' family five years later when his father died, leaving the family destitute. His mother raised her two sons by renting a mule to local businesses for transport.
Nicholas Salamis' mother was determined to educate her sons. She enrolled both her boys in the highschool on the other side of the island where Nicholas received his training in commerce. Seventeen-years-old and armed with his certificate, Nicholas first emigrated to America, then settled in the Greek community of Montréal in 1919.
Post-war Montréal's Greek community had a population of 2,000 and 500 businesses. It was not long before Nicholas Salamis was the bookkeeper for the community. Despite this community and prospects for success, Nicholas felt something lacking in his life. At age 35, Salamis returned to Athens to study theology. He had decided to become an Orthodox Priest. In 1938 he became Father Nicholas Salamis and spent the first seven years of his priesthood in a parish in Toronto. In 1945 he was transferred back to his beloved Montréal.
The church is vital to the Greek community - a link to the past and the glue that binds the various factions of a people who are often divided by politics. Father Salamis arrived in Montréal just before a great change took place in the Greek community. Towards the end of the 1940s, over one hundred thousand Greeks emigrated to Canada. They were largely uneducated, unskilled, with little or no knowledge of either official language of Canada.
They were coming to Canada to escape the horrors that had plagued their country for the better part of the century - war, oppression and economic collapse. Father Salamis not only administered to their spiritual needs with baptisms, marriages and funerals, he also eased the frictions which developed between the established Greek Community and the new immigrants, who were referred to with disdain, as ‘displaced persons'.
Father Salamis became the rock of the community over the next forty years, watching over his flock from the time they arrived as desperate new immigrants, scared and clinging to the safety of their community. He shepherded the children of these immigrants as they became members of the greater Canadian society, learning the official languages, getting the education that their parents so desperately wished for them.
Today, Father Salamis is 103 years old. He has long since retired from the priesthood, but he still watches with interest over his Greek community in Montréal, as they add so richly to the tapestry we call Canada.