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Harry Seiss, Pontian Historian

The Interview Series

Ask a Greek or Greek-American what part of Greece they’re from; the answer will likely be a city or island we are familiar with. However, when you ask Harry Seiss of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, his answer will be that his family came from Kerasounda and Ordu in the historic Pontos region of Eastern Turkey. At the turn of the century, many Greeks from the old Ottoman Empire were immigrating to Greece and other parts of the world.

In 1913 John Constantine Seiss, who was just 18 years old, had been forewarned about growing political problems for Christian Greeks in Turkey, packed his bags for Manhattan New York. The following year, brother Haralambos joined him and in 1920, sisters Parthena and Sophia, survivors of the Turkish death marches enacted by Topal Osman, found their way to America to be with the brothers.

There, the four of them, forged their lives as Americans, until John went to Greece and married Parthena Lazarithou in Veria, in 1928. A Pontian Greek as well, her ancestors hailed from the same parts of Eastern Turkey. A few years later, Haralambos passed away, but the Seiss klan went on, grew and eventually settled around the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Harry Seiss, 83, was born in NYC and moved with his family from New York to the Philadelphia area back in 1937. A member of the original first church in Philadelphia, Annunciation Greek Orthodox church; Harry and his family moved to the new expansion church, St. Demetrios, into West Philadelphia and then again to its current location in Upper Darby, where he lives nearby.

A quiet man, Harry has been an avid collector of Black Sea coins from Pontos and an amateur historian since the 1960′s when he began to return to Pontos, the Eastern coast of Turkey where his family is from.