With camera in hand, Peter Kalitsopoulos has recorded many historic moments in the Philadelphia Greek community. One such image shot in the 80’s, captures a group of Evzones standing tall in front of Independence Hall. The iconic image is still referred to and used to promote Greek Independence Day some 35 years later.
Loyal to his church and Hellenism, Kalitsopoulos has dedicated himself towards preserving the soul of a once vibrant community, and it’s history. On any given Sunday, Peter Kallitsopoulos is volunteering at his church. You can find him assisting the priest during services (behind the scene), laboring in the kitchen cutting potatoes, or even volunteering on the grill – especially at a Greek festival. He does what is needed of him because he knows, “it’s what God calls me to do”, says Kallitsopoulos. St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral is more than a home to Kallitsopoulos; it’s the foundation of everything he’s about.
Kalitsopoulos has been a member of St George since he arrived with his family from Thessaloniki Greece in the early 1970’s. They settled in South Philly, just a few minutes away from St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The church is located in Olde City Philadelphia, the historical epicenter of Hellenism in the area. A thriving community, primarily of immigrants from the 1930’s to the 1980’s; Kalitsopoulos saw it all. Barber shops, bars, clubs and restaurants all Greek owned. “Greektown was the place to be or be seen,” said Kalitsopoulos. From struggling immigrants, like himself, to 1st generation Greeks, he witnessed the growth, peak, and decline. While most of the businesses and its parishioners have since left, the historic cathedral church St. George remains. With it, a dedicated enclave of loyal members, Pete being one of them, struggle to keep the church and the communities legacy alive.
A generation later, those that remained (many up in age) know Pete at St. George. While much more know him around the metropolitan area. Why? Many of those immigrants initially settled in Philadelphia’s Greektown community when they came from Greece. Now, they’ve moved on to other communities but still have ties to their roots – in Olde Greektown. Others recognize him because of his dedication and involvement in the many organizations and events he’s documented. He’s recorded their weddings and baptisms. Sometimes as guests, others for hire. He’s also witnessed and recorded inaugurations, holidays and parades.
His photographs have been published and shared in numerous Greek and American publications. They’ve offered insight and pride for our people. Kalitsopoulos continues to witness and record the history of this ever evolving community. As a church and community volunteer, he’s frequently asked to help. For Pete, it’s been a natural extension of who he is. Always warm and hospitable in a traditional Greek way, Pete is undoubtedly Filoxenos.
Originally published on Cosmos Philly by Eleftherios Kostans. Video by Vasilis Keisoglou.