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Out of the Balkans

Part 1: Out of the Balkans

Chapter 5:
Lily and Jimmy: Love, Marriage and Trial

Lily and Jimmy's honeymoon was short lived.

On 1 March 1928, James Tsavalas filed suit in the Supreme Court of Kings County, New York, to have Lily's Annulment Decree and Judgment set aside. His sworn deposition attacked the factual bases for Lily's annulment. It made sweeping allegations about her character. His sudden appearance and legal action was a wrenching shock to the young couple, and to Eleni, Louie and elderly Vasiliki. They faced a family disaster if Tsavalas prevailed in court.

* * * * * * *

In 1927, Jimmy must have learned either through newspaper articles or through gossip in the Greek community that Lily had filed for an annulment of her marriage to Tsavalas. Jimmy courted her again.

In the context of the Greek Orthodox Church and the social customs of the Greek village, Lily was not a desirable mate for a young Greek man. The Church rarely granted a divorce (particularly if the action were brought by a woman) and treated a petitioner as a threat to the social order. Annulment was unknown even conceptually by Lily's contemporaries. A woman generally was regarded as the property of her father and then of her husband. Lily had not received an annulment or divorce from the church and it is virtually impossible that such would have been granted without the cooperation of her husband. It is unlikely that Eleni and Lily had any idea of how to go about obtaining dispensation from the church and apparently did not pursue it.

The Church barely tolerated second marriages even for widows and widowers. Until recent times the traditionally joyous marriage ceremony was for a second marriage a ceremony of contrition. The focus became weakness of the flesh, not love and a need for companionship.

Cultural forces became even more powerful in the adopted land of the immigrant Greeks than they had been in their villages. They needed them for support and security. Their language and food, church, rituals and customs sustained them and gave them an identity in the new world. They had entered the melting pot but resisted amalgamation.

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