George Hadjimanolis, 64, loves his Astoria neighborhood. But sometimes living in America can come with its own hardships.
Hadjimanolis first immigrated to Astoria, from his home in Athens, Greece, in 1982. It’s where he raised his two sons. It’s a place with “low crime and [is] very family-oriented”. Although, Hadjimanolis says that crime has gone up a bit since the Greek and Italian wiseguys left the neighborhood.
“Although it’s counterintuitive, these guys made sure people were safe – even if they were doing illegal things,” Hadjimanolis said in an interview.
Hadjimanolis first came to the states to study business administration. He never got his degree but after 30 years working in the restaurant industry, he was finally able to open his own businesses in Greece when he moved back in 1999.
He did well for himself, owning multiple stores including a cafeteria and a retail shop. But it all came to a tumbling halt in the 2010s when the Greek economy faltered. He tried to keep the businesses afloat for another two years, sinking even more money into it before having to call it quits.
“I must not be lucky, there must be something after me,” Hadjimanolis joked.
Since coming back to the states Hadjimanolis has worked a slew of different jobs. Despite his resume filling up three pages, he says that it’s hard to find a job at his age.
“Put all this together, and then they never call you. Never bothered. You are qualified but never getting called – it’s surprised me many times,” Hadjimanolis said.
When he came back to Astoria in 2012 he got a job as a driver. It was for a coffee shop near his home and was good work but during the COVID pandemic was laid off. During the few months he was looking for his next job, was the only time Hadjimanolis has ever accepted any unemployment or government benefits – a point of personal pride. Hadjimanolis doesn’t even have health insurance as he says he doesn’t want to take from government-provided plans and can’t afford a plan on the regular market.
Hadjimanolis says his plan now is to work for Uber for another five months before he goes back home for a trip to Greece. Afterwards, he will look for a different job since Uber doesn’t pay well enough and requires too many hours.
“Hopefully, I will get lucky this time.”