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Greeks in Limburg




Number of interviews: 30

Accessibility: unknown

Of the 20 million people of Greek nationality, half live outside Greece. There has also been a Greek community in Belgium since the guest worker immigration of the middle of the last century, which today numbers about 25,000 people. Many of them, especially from the second and third generation, have Belgian citizenship, but they too still cherish elements of Greek culture as part of their cultural identity. The Limburg Greeks and Greek Limburgers still largely live in the mining region and Maasland. In a comprehensive project, work has been done in recent years to record and disclose the stories and memories of the first generation of Greeks who came here. This piece of Limburg migration history is now being unlocked through an exhibition, a book and a film.


When Greek photographer and ethnologist Maria Dermitzaki settled here three years ago with her Belgian husband, she became curious about the history of her compatriots who had been here for more than half a century. She had previously made a book of photographs about her Cretan birthplace Potamiès and also started having conversations in Limburg about how compatriots had ended up here, about how integration into the local population had gone, and about the memories of the country of origin and the photographs and objects used to keep them alive. An unsuspected rich source was tapped and within the Greek communities in Limburg the awareness suddenly dawned that these stories and memories – especially of the first generation – urgently needed to be recorded as part of the collective history. For much that until then had been considered facts from personal biography and only individually relevant memories suddenly turned out to be recognisable to many others, and each personal story gave rise to others to also tell, add to and better document.


Maria and her husband Vital Schraenen have made the result of this spontaneously spreading heritage project throughout the Greek community in Limburg presentable through an exhibition that can be visited until 11 April in Genk city hall. The accompanying book ‘Greeks in Limburg’ tells for the first time the stories of Greeks in Limburg and Limburg Greeks and Limburgers with Greek roots from three generations through some 30 interviews and is beautifully illustrated with numerous personal photos and documents about their lives here and their memories of Greece and their families yonder. The intensive working process of creating the project through conversations with these witnesses was also documented in a film by Maria Dermitzaki.