Katerina Mallios. Co-Founder of the The Follow Apollo Series. Interview conducted by Tony Kariotis of GreekPosts.com
Tell me a little about yourself!
Growing up I had the distinct pleasure of living down the street from my pappou and yiayia, both of whom were first-generation Americans. I learned so much about our history, traditions, language, and religion from them. My entrance into the Greek community started with my family, extended through my church, continued to grow through church basketball leagues and GOYA and more. To this day, it consists of Greek concerts in Boston & partaking in Greek basketball tournaments like the Teddy K Classic and AHEPA. Currently, I am a Sales Manager at a large software company. About two years ago I moved to Chicago and have loved exploring Greektown and attending services at beautiful churches outside of the one I grew up in.
What does being Greek mean to you?
It's having parea through our Hellenism. You can be anywhere in the world, not know a single person, and the second you find out someone is Greek you share that instant connection. It's the importance of oikoyenia. It's sharing meals with your parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins & hearing endless history lessons from your pappou and yiayia. It's living a life full of Kefi. It's living in the moment and living with passion! But being Greek also comes with responsibility. As Greeks, we are responsible for preserving our unique, beautiful culture by learning and living out all of these traditions that have been passed down to us from one generation to the next.
What makes you proud calling yourself Greek?
As my pappou would say, "The Greeks gave us democracy, philosophy and everything in between." We come from creators, we come from people that did amazing things. I am proud to be Greek because as Greeks we have a legacy. My pappou taught me that it is our duty as Greeks to really understand who we come from and use that as a driving force behind our own efforts in life. On top of that, I am proud to be Greek because of the strength of our community. As a unit, we are smart, loving, fun and powerful. When I tell someone I am Greek, I am identifying myself as being one piece of a large, amazing collective. The generations of Greeks that have come before me and the Greeks of today all over the world are the reason I am proud to be Greek.
What inspired you to chase your dream?
As a child, my parents would get Disney VCRs in Greek. This always fascinated me because these weren't movies you could easily grab at your local movie store. I always yearned for more things like that - Greek toys, Greek books - none of this was easy to find. Over the past handful of years, there has been a trend in the market. Books, toys, games and more that are associated with various cultures, traditions, and religions have been created and loved by the masses. I have watched so many people enjoy these items, and that feeling of joy brought me right back to my childhood and my desire for there to be more movies, books, toys, and games for someone like me, for someone Greek. Hence why I wanted to find a way to provide the Greek community with a children's brand that they could believe in. It is so important to me that children today and in years to come, who may or may not have the honor of growing up with someone who lived in Greece for the majority of their life, still understand what it means to be Greek. The Follow Apollo Series truly is a labor of Greek love!
Tell us a little bit about product and how it came about!
The Follow Apollo Series is a brand built with the sole purpose of helping Greek families everywhere teach their children about Greek history, traditions, language, and religion in a fun and engaging way. The first product is a hardcover book and accompanying plush toy focused on Greek Easter. The main character Apollo travels through time and space with his horse Troy to teach siblings Athena and Dino more about this special holiday. It is available for pre-order now and we will begin shipping in January. Additional books, toys, and educational products/games are already in the works. Think of Elf On the Shelf, Mensch on the Bench, Dora the Explorer - all of these amazing companies bring fun and magic to various cultures. Now we will have one for the Greeks! It's about time!
How often do you get to visit Greece? Where do you stay!?
Not enough! My most memorable trip was in 2015 when my family and I went to see my brother who was playing professional basketball in Greece at the time. We spent quite a bit of time in Athens, but my favorite part of the trip was when we made the journey to visit my pappou's village. He was born in a small village named Kokova in the mountainous region of Kalavrita, He grew up well-educated and lived according to the classical ideals of truth and human dignity. It was inspiring to see what he gave up to provide his family with a better life. Unfortunately, my pappou passed away in 2019. I am so thankful I visited his village while he was still alive so we could have the chance to talk about his upbringing and childhood in greater detail.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
I think it is so important for us as a Greek community to support and stand by one another during our endeavors. I am most looking forward to continuing to read about the amazing people on this site and plan on contributing to their successes in whatever way I can.
For information on the Follow Apollo Series, you can reach us at:
Thank you, Katerina! We look forward to following your journey!!