The story of Petros Voidonikolas may be similar to that of many other home patriots who leave their Country to find another home abroad. Because of his expansive personality and heart, he left an unmatched legacy that will always be remembered by his friends and family in Colombia and around the world.
The Greek community in Colombia is small and is made up of families and migrants living in different cities around the country, such as Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Medellín and Bogotá, which has the highest concentration. Despite their small number, each member of the diaspora takes it upon himself to share the best of his culture and traditions — and such was the case with the Greek sea captain Voidonikolas.
The “Greek Captain of Colombia”
The Captain was born in Dimaristika, a small town in Mani, in the south Peloponnese, on March 27, 1946, amidst the rubble of what would be one of the worst catastrophes of humanity, World War II.
His childhood, full of privations of every kind, did not prevent him from carving out a bright future for himself and his family. From a very young age he demonstrated his hardworking spirit, sweeping and cleaning in a barbershop and carrying bricks in the local market. Finally, when he turned 18, he was able embark on the adventure of learning the many skills involved in becoming a licensed sea captain.
Family anecdotes describe him as an honest and upright mariner throughout his career. His daughter Panagiota Voidonikolas told Greek Reporter “he was not a typical captain like the image they have of many captains; contrary to the stereotype he did not consume alcohol, he did not smoke and he did not play cards.”
His marine career comprised 22 years full of experiences and adventures in many ports in different countries across the world. Some of those adventures took him to Cartagena, a city on the northern coast of Colombia, known for its great charm and stories of pirates and corsairs from the late eighteenth century.
This was the destination where he would find the great love of his life, Olga Muñoz, and then they started their family in Bogota.
Voidonikolas was an ambassador of Greece to the world
Voidonikolas contributed so much to his community that he was considered an ambassador of Hellenic culture in Colombia, evidenced by his legacy of solidarity and commitment. Any Greeks who set foot in the country were friends of his, and he opened the doors of his home to them whenever there was a need.
For 15 years he went on pilgrimages to monasteries on Mount Athos, known in Greek as “Agion Oros,” one of the most important centers of the Christian world.
On one visit there, Voidonikolas met a Colombian monk who had lost all contact with his family for a long time. Moved by his natural spirit of solidarity, he somehow managed to find a way to contact the family. A while later, the monk hung up his habit, left monastic life and got married.
This great act of solidarity earned the sea captain the nickname “San Pedrito.”
There are many stories in which Voidonikolas showed the best of his culture, while sharing the best of himself. Despite living in Colombia, he never stopped visiting his beloved Greece.
After a tough battle with Covid-19, and after a series of complications, the beloved captain died of a heart attack on March 8, 2021 in the city of Barranquilla, on the Colombian coast.
Sea Captain’s Greek legacy in Colombia
Part of his legacy falls on his children Jorge, a renowned lawyer married to a Greek-Colombian woman, and Panagiota, who studied political science and worked at the United Nations.
From a very young age, their father instilled in them the importance of family and culture; he taught them the Greek language, which they speak like natives. He took them to the Orthodox church and community meetings, and they also visited Greece on their vacations, maintaining a close bond with their extended family and ancestral roots.
Captain Voidonikolas is remembered as a person worthy of admiration, for his strong, determined character and the life he forged so far away form home.
A kind human being; a lover of good causes; a sociable man; a good friend; an adventurer with a “gift for people” and a good sense of humor, Voidonikolas is called “The best ambassador of Greece in the world” by all those who loved him.