Necessity is the mother of invention, as an old saying goes. Necessity, in The Bahamas, in the late 1940s, was money. Big money! It always has been really. Apparently, in 1947, lots of money, was supposedly needed to fund an exclusive school, in Nassau, for children in the Greek community.
This was why, two years after the end of World War II, hundreds of Greek ‘young girls,’ who spoke no English, were shipped over to Nassau to marry men they would meet just days before marrying.
Out of supposed necessity, to fund a school for Greek children, beginning in 1947 and for goodness knows how many years before and after that, there emerged through Augusta Street and West Street, Market Street and Parliament Street, what really amounted to, was an elaborate visa peddling scheme, to get hundreds of Greek nationals into America, through an easy Bahamas gateway.
It was only in 1949, that someone noticed an unusual number of marriages were taking place. Maybe this same someone also noticed an unusual number of Greek men, with American visas, being married in Nassau. Maybe too, they also observed, unusual numbers of women, who spoke no English on the island. From there, a local newspaper was tipped off. It sent a reporter to get the story. And oh, what a story he heard!
Imagine that this arranged marriages scheme, had been in full swing, for two whole years, before anyone noticed that something strange had been going on.
When the reporter sat down with brains behind all of it, one Mr. Klonaris, made it sound as if, the entire scheme, was as ordinary an undertaking, as growing potatoes.
“Today, Mr. Sakellarios Klonaris, a merchant in Nassau, told in “Nassau Guardian” reporter the complete story behind the numerous Greek weddings which have been celebrated here for the past two years.”
“Two years ago Mr Klonaris headed a movement to help prospective brides from Greece who had long dreamed of marrying Greek Americans and making their homes in the United States. Mr. Klonaris who recently resigned as President of the Greek community in Nassau, was the person who effectively organise all the details and made possible the issue of permits for the Greek women.”
Business in arranged marriages, for Greek nationals, was so good in 1948 and 1949 that even Stafford Sands got a piece of it
Of the conservatively estimated $150,000 mentioned, that these marriages brought into the local economy, in just one year, paid for by these women and their would be husbands, the majority of it went into the pockets of lawyers, middlemen of the Nassau marriage bureau, church fees, immigration officials, shops on Bay Street, tips bribes, pay-offs and of course, rent at the Greek ‘wait for visa’ girls boarding house.
The question, naturally becomes, why Nassau? The answer of course, as always, is ease of doing business… no matter what the business is.
Ease of doing business…
Why would Greek nationals in America, in 1947 need to pay ‘a go between’, in The Bahamas, to bring wives over for them, not in America at first, but to The Bahamas? Why couldn’t just go straight to America?
And why would the Bahamian colonial government, at that time, not wonder why there were suddenly lots of foreign marriages taking place; not to mention, people hanging around Nassau, waiting for their American visas to be approved?
And why, nobody seemingly cared, as long as, money was coming in?
Well, despite the times, you couldn’t get into America just like that. Even with a marriage document, you had to prove it was a legitimate marriage. So there must have been some visa difficulties in this regard. But, if these marriages came via The Bahamas, something about this way, made the process of getting Greek foreign nationals into America easier. Maybe, quite possibly, these foreign women also got Bahamian-British passports, as part of the arranged marriage package, as well.
This was a business after all and The Bahamas was predicated on facilitating ease of doing business for foreign nationals.
The Bahamas, has long been a place, that became obsessed with facilitating foreign money ‘ease of doing business’ from its shores. A myriad of laws and concessions had been put in place, since 1850, in all manner of way, shape and form, to make one thing possible – to draw foreign money into the Islands.
Beginning supposedly in 1947, and for a number of years after, some of that foreign money came from arranging marriages, and exit visas to America, for Greek nationals.
Arranged Greek marriages for Greek nationals were also held at Queen’s College
Under the guise of a marriage bureau, a sophisticated international network, was created to facilitate arranged marriages, between Greek male nationals in America and women in Greece, but through Nassau.
Women, from Greece, were warehoused in Nassau, paying rent, while waiting for arranged, would be husbands, to come. They would be married in Nassau. Newly married husbands would then return to America, with marriage certificate secure and apply for visas for their wives now living in Nassau.
New brides, would then wait in Nassau for Bahamian lawyers to arrange their exit papers and marriage visas to the United States.
Bahamian lawyer and the American consulate officials in Nassau would presumably do their mutual handshaking and soon one new Greek bride would be flying off to America.