Newlyweds Valasia Limnioti and Konstantinos Patronis' long-planned "dream trip" to the U.S. ended in New York City, where their three-week honeymoon quickly turned into a nightmare: Their Greek-issued credit and debit cards were suddenly declined and they were left penniless.
"We were hungry, and I cried for two days," Limnioti said. "I felt homeless in New York."
The couple skipped a few meals before spending their last dollars on dinner at McDonald's. Strangers from two Greek Orthodox churches in the city's Queens borough came to the rescue, giving them survival cash until their flight home to Greece Friday.
The couple's U.S. adventure started after their June 6 wedding in Volos, Greece, a port city several hours north of Athens.
Their coast-to-coast U.S. trip that took in Los Angeles and a Caribbean cruise "was the dream trip of our lives," Limnioti said.
They had saved for a whole year to pre-pay for flights and hotels, with enough cash left for both necessities and pleasures. Two Greek banks issued them cards before the trip -- a Visa credit card and a debit card.
"Everything was all right -- then 'boom!' in New York," Limnioti said.
Their midtown Manhattan hotel asked them to pay a $45 surcharge. That's when their cards bounced. They paid with their dwindling funds.
Within days, the couple ran out of cash and "we couldn't withdraw any money -- zero," Limnioti said.
On Tuesday, in despair, they reached out to the New York-based Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which contacted churches in Astoria, Queens.
The honeymooners were offered about $350 from the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox church and another nearby one, St. Irene Chrysovalantou.
"I said to them, 'Don't worry, that's why we're here,' " said the Rev. Vasillios Louros of St. Demetrios. "This is the church of Christ and we always help people."
In addition, an undisclosed amount came from a New York-based Greek journalist who hails from Volos.
The couple insisted they'd pay back the money but were told it was a gift, Limnioti said Wednesday.
Limnioti, 36, is unemployed after the small business for which she worked failed. Her 39-year-old husband still has his job as a helicopter engineer for the Greek military.
"There are only three things saving us now: our families, our friends and our God," Limnioti said.