There is a strange blend of Greek and English spoken on this island, whose inhabitants smoke Marlboros and fly the American flag.

For Erikousa, a tiny rock of an island 14 miles off the Albanian coast, is a "little America," whose 400 residents are all American citizens, recipients of American Social Security benefits, or they have relatives living in the United States.

The main financial sustenance of the island is the $140,000 that arrives in Social Security checks each year.

It is the perfect egalitarian society according to Erikousan President Anatassios Mitsialis, 66, a retired seaman who has three brothers living in the United States.

"No one is rich, no one is poor on Erikousa," the president, a Socialist, said.

"We have no police, no court system. The citizens are responsible for themselves. If there are any problems, the city council reaches a compromise solution. Is this not the perfect society? It helps that we're all one family, no more than third cousins removed."

It began a century ago when Costas Manessis was a stowaway on a boat going to the United States.

"He needed no papers, had free passage, someone scribbed 'No Speak English' on his back. Once he was there, it was easy," retired American baker George Katechis said.

"The American immigration system permits you to bring in your relatives. Manessis brought in his brothers, they brought in wives and sons. By the 1950s it was a standard practice. Everyone from Erikousa was going to New York."

Today, all but about 30 men on this island have emigrated to the United States at one time or another. And almost everyone who goes comes home to retire.

Erikusa is an island of elderly-smiling people today.

White sandy because encircle the six-square-mile island. Surf pounds relentlessly on the beach. The only pollutants come from a diesel tractor and a surplus half-ton army truck. There are no roads, cars or buses.

Mules with brightly colored, hand-painted saddles are the sole means of transport.

Clusters of cubistic, white-washed houses dot the island, which has no villages, no central square. There are three coffeehouses and two churches, a grocery, doctor's office and a one-room school. The central telephone exchange runs on a generator. Other than small truck gardens and a bit of fishing, Erikousa is dependent on the tiny caique that plows through rough waters to reach it three times a week.

Piled high with supplies and foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and mail, it also ferries a mobile banking system: a teller from nearby Corfu island who arrives twice a month with money stuffed into a leather sack.

The whole island seems to crowd the tiny landing when the boat arrives.

The Americans are easily discernible, the men wearing Sears sport shirts, gold watches and Panama hats.

The women, once out of the New York suburbs, do not find it difficult to adapt. They ferry water from the well of the island in earthenware jugs and vessels, balanced by their heads. They revert to the island dress of black skirts and white blouses. If they are widows, they shroud themselves in black.

"There are some adjustments," said postman Georgios Argyros, who distributes the mail on his yellow bicycle, after 17 years as a waiter in a restaurant in the Bronx. "My first night back on Erikousa, I thought I was on another planet. It was so quiet, I couldn't sleep."

Why do the islanders leave what Thoreau might have called the perfect paradise?

"Starvation," said electronics engineer Chris Katechis, 36. "I went to New York when I was 15, attended high school and university there."

"I lived on the world's smallest island, then worked on the American lunar project. My name is somewhere on the moon. No other country would give you such opportunity. But when it's time for retirement, everyone comes home."

"A family with $200 per month is well off on Erikousa," he continued, "and if they have savings they're extremely well off. What does one do? Play cards or "Tavli" in the coffee-house, fish, swim, wander about. We had television on Erikousa well before the other Ionian islands. There's a sense of peace and tranquility. It's really the end of the world."

Hugging the Albanian mainland, Erikousa is considered a "security area" and one must have permission from the Greek Ministry of Interior to go there.

There is thus a certain irony to what Mitsialis, the island's president, calls the "perfect socialist society" of American senior citizens, off the coast of Albania, underwritten by the Social Security check.