Greeks of the world- Strati Kalamvoki

“I was born in Sydney where I lived until the age of 6 years old. We then moved to Greece for 7 years and returned to Sydney in 1992 when I was 13 years old.

My parents are from a magical village just outside Monemvasia, called Elia. I spent a few years of my childhood in that village, so I have the best memories growing up in the country. I loved living in the village as a kid, life was very safe and relaxed.

Going back to Sydney was a challenge as I had to get used to the language and school. Study-wise I was a very punctual student and did well in my Higher School Certificate. I studied Physiotherapy at Sydney University, worked full time for 2 years and while I was working I studied for my Masters in Neurological Physiotherapy.

Strati Kalamvoki in front of Canon in greece
Strati Kalamvoki

I then moved permanently to Greece in 2004 because my whole family had moved back in 2002 and I missed them and wanted to join them. Meanwhile I used to come to Greece for holidays so it wasn’t very hard to tempt me to move there.

I was very concerned about  finding a job in Athens, because in Greece it’s who you know in order to get a job and I had no contacts, so I decided to move to England for a year and work there until I settled for good in Athens.

My first years in Athens were very hard. New friends, new life, new job. Even though I had an excellent level of Greek, the mentality was different, the working conditions were different. I had a really hard time.

I was unemployed for 6 months and then slowly worked part time and then my circle of clients and friends increased rapidly. The minute I stopped comparing how I was used to things operating in every aspect in Australia I started to enjoy my life in Athens.

I love the spontaneity that people in Greece have. For example if I want to go for a coffee I’ll call a friend and we’ll go last minute without scheduling it in 2 weeks prior.

I love how simple people can be, especially the life in the village and I love the customs, the name days, τσικνοπεμπτη, the public holidays and what they represent. Daily life is different every day in Greece, you never seem to get bored.

I do miss my high school and university friends and family whom we left behind. I miss the great ethnic food and restaurants.

I miss the lack of bureaucracy that Australia has. Living in Australia was simple in regards to applying for a public document, or job or how things get done today instead of tomorrow.

Opening up a business, and the paperwork that came with this process, was definitely the most challenging aspect I faced being in Greece. Finding professionals who say that they will do what they are supposed to do was also challenging.

Paidokinisi was definitely a dream come true. I love my business and the services I offer to parents and their families. There are limited centres like mine that offer fully catered services to kids with disabilities so I feel like I make a change to these kids. I make them smile and enjoy a better quality of life.

When I first started working in Athens I worked for a few physiotherapy centres where the people were lovely but the way they practiced physiotherapy was not what I had learnt in my experience in Australia.

Pediatric Physiotherapy is about teaching kids a variety of new functional tasks that can be taught in a fun way and if I wanted to change that the only way I could achieve it was by opening up my own business and teaching other physiotherapists that the way I practice this job is different to what they know.

Working in disabilities is a challenge itself and if you don’t make your everyday treatment with the kids fun, innovative and entertaining  then what’s the point?

I was lucky enough to find new colleagues who respect and appreciate what I trained them to be. I must admit Greeks are very intelligent, they are constantly thinking and have great ideas.

I love how we help people and their families to become more independent, improve their quality of life, and most of all I love seeing that the kids love coming to therapy because they see it as fun, playing because we have a wide range of toys that improve their function, independence and quality of life.

I admire the new wave of migrants leaving Greece because Greece is not a very easy country to give up on. Sometimes I think that about myself because wages are very low and taxes are high but I wouldn’t trade the lifestyle with the best job in Australia.

Sometimes it’s not enough to have job security in order to live somewhere. While I was living in Sydney I had no problems and difficulties in any field. And yet I still felt like something was missing. Sometimes humans appreciate what they have when their life isn’t always about making money and job security.

For that reason I don’t think I could move back to Australia, even though I had the best education, health cover and job prospects.

I definitely feel like I have two patrides. Both countries are in my heart. Whether I will ever move back, who knows but at this stage I feel too Greek to go back to Australia.

I wish Greece would change its politicians because at the moment we are in our 8th year of crisis and people are fed up. Our politicians are not Greek. They do not love Greece. If they did, Greece is the prettiest country in the world (and I’m not just saying that because I live here, I’ve travelled to more that 10 countries around the world).

I do agree that we don’t strike enough and do nothing to get rid of them but I’m hopeful that one day it will happen.”

Getting our Kids to Love Greek School

 

 

Gina Mamouzelos

Gina is a third generation Greek Australian who grew up immersed in her Greek heritage, including the language, traditions, culture and listening to her grandparent’ mesmerising tales about life in Greece. Passionate about ensuring the Greek language is not forgotten among the younger generations, in 2002 she became a panel member on the SBS Greek radio show ‘Let’s Talk Openly.' She graduated with a Media and Communications degree from the University of Sydney and has put her lifelong passion for writing to use working in social media, public relations and advertising. Gina now joins GCT's team as a writer.

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