“I was born in 1938 in the village of Inoi in Kastoria, northern Greece. My parents were Pontian refugees.
I had an awful childhood. At the age of 7 years old I saw rebels barge into our house one night and kill my mum and grandmother. It was the Civil War and they were looking for my father who was the village Secretary. My mum was only 27 years old, my grandmother 47 years old. After that, my father could not look after myself and my three siblings on his own and I was sent to orphanages, where I completed my elementary schooling.
I went and worked in Athens where I stayed with an aunt, and then went to a housekeeping school in Leros. I then returned to Athens again and worked there. It was really hard for me to endure all that had happened since I was a child but I feel that God gave me patience and protected me. My aunt housed me, loved and protected me also.
I came to Australia in 1961. Back then everyone was leaving, the ships and planes leaving Greece were full. In the beginning, it was very difficult adjusting to my new life, especially learning the language. Slowly slowly, I got used to everything and came to love to Australia.
I missed everything about Greece. My family, my friends, my village. Everything. Australia has a lot of good qualities. It is a clean country, it helps its people. It’s a good country, we are lucky to be here.
Soon after arriving in Melbourne, I got a job working at a chocolate factory. Luckily I was thin because I was eating so many chocolates!
I felt proud being part of the Melbourne Greek community. We were a tight-knit group, we all helped each other. It was nice. When I got to Melbourne there was only one Greek church.
I got married through a proxy. Back in those days, everyone lived in houses with two or three other families. I lucked out a lot in my marriage. The man I married was an alcoholic, violent and aggressive. One day he beat me, leaving me bruised and my four young children crying. Then he opened the door and left. I was alone, with four children to raise, who were 8 years old, 6 years old, 4 years old and 2 years old. I had to give them a good upbringing. Thank God, I managed to do it.
People tried to take advantage of me, as I was on my own. What got me through those difficult times was my belief in God, my belief in myself and my belief in my kids. My kids have gotten me through hardship. I also believe God has gifted me with the ability to be optimistic, even through the hardest times in life, and to find humour in any situation.
The Γιαγιά Νίτσα popularity took me by surprise. It all started one day when my kids filmed me talking about men, and they posted it online without my knowledge, so our friends could see. It went viral, so did all the videos that followed. I was invited to give interviews on all the main television shows in Greece, including The 2Night Show with Grigoris Arnaoutoglou, which was a highlight.
People tell me that I say what they are thinking but too scared to say. it themselves That’s just me in my everyday life, I say it how it is and I tend to have no filter.
I have four children and seven grandchildren and I tell them to be present in their life, to be patient and not to give up.
I do feel like I have two patrides. I’ve been in Australia for 58 years. When i am here, I want Greece. When I am in Greece, I want Australia. It’s bad for a person to experience two homelands, you always have the feeling of being torn between the two.
My wish for Greece is – να ψωφισει ολη η κυβέρνηση και η πατρίδα μου να δει μια καλή μέρα. Να έρθει με τα καλά της για τον κοσμάκη. Ζητώ ή Ελλάδα και ζητώ ή Μακεδονία μας.”