Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek Australians’ national project
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.
The Aslanis family were from the Greek Dodecanese island of Kasos. The regional origin of the Aslanis’ contrasted starkly to that of most early Newcastle Greeks. Ithacan Greeks had started arriving in the NSW coastal city during the 1890s, and by 1900, chain migration from Ithaca to Newcastle had been firmly established.
Kasos spans an area of 64 sq. km. It is one of the least tourist visited islands in the Dodecanese. Living in remoteness and under the heavy shadow of the famous Rhodes, Kasos has kept an air of innocence and authenticity. Despite the fact of being a small and remote island, it has a rich history. It participated in the Trojan War and has been a great resource for merchant shipping. During Turkish Rule the island flourished with a large mercantile fleet which has been considered as an important threat. In 1824, Mohammad Ali, the Turkish governor of Egypt landed on Kasos and killed most of the island’s population. The economic decline in the late 19th century led to many of the residents to migrate in Egypt where mostly they found jobs in the construction of the Suez Canal. Many migrated to the USA, South Africa and the mainland of Greece. Kasos joined Greece in 1947 with the rest of the Dodecanese islands.
Gina was born in 1919, in Sydney, she is a third generation Greek-Australian. Her father John Aslanis, who later changed his name to Ashton, was born in Tamworth in 1893. The story of Australia’s Greek presence is not simply one of migration, but more importantly, one of settlement.
Gina: ‘I was born in this house…as was my older sister, Evelyn (Evthokoula). My grandparents are buried at Randwick Cemetery.’
In the historical photo, Irini Aslanis was Gina’s great grandmother, Irini Costandis was her aunt and John was Gina’s father. Gina recalls that her great grandmother came out to Australia only a brief period and went back to Greece again, ‘I don’t think she died here…I don’t know whether she came out on her own, no-one mentioned much about my great grandfather…my grandfather Elias (Aslanis) had shops in Newcastle, Manila and Tamworth..and an olive farm in Canterbury.’
– By Leonard Janiszewski
© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives
ABOUT EFFY ALEXAKIS & LEONARD JANISZEWSKI
Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, along with historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have been travelling around Australia photographing and collecting stories. They have also photographed Greek-Australians in Greece and documented some amazing histories. The images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving insights, about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories provide personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archive encompasses photography, both historical and contemporary, taped interviews and literary materials.
They have published 3 books and numerous articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been widely exhibited throughout Australia and in Greece.
VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT: Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia | Facebook