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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 story this week is one that most that have migrated can feel a connection with. Leaving one’s home is a devastating upheaval, what happens to those that remain, what happens to all that is left behind?


I was staying with family friends on the island of Kythera, it was my first trip there and I was on my own. I came upon a street full of deserted homes.

This initial photograph (Mitata,Kythera, 1985) of a deserted home, led me to think that if migration had such an impact on Kythera surely a similar situation would have occurred in other places that had migrated in huge numbers, specifically the islands Ithaca and Kastellorizo.


From my diary (1st May 1985)

“In the morning I went to the deserted part of Mitata (Kythera)...all the houses left barren and beginning to collapse, former owners now in Australia. I forced myself to go into some of the houses. The last house (Stathis family) was the best find. Old photos on the floor, framed photo still on the walls…A photo on the wall was dated ‘1934, Wagga’ – it would be wonderful if I could trace some of these people and their children (in Australia).”

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Deserted home, Mitata, Kythera. 1985 Photo: © Effy Alexakis

With this photograph in my head I wrote application grants to fulfil the plan that was brewing. In 1990 I went back to Greece with Leonard and an Australia Council grant. We found abandoned homes on these 3 islands, all with powerful stories found amongst the debris about the migration process. They were like museums of Australian history left to rot.  We also interviewed many Greek-Australians that had returned to Greece and those in Australia that had Greece in their hearts. A book was published another 5 years later in 1995. It was called “Images of Home, mavri xenitia”, by Hale & Iremonger, now sadly out of print. That there were private photo albums and personal letters in these abandoned homes, gave the impression that these people intended to one day return.

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Faded wedding photograph, Ayia Saranta, Ithaca, 1990 Photo:  © Effy Alexakis

Tragic stories of people that were left behind in villages that sometimes had only a few people living there. One was an elderly woman who had no one to sponsor her, she never married as all the young men had left. The book was intended to show migration as a two way process, not always about the country they migrated to, but what became of the places they left.

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Maria Logotheti, photographed on the road to Trifylianika, Kythera, 1990 Photo: © Effy Alexakis


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John Hatziyannakis was visiting his family home on Kastellorizo, 1990. "I want my sons and my grandsons come here one day to say this is my father’s and my grandfather's house." © Effy Alexakis


- By Effy Alexakis

Research: Leonard Janiszewski
Photos:  Effy Alexakis
© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives


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




Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor