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 highlights the struggles that a whole generation of people endured by migrating to foreign shores, for a ‘better life’ for themselves and for their families. Anthony Flaskas, a 15 year-old child when he came to Australia, discusses the difficulties and sacrifices that had to be made.
‘Yes, I was the pioneer… 1913… The old people [my parents in Kythera], they sent me to Australia… they was very, very poor… It was America or Australia. They pick Australia… it was a new country and you had more chances… The time I was there, Kythera was 15,000 people… All migrate to Australia… about 3,000 people now [left on Kythera]… Fifteen [years of age] when I left the school there [on Kythera]… Came with six boys and an old man named Nicholas Melitas – he was looking after us [acting as a chaperone on the voyage out]…We were [all] trying to better ourselves… Everything was new as soon as I left Kythera… I’d never been outside Kythera… Well, the old man [my father] he sent me here and I had to obey… The old man, he mortgaged his home [to pay for my passage out]… I landed in Sydney with two shillings and sixpence — half-a-crown, I had half a crown… The time I come to Australia, I reckon it was the golden age of Australia. For the simple reason, they had no paper money at all. It was all silver, gold and copper… The best of all, no income tax. The only thing, of course, we couldn’t get a job. Only you have to go to the Greek men’s coffee house [to get a job in a Greek café]. You see, it was a very, very strict White Australia… the White Australia Policy… You see, we were fighting them days. Really, we were fighting for our existence… we were fighting for our life. That’s how hard it was… Third class citizens was us really — third class, not second class, third class!’
Anthony spent most of his working life in Greek cafés and kafeneia in New South Wales. He regularly sent money back to his family in Greece and was able to bring out three brothers, a sister and her husband. In 1932 he built a café at Yenda in the New South Wales Riverina district – the Yenda Café. At the same time he also maintained a partnership with his younger brother, Theo (Theodoros), in the Garden of Roses Café at Harden, over 200 km east of Yenda. In 1937 he married Efstathia (Esta) Liapis/Aroney: ‘She was 36 and I was 40… Oh yes, I didn’t marry a [spring] chicken and she didn’t marry a [spring] chicken either’. They had three children, – two boys, Andrew and Nicholas, and a girl, Vassey (Vasilike). Nicholas died in 1959 and Efstathia in 1966. Anthony retired to Temora in 1974.
‘I’m the only one left out of eleven children [his brothers and sisters]. Never went back to Greece. Naturalised in 1920.’
Anthony passed away in 1991. He is buried at Ardlethan Cemetery (located approximately half-way between Yenda and Temora) together with Efstathia, Nicholas and Vassey (who passed away in 1992).
Commissioned by Anthony Flaskas in 1932, the café was outfitted by Stephen C. Varvaressos. With its façade featuring a stepped roofline, central ‘rising sun’ motif, serrated top corners, and slim, elongated lettering, the building remains as ‘a wonderfully elegant example of classic Art Deco in country New South Wales’.
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski
Photos: Effy Alexakis
© 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