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.
GREEK-AUSTRALIANS – THE MIGRATION
Individual and collective stories of the personal reasons for migrating, as well as recollections of the journey out, are often peppered with a sense of loss, anxiety, fear, hope, duty, need, and determination. This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series.
Both James (Dimitris Ploudias) and Despina (née Prassa) were born on the island of Lemnos in the north-eastern Aegean Sea – James in 1913, Despina in 1921. James arrived in Sydney in 1928. He returned to Lemnos in 1939 to marry Despina.
“My father and mother got me engaged by proxy… by photo… I went to Greece and we got married on 16 July 1939… Them days, no boys to marry [migration from Lemnos of single males in search of better opportunities overseas, resulted in single women conspicuously outnumbering single men on the island]. The girls were glad to find someone who would marry them. She was from a big family of five girls and two boys. Her mother and father was very glad to send her to help the others.”
“The war [World War II] was on when we came out. We had no cabin to sleep in… We didn’t have the money… We used to sleep in hammocks… I was with other women, Jim was with other men… It was very bad… I was sick all the way on the ship… I was pregnant and we didn’t know… I thought when I come to Australia, I’ll have everything – I’ll be on top of the world… I had uncles in America and they used to send us lots of clothes – I thought it would be the same… When I left Greece I thought I’ll leave all my clothes [as] when I go to Australia, I’ll get plenty. But when we come to Australia we had no money. I remember I used to wash my dress at night and get up in the morning and put in on again… I come here to help my family. I didn’t want to come, because I didn’t want to leave my family.”
John Anictomatis AO was born in Piraeus, Athens, in 1945. He was one of three brothers. His father’s eldest sister, Maria Fotiadis, had migrated to Australia in 1937 to join her husband. She later brought out two of her sisters, as well as her mother, and in 1953, John’s father Hristos, was sponsored (a process of family chain migration). After trying to find work in Perth, Hristos travelled to Darwin and secured employment. In 1955, John’s mother, Hrisoula, followed with John and his brothers.
Anictomatis is a Vietnam War veteran, who served as Honorary Consul of Greece in the Northern Territory, and as the Administrator of the Northern Territory.
“Father had to borrow money for our passage. I remember my mother frantically saving money for our fares after we arrived…We came on the ‘Cyrenia’… Ours was a mixed ship, we had family groups… My poor mother was more frightened than we were. Many years later I realised she had led a very sheltered life. She had never been outside her family circle and had never been outside Piraeus… It must have been a very hard experience for her… to have to fend for three boys… My eldest brother, Leo [Ilias], was no angel – he played havoc on the ship… I had an appendicitis attack at Port Said and was hospitalised for the rest of the journey… The trauma my poor mum went through… After my appendix operation in Perth, we flew to Darwin.”
Photos: Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski
© 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.
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