Greek Immigrant Stories

Australia -The Lucky Country
Many Greeks struggling with the aftermath of the Second World War and the bitter Civil War that followed were drawn by the economic conditions in Australia.
With the uncertainty and economic instability of Post-War Europe thousands of Greeks migrated to the Lucky Country hoping for a more stable future.   
Many of the early immigrants were overwhelmed by homesickness for Greece, their homes, their villages, their families, their church and they were handicapped by language difficulties.
They started working as laborers and soon, many became shop owners and employers.
They directed their hard-earned money toward home-ownership and to helping their children succeed in life through a good education.
Immigrants from Rhodes Island, Greece
The Post-War period also saw Greek immigrants from the villages of Southern Rhodes (Rhodes Island, Greece) who came to settle in Adelaide, South Australia.
These new arrivals included immigrants from the villages of Mesanagros, Lahania, Gennadi, Katavia, Asklipeio, Monolithos, Siana, Arnitha and Vati.
Adelaide - South Australia
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia is the City of Churches with its tree-lined suburbs and quarter-acre block homes.
It was a tram town when many of these early immigrants began arriving in the 1950s with its corner shops and friendly proprietors, when fresh bread and milk was delivered to your doorstep in the early hours of the morning and blocks of ice was still being delivered for the ice box in homes by horse-drawn wagon.
They were the wonderful days when people would sleep outside on their front lawns on warm summer nights and the Salvation Army brass band and choir played and sang their beautiful Christian songs of worship and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus on suburban street corners.
Many of the early immigrants from Southern Rhodes found work at Horwood Bagshaw, a factory in Mile End, the Water Supply Department, the Railways and the Abattoirs Meat-Works.
Others created market gardens and built their own glasshouses growing tomatoes.
Often, they held more than one job in order to achieve their goals.
The Greek cafes (kafeneia) in Hindley Street in the city provided an important social focus for all the Greek immigrants - to exchange news, reminisce old times and to seek help in finding employment.
After having acquired considerable savings, some of these early immigrants went into self-employment.
Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Taxiarhis)
The only Greek Orthodox church at that time was Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Taxiarhis) which had been built in 1937 in Franklin Street, Adelaide.
The church satisfied the overwhelming need to socialize with their own kind and to carry on their Orthodox traditions.

Yiannis and Katholiki Papavasiliou

Humble immigrants who, through hard work and sacrifice, toiled and endured in marketing gardening, the building industry and the factory environment to forge a place for themselves in the Lucky Country.
In 1952, Yianni (John) decided to seek his fortune in Australia.
With hopes high, he left his family behind in the village of Mesanagros and traveled to Adelaide where his brother Emmanuel (Manoli) had migrated to in the late 1920’s.
Yianni worked hard in Adelaide’s market gardens and then built ten glasshouses for growing tomatoes at Fulham.
In November, 1954, he brought his wife Katholiki (Kathy), his son Andrew and daughter, Tsambika (Betty) to the new country.
Their son Kosmas (Con) was born in Adelaide in 1960.
Thrust into urban society and the problem of language was overwhelming.
Varlangos Grocery store - the shop around the corner in Dew Street run by three sisters, Betty, Stamatia and Mary (immigrants from the island of Hios) were welcome faces for the many new arrivals in Thebarton who came to do their shopping and did not speak a word of English.
At the Brooklyn Park farm they leased, Yianni and Katholiki grew potatoes, lettuce and cucumber for pickling.
Because market gardening was seasonal and did not provide stability or the security of a full-time income, Yianni supplemented his income with regular work as a plasterer while his wife continued to work the land.
At the end of each day’s work, he would always head back to work his market gardens.
Yianni eventually found full-time work at the Abattoirs Meat Works and would head back to Fulham to work his glasshouses after hours.
There was many a time he would sleep in the shed at his farm overnight then take two buses in the early hours the next morning to go back to his job at the Abattoirs.
After ten years of toil and effort, they sold their glasshouses and Yianni became a self-employed plasterer in the building industry.
Katholiki, his dedicated wife found work at the Onkaparinga Woollen Mills at Thebarton where she worked for four years, then spent fifteen years at Farmers Union in Mile End working in the damp conditions of the assembly line in the milk department.
Aside from their hard-working lives, Yianni and Katholiki were also keen home gardeners who turned their backyard into a small oasis.
Their home garden served their family each year as a source of fresh garden fare growing, nurturing and harvesting favorite vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, spinach, spring onion and garlic including a glorious array of herbs like oregano, basil, sage, mint and parsley. And, Katholiki, like all traditional women with rural backgrounds, excelled in preparing the traditional dishes of her Southern Rhodes heritage.

Michael Manis
West End
Brisbane - Australia
Spoken in English

Michael Manis
West End
Brisbane - Australia
Spoken in Greek

Mick Michael
West End
Brisbane - Australia
Spoken in Greek

Dimitrios (O Kotis) and Stergoula Hondros

Dimitrios Hondros was born and raised in the rural environment of the beautiful little island of Kos in 1920.
He left his family and his island just before the outbreak of the Second World War to seek work in the neighboring island of Rhodes where he settlen in the village of Kattavia.
In 1943, he married Stergoula, a young girl from the village of Lahania and they had two daughters - Smaragdi and Vasilia.
Dimtri migrated to Adelaide in 1955 on the Greek ship, Kyrennia and his wife and two daughters followed in 1957.
Dimitrios exemplifies the hard-working people who labored in Australia's industries, in the only jobs they could get at that time - the manual labor of the factory environment.
The factory of Horwood Bagshaw at Mile End was a dramatic and unusual working environment for a young man who was used to the rural environment of Kos and Southern Rhodes.
At Horwood Bagshaw, he worked in the metal casting foundry, moulding metal into casts which were used to make parts for rural machinery as well as other parts for the engineering and manufacturing sectors.
Foundry work was was physically demanding and dominated by time, repetition, noise and grime.
As I look back to those early days, I can visualize in my mind, Dimitri riding his faithful bike at 6.30 am in the morning heading down Victoria Street, Mile End to begin another hard day's work at Horwood Bagshaw.
Dimiris' wife Stergoula found work in the citrus orchards of the Riverland where she and her two daughters spent two years to help pay off their home in West Street, Torrensville.
Dimitri worked at Horwood Bagshaw for eighteen years and the left to begin another eighteen year stretch of hard labor with the Water Supply Department.
Week after week and month after month, Dimitri and the gang of laborers he worked with, labored and endured outdoors, exposed to the natural elements of heat and cold, digging the roads, laying pipes and covering them with tar and cement. 

Emmanuel (Manolis) Lisgos

Manolis Lisgos was born in the little village of Istrios in Rhodes Island in 1912 and grew up at a time when the Dodecanese Islands were under Italian occupation.
With the rise of Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism with its expansionist policies, active resistance to Italian rule became more pronounced throughout the Dodecanese Islands after 1926 when Italy introduced policies to make the islands Italian.
It was during this period that Manoli became a part of an underground organization dedicated for national liberation of his homeland and for union with Greece.
Italian rule consisted of taxation, press censorship, secret police and the exclusion of Greek labor from public works.
Schools were required to teach Italian and the Greek Orthodox faith of the inhabitants was strongly discouraged.
Attempts were also made to separate the Dodecanese diocese from its leadership in Constantinople and to bring it under greater Italian control.
During the 1930’s the situation for Manoli became extremely dangerous and he was left with no alternative but to leave his homeland, his wife and two children to migrate to Adelaide, South Australia.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Manoli served as a cook in the Australian Army in Darwin.  
With the end of the Second World War in 1945 he returned to Adelaide and in 1949.
His wife, Aglaia, his son, Michael and daughter Irene were able to join him where they settled in the working-class suburb of Thebarton.
Soon after, their son Philip and daughter Stamatia were born in the new country.
Manoli found work at the old South Australian hotel in North Terrace and worked his way up to be a leading chef in charge of food service preparations and overseeing kitchen operations.
In his position, he was able to help many other newly arrived migrants, especially those from Southern Rhodes to obtain jobs as kitchen hands.
Social life in those early days revolved around the kafeneio in Hindley Street and later at Tsouvalas kafeneio in Thebarton.
The kafeneio allowed them to exchange news about their villages, play cards and enjoy a cup of Greek coffee.  
At the table playing cards with Manoli are Stylianos Stiliano (Matsi), Yiannis Papavasiliou, Mihalis Vatenos, Stellios (Bodgie) Valasakis and Alexandros Karagiannis.

The Diakou Family

The traditional, close-knit Diakou family of father, mother and children were blessed by God with the strong family bonds of togetherness, the rich spiritual values of their Greek Orthodox faith and the wonderful, centuries-old cultural traditions of their Southern Rhodes (Yianathi, Rhodes Island, Greece) heritage.
Working together for the common good, they found success and happiness in a family business that brought out the best in each other.
The close-knit, hard-working and dedicated family that made their Gouger Fish Cafe an icon of Adelaide's seafood restaurants.
The Gouger Fish Cafe headed by Phillip Diakou and his wife Anastasia in the kitchen and their three children, Maria, Steve and Bill are the epitome of the close-knit and dedicated family that thrived on hard-work.
The Gouger Fish Cafe was a pioneer in seafood dining in Adelaide and Gouger Street was to become the hub, boasting the cream of South Australia’s seafood restaurants.  
Phillip Hagi-Diakou was born in the seaside village of Gennadi, Rhodes Island, Greece.
In 1936, at the age of fourteen, he said goodbye to his mother, his sister and village and traveled with his father on the Italian ship, Romolo bound for Queensland, Australia to seek their fortune.
Phillip worked alongside his father in the cotton and sugar-cane fields of Biloela and had to cope with the hot and humid conditions as well as dingoes and snakes.
He was nineteen when World War II began so he enlisted in the Australian Army and was sent to Darwin where he served as a cook.
It was to be the beginning of a life-long career in the kitchen.
When the war ended, he moved to Adelaide and found work at Morris/Carr’s Cafe in Gawler Place, the Victoria Cafe in Victoria Square (now the Hilton Adelaide site), a fish and chip shop on Grand Junction Road and at Mimi and Vic Stadovecchia’s Gouger Fish Cafe - the Cafe that changed his life.
In those early years Phillip helped to pave the way for many other Gennadi villagers to migrate to Adelaide - among them, the family of his future wife, Anastasia Klementou who travelled on the English ship, the Orient Line.
She married Phillip in 1950 and they eventually bought the Gouger Fish Cafe from Mimi and Vic Stadovecchia.
Phillip was in the kitchen every morning until closing time in the evening, always dressed in his apron and pants tucked into his socks.
And he became a mentor to all who worked for him.
Mimi and Vic also stayed on at the Gouger Fish Cafe as independent proprietors by leasing a small section at the front of the Cafe where they set up a display fridge and sold fresh seafood to their own customers.
Phillip stood at the stoves of the Gouger Fish Cafe for forty six years working alongside his loving and close knit family.
The Diakou family are a fine example of the truly wonderful people whose commitment to excellence and hard work gave birth to a family empire.

Stylianos Styliano (Matsi)

Stylianos Stiliano - Matsi, to all who knew and loved him was born in the small hilltop village of Mesanagros in Southern Rhodes in 1919.
In the mid 1930’s, while still just a very young man, he said goodbye to his mother and his little village and traveled with his father to work in the sugar cane and cotton fields of Rockhampton and Biloela in Queensland, Australia.
In 1944 Steve met and married his wife Erini, who had also migrated with her family from the neighboring village of Lahania in Southern Rhodes.
They had five children - the twins, George and Anna, Phillip, Gary and Stella.
The family moved from Queensland in 1951 to South Australia in Adelaide’s western suburb of Thebarton and bought a fish and chip shop at Largs Bay.
Steve however, had always wanted to get away from the urban sprawl of Adelaide and find his own place out in the little farms and open spaces on the outskirts of Adelaide.
In 1969, he and his family moved to the farm that he bought in a quiet road, just out of Salisbury.
His neighbors were spread far enough apart to give everyone breathing space.
Matsis farm had its own atmosphere and special charm with its comfortable little home, its chicken coop and beehives, it had open fields and pastures as well as its vegetable patches and fruit trees.  
The variations in activity across the span of a day or across the seasons of the year offered many enjoyable ways to stay connected with nature.
Tending to the farm animals, growing their own seasonal foods and harvesting it, getting up at dawn to feed the chickens and gather the eggs, milking the cow and goat and then letting them out to graze in pastures.
And, then there were the beehives  he enjoyed caring for and extracting the golden honey.
Visitors to Matsis farm never left empty-handed.
Every visitor always got a bag of their wonderful farm produce and a jar of Matsis golden honey.
It was a wonderful and satisfying lifestyle that Stylianos Stiliano (Matsi) loved.

Stellios Karagianis

Stellios Karagianis was born and raised in the small, hilltop village of Mesanagros in Southern Rhodes in 1931 and migrated to Brisbane, Queensland in 1952 where he found work as a kitchen hand in a restaurant.
He then moved to Adelaide, South Australia in 1954 and established glasshouses in the Fulham area growing tomatoes.
His next venture was as a business proprietor of a Fish and Chip shop then labored at the Abattoirs Meat Works at Pooraka for about twenty years.
In the mid – 1950’s, his parents, Panayis and Dorothea also came to Australia as did his two brothers, Alexandros and Philimonas who left their own families behind until they could establish themselves.
Alexandros stayed for about five years but was homesick for his native island and young family back there.
He returned to Rhodes Island and to a lifetime of work in the reception of the Hotel Irene owned by his cousin, Doctor Athanasios Karagianis.
Philimona however, bought a home in Thebarton then brought his wife Stergoula and two sons, Andrew and Peter to the new country.
In 1960, Stellio married his wife Maria, an immigrant from the seaside village of Gennadi in Rhodes and they have a son, Peter and daughter, Dorothy.
Nestled high up in the hilly surrounds of southern Adelaide was where Stellio bought the O’Halloran Hill Fruit and Vegetable Market with its friendly, open – air market atmosphere.
Stellio purchased his produce at the Adelaide East End wholesale market direct from growers on a daily basis in the early hours of the morning so his customers would always find the finest and freshest ingredients for their cuisine.
They successfully worked the O’Halloran Hill store for about five years then moved into the Shandon Hotel on Tapley’s Hill Road, Seaton.
It had a lounge bar and attached beer garden, its bistro had a wide selection of food where people could dine for lunch and dinner and it had a bottle shop where people could buy their beer, wine and spirits.
After six years at the Shandon Hotel, Stellio bought the Marion Fruit and Vegetable Centre at, Marion in South Australia’s largest shopping centre.
Here Stellios close – knit family worked there for twelve years and took great pride in being able to offer an impressive array of the freshest, high
quality produce with the widest range of tastes, textures and coloring of seasonal, organic and exotic tropical produce.

Nicholaos (Nick) Frossinakis

Nick Frossinakis was born in 1937 in the small, southern Rhodes village of Lahania, Rhodes Island, Greece.
In 1949, he and his father Manoli and brothers Philip and Tom migrated to the cotton, sugar-cane and cattle town of Biloela, Queensland, Australia located 594 km north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.
Nick's sister Eleni (Helen) stayed behind in Lahania, Rhodes Island for about three years, then traveled to Australia with another female immigrant from Lahania to reunite with her  family in Australia.
Biloela's Pioneer Immigrants
Enterprising immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe arrived in Biloela from the 1920s looking for better circumstances and eager to make their mark in life.
These immigrants quickly took up the opportunity to better their lives for themselves and their families by working in the harsh, rural environment of Queensland's cotton and sugar-cane fields of Biloela.
In March 1934, The Courier-Mail reported: “Among the cotton growers of the Biloela district are a former general of the Ural Cossacks who fought in the Great War (WWI) and a Russian Orthodox priest.”
By this time, Biloela’s Greek community had also grown large enough that a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Timotheos Evangelinidis visited Biloela from time-to-time to baptize children, give communion to the Orthodox faithful and to preach the Divine Liturgy.
A Life of Toil and Labor
Life in those days was hard, unfamiliar and overwhelming.
But, despite the hardships they faced, they never gave up hope.
They tilled and endured in the cotton fields around Biloela to earn enough money to buy their own small farm or establish a town business.
Horse-drawn ploughs were used for the cultivation of soil on the farms in those days to prepare for sowing seed or planting to loosen or turn the soil.
They lived in houses made of iron sheets atop hard dirt floors and sweltered through tropical long, hot summers.
Their homes had no power so, kerosene lamps with a wick for burning was used for lighting.
Keeping clean and using the toilet wasn’t as easy in those early days as it is today.
The bathroom and toilet were a stark contrast to the suites with which we’re familiar today.
Be it freezing cold or swelteringly hot, many immigrants like Nick and his family had to make do with a portable metal tub to bathe themselves and wherever they could find privacy outdoors was their toilet.
And, flax canvas water-bags were a necessity in those days because the availability of clean, cool drinking water in remote rural locations was essential for survival. But the land had plenty of groundwater and alluvial soil for growing crops and for fattening cattle.
The Frossinakis family and all the other farmers had to rely on a lot of sunshine, warm conditions and 4-to-5 months of frost-free temperatures to produce the fluffy white cotton.
Nick's family later acquired about 120 dairy cows which they milked every morning then sent it to the factory so that dairy products such as drinking milk, cream, butter, yoghurt and cheese were produced for human consumption.
School Days
Nick and his brother's Tom and Philip were the first Greek immigrants at the Callide Primary School located about 3km from their home.
Nick would seat his brother Tom on the crossbar of his bike to ride the 3km on a gravel road to the school each day.
Move to Adelaide, South Australia
In 1952, after living in Biloela for three years, the Frossinakis family moved to Adelaide, South Australia where they set up house in the working class suburb of Thebarton, in Cawthorne Street.
Nick got a job at Simpson Pope, an appliance manufacturer.
Nick also worked at the first oyster bar to be established in Adelaide for about 3 years.
Other jobs included grape-picking in the vineyards of Australia's largest wine-producing region, the Riverland town of Barmera.
Other major towns in the Riverland where Greeks migrated to and worked in those early years include Renmark, Berri, Loxton, Waikerie, Glossop and Monash, along with many other minor townships.
Nick also spent time working in the building industry in Adelaide then worked at the Mile End, Horwood Bagshaw (an Australian agricultural machinery manufacturer), on the forklift where he was promoted to foreman - a position he held for 10 years.
And, since 1975, Nick worked for 43 years as a self-employed tiler in the building industry.
Nick Frossinakis married his wife Ellie Lelas (an immigrant from Athens, Greece) in 1959 and God blessed them with three daughters - Stella, Athena and Anna from whom they have seven grandchildren.
Community Service
Nick's community spirit has been evident as president (for thirty-three years) of the Ennosis Lahaniaton, Zoothohos Piyis Society.
Under Nick's leadership the Society made significant philanthropic contributions and provided strong support to various charities in South Australia and to their ancestral island of Rhodes Island, Greece.
The Ennosis Lahaniaton, Zoothohos Piyis Society has generated many social activities for its members over the years through their barbecues, excursions and their annual religious festive dance, Ayias Erinis, which is celebrated at the Colossus Hall at Torrensville in Adelaide, South Australia.

Poppy Lentakis

Inspirational Cultural Poet
Poppy Lentakis was born in the small Southern Rhodes village of Katavia in 1936 and migrated with her family to Australia in 1956.
She married Constantinos (Dino), an immigrant from the seaside village of Gennadi, Rhodes Island, in Adelaide in 1961.
Their chidren are Anastasia, Tsambika (Betty) and Michael.
Poppy’s inspirational poems are heart-warming reflections from life that flow out of her mind and her heart. They are valuable treasured gifts of Southern Rhodes heritage.
Poppy is a woman who is in tune with her traditional values and has that gift that many people from Southern Rhodes seem to possess in abundance – to be able to find the right words that rhyme and to then express them like a poet. Her exceptional natural talent makes her one of the best.
Her poems are short, simple and yet so very true as they remind us of our past and recapture what has been lost in our lives. They poetically express the soul of simple people and their yearnings and are some of the most beautiful that one can hear.
She has composed poems of faith to emigrant laments and laments sung for the dead, to poems about love, weddings, lullabies and family to poems about heroism and happy carnival times. Her poems allow a beautiful story to be told and to share with others giving joy and comfort to all who hear them.

Triantafilos Psaras

Hard-Working and Dedicated Father
It is hard to migrate and leave your family behind in order to help improve economic circumstance.
Strong life themes emerge from the stories of every immigrant.
There is the trauma of having to leave your family behind, to go from rural life to suburban living and, hard work - to toil and to endure in the farms and factories of Adelaide, South Australia.
World War II and its aftermath resulted in large–scale migrations and for more debilitating changes to come.
Triantafilos Psaras was one such young man who was subjected to these life changing forces.
To secure his family’s financial security and ensure his children’s future, he migrated to Adelaide, South Australia while his wife Despina remained in Lahania, Southern Rhodes to continue to work the fields and to raise their young children alone.
Triantafilo is a role model of the traditional, hard–working and dedicated father who wanted to give his children a good education and the best in life so they would be free of limited opportunity.
He wanted them to make something of themselves so they would not have to endure the same hardships he had.
Throughout the many hard and lonely years without his family by his side, he continued to work hard and save to send money to help pay for his children’s schooling and to help make their world a happier place.
After twenty years, Triantafilo returned to Rhodes Island and to his family.
His hard work and sacrifice has reaped the rewards he set out to achieve and opened the door of opportunity for his children so they could realize their dreams.

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