Immigrant Life Themes


The War Years
World War II - brought death, destruction and displacement.
Communism brought division and rivalry between the democratic, United Stated and the communist, Soviet Union and their respective allies competed for political and military supremacy culminating in the Arms Race.
Greece, was devastated by the huge refuge crisis of 1922, the Great Depression of the 1930s with its high unemployment and social unrest and the two world wars.     
During those turbulent years, the Dodecanese Islands of which Rhodes Island is a part of, was under Italian occupation (1912 to 1945).
Following the victory of the Allies in 1945, the islands became a British military protectorate and Dodecanese unification with Greece was formalized in 1947.
The Greek flag was finally raised on March 7th, 1948 ending centuries of non - Greek rule.
The fear of communism was becoming a dangerous political force at this time which forced many Greeks to leave the land of their birth seeking for a more peaceful and prosperous life in other countries.
Australia was known as the Lucky Country and the land of opportunity - a place to build dreams.


Constantinos (Con) Athanasas

Con Athanasas is a Korean war veteran.
He was born in the hilltop village of Mesanagros in Rhodes Island, Greece and raised in the rural life of Southern Rhodes.
Con was one of those brave soldiers of the Hellenic Infantry Battalion who had to cope with the horrors on the battlefields and trenches and ultimately, saw many of his friends die.
Others returned to long-term suffering with physical disabilities or, haunted by the images of war still imprinted silently in their memories and their dreams.
The Korean War (1950-1953)  
The Korean War had its origins with the collapse of the Japanese empire at the end of World War II.  
In August 1945, the Korean peninsula was split in half along the 38th parallel and became occupied by Russian communists in the north of the line while the democratic, United States occupied the south.
The Korean War began on 25 June, 1950 when the North Korean Communist army, supplied and advised by the Soviet Union, crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the democratic South Korea.  
In June, 1950, the United Nations joined the war with 21 nations (including Australia and Great Britain) on the side of the South Koreans (the United States sent about 90% of the troops to aid South Korea).
When U.S. and South Korean forces marched into North Korea it resulted in a massive intervention by communist Chinese forces in late 1950 to aid North Korea.
Greek Participation in the Korean War
After, the Greek Civil War (1946 - 1949) in which communists tried to over-throw the democratic Greek government, Greece felt obligated to participate in the alliance against communism.
They formed a “Special Expeditionary Force” (GEF), involving ground (Hellenic Army infantry battalion) and air forces (Royal Hellenic Air Force) which they sent in response to the United Nations appeal for assistance in the Korean War.  
The Greek battalion of just under 900 men were named "The Spartan Brigade" under Spartan Lieutenant Colonel Georgios Koumanakos were placed under the overall command of the US 1st Cavalry Division and later under the overall command of US 3rd Infantry Division.
The war subsequently bogged down into a bloody stalemate and finally in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end.
Some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war - yet, the Korean peninsula is still divided today.
Though small in number the Greek courage and bravery led to the unit being awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation by President Harry Truman.
On the 69th anniversary of the Korean War, the Korean Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Greece, acknowledged the sacrifices of the Greek veterans of the Korean War: "Of the Greek soldiers, 186 died in the battlefields and 610 were injured.”  
“Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority, but of the whole people.”
~ Pericles



Dimitria Athanasas (nee Manis)

Dimitria Manis was born in the village of Mesanagros, Rhodes Island (famous for the Colossus of Rhodes), Greece in 1938, the year her father Simeon migrated to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia when she was just 4 months old and her brother Mihali (Michael) was under 2 years of age.
Dimitria, her brother, Mihali and their mother, Flora were able to migrate to Brisbane in 1948 to re-unite with her father, Simeon.
They settled in the working-class suburb of West End where both, she and her brother attended West End State School.
She worked as a dressmaker creating women's garments throughout her working life.
For Dimitria, serving God, her church and her community is a way of life that is driven with a sense of purpose for the common good of humanity.
Sunday School Teacher
A Sunday School teacher is a disciple of Jesus Christ who help the young to develop the spiritual eyes, ears, and heart so they can seek spiritual realities beyond this world.
Dimitria and her family have always been active church members at the Saint George Greek Orthodox church in West End, Brisbane.
Over a lifetime of devoted service, Dimitria, the humble, Religious Instruction Teacher of West End State School (the school she attended as a student in her youth) taught about:
*love to help children feel secure
*hope to build their confidence for the future
*faith so children will grow spiritually.
"The greatest among you will be your servant".  
Charismata - Gifts from the Heart
Dimitria is a blessed individual who has empathy and understanding for the aged and frail.   
She has a sense of community that empowers and energizes them from feeling isolated and depressed by sharing quality time with the residents of Saint Nicholas, Greek Orthodox Nursing Home in Brisbane in a range of activities.
She enthusiastically provides companionship and contentment on a weekly basis, reading books, reciting poetry and enjoying morning tea with the aged that enhances the lives of senior residents.
Dimitria's inspirational Greek poems that she recites to the aged, are heart-warming reflections from a wonderful, bygone era that flow out of her heart are valuable, treasured gifts from her Southern Rhodes heritage (Rhodes Island-Greece).   
These moments stimulate conversation, bring people close together and has a soothing, therapeutic effect on the senior residents that helps to improve their mental well-being, overcomes boredom and loneliness and brings happy memories of good times back to life.
These activities have no financial cost - they just require the empathy of individuals like Dimitria Athanasas who make the time and commitment to care for their well-being.
Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
-Job 12:12


Michael Manis
West End - Brisbane
Spoken in English


Michael Manis
West End - Brisbane
Americano
Spoken in Greek


Mick Michael
West End - Brisbane
Spoken in Greek


The Koumpis Brothers

Evthokia and Lefteris Koumpis
Icons of St. Nicholas and Panayia Skiatheni (Virgin Mary)
Kalliopi and George Koumpis


Service is central to Christian belief because we follow a God Who Loves and a Christ Who came to serve.
Faith exercises a power over a Christian's life in a remarkable way to manifest a Christian spirit in all they do.
From way back in their small hilltop village of Mesanagros and as immigrants in Adelaide, South Australia, the Koumpis brothers, Elefterios (Lefteri) and Yioryios (George) knew what serving God was all about.
They were brought up in a loving Christian home environment and with the beautiful centuries-old rural traditions of their Southern Rhodes heritage that strengthen the bonds of faith, family and community.
Both entered into a lifetime of service and provi, ded their time and talents for the benefit of their church, their community and their fellow human being.
Down through the centuries we find in the Holy Bible how God's people have praised Him in song and through prayers.
Many magnificent voices have chanted to the Glory of God.
Like his own father, Lefteri was just one of the many whose inspirational, golden voice has chanted to Worship God, our dear Lord, Jesus Christ, our Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints, Prophets and Angels.
For over thirty five years, he was a humble and faithful servant of God and to his beloved Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Thebarton Adelaide.
George too, has invested a lifetime of dsevoted and faithful service at Saint Nicholas Church, the PanRhodian Society of S.A. "Colossus" and the Rhodian Mesanagrenos Association.
Lefteri was born in 1929 and married his wife Evthokia in 1949.
They have two children.
Lefteri migrated to Adelaide in 1955 and his family followed in 1959.
George was born in 1932 and immigrated to Adelaide in 1952.
He married his wife Kalliopi in 1959 and they have three children.



The Arnas Family


With the backdrop social, political and economic upheaval of the pre-World War II years Christos Arnas and Zaharoula Diakomihalis found themselves at the crossroads of life during the late 1930s.
Christos was from the village of Katavia and her mother Zaharoula, came from the village of Lahania, Rhodes Island.
Both, Christos and Zaharoula, decided to leave the island of their birth in search of a more peaceful life in Australia.
Christos and Zaharoula became immigrants, carrying with them the virtues of rural life - of farms and villages that work the old-fashioned way.
Christos immigrated to Biloela, Queensland, Australia in 1936.
Zaharoula was brought to Australia by her father, Phillip Diakomihalis in 1937.
They had to adapt in a different world, while adhereing to their old traditional values of Southern Rhodes.   
They linked arms and minds together and were married in Biloela in 1937.
Together, they planned, hoped and prayed for a better future in Australia.
Christos and Zaharoula bought a farm in the Callide rural area on the outskirts of Biloela where they grew cotton and raised livestock.
The Arnas family mixed-farming enterprise integrated the cultivation of crops (cotton was the main cash crop) as well as the raising of livestock.
Milk, meat, cotton, cereal, vegetables and fruit were all produced on their farm.
They worked under the heat of the sun and in the rain to watch over their crops and livestock seven days a week.,
Farm life was a strenuous, repetitive task and involved lifting and bending.     
Harvesting crops, spraying fields, seeding, tilling fields, fertilizing, watering (or relying on rainfall), weeding and killing crop pests, milking cows, vaccinating calves, pasturing and feeding livestock meant that they were always busy day and night.
In the cotton fields the family toiled and endured to pull the white, fluffy lint from the boll while trying to not cut their hands on the sharp ends and they had to stoop to pick the cotton because the average cotton plant is less than three feet high.
Irene Diakos
Irene Diakos (nee Arnas), the eldest daughter of Christos and Zaharoula, was a 'war baby', born in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia in 1938 (World War II 1939 - 1945)
Her brother, Phillip, was born in 1943 and her sister, Mary in 1944.
Irene fondly recalls the 1940s decade of the rural, close-knit community in Biloela and suburban life in Adelaide, South Australia during the fabulous fifties.
Irene, Phillip and Mary, along with their cousins Anna Stiliano and Eleni Frossinakis had to cope with living in two worlds - one of being a Greek child in a Greek family and brought up according to centuries-old, Greek family traditions.  
The other - of surviving and succeeding within an Australian environment that was predominantly Anglo-Saxon.
Irene began school-life at the one-room Callide Primary School that had a single teacher who taught the academic basics to several grade levels of primary (elementary-age) boys and girls from the surrounding rural areas of Bilolela.
She would ride her bike to school - a gift given to her by her godfather, George Stiliano.
Every morning, before going to school, Irene would feed 32 calves and then, after school would feed the pigs.
When the Arnas family went to do their shopping in the town of Biloela they traveled in an 1800s style, horse and buggy (an old-fashioned reminder of a simpler, more slow-paced era).   
Move to Adelaide, South Australia
In 1950, the Arnas family moved to Adelaide, South Australia and set up house in the western, working class suburb of Thebarton, in Cawthorne Street and next door to their cousins, the Stiliano family.
Irene, Phillip and Mary were enrolled at Thebarton Primay School.
Irene's working life began at her uncle, Matsis Fish and Chip shop at Largs Bay, serving the popular take-away food consisting of deep-fried fish in batter or bread crumbs with thick-cut, deep-fried potatoes sprinkled with salt (vinegar, optional) and traditionally served in newspaper.
Irene was thirteen when she first met Triantafilos (Ross) Diakos, Ross, her future husband, at the christening of little, Eva Pirakis (Eva's family were also immigrants from Lahania, Rhodes Island).
Twenty-two-year-old Ross was also a guest at the baptism who provided the music on his violin.
Irene was smitten from that moment and decided that he was going to be her future husband.
They were married in 1956 and had three children.




Anna Itsines

Left to Right
Irene Arnas - Helen Frossinakis
Mary Arnas - Anna Stiliano


Life in the Cotton Fields of Biloela
Anna Itsines (nee Stiliano) and her twin brother George were born in 1945 in the rural town of Biloela located 594 km north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia.
Greek immigrants began to settle here and the surrounding areas from the 1930s, starting both farming and town businesses.
These were the days when the Stiliano family traveled around in the 1800s style, horse and buggy (an old-fashioned reminder of a simpler, more slow-paced era) as their everyday means of transportation.
Anna and her brother George attended a one-room schoolhouse built upon stilts with a single teacher who taught the academic basics to several grade levels of primary (elementary-age) boys and girls from the surrounding rural areas of Bilolela.
The Stiliano family's aim was to increase income through different sources and to complement land and labor demands across the year.    
Cotton seeds were planted in spring and the crop had to be harvested before the weather could damage or completely ruin its quality and reduce yield.
Their cows had to give birth to a calf before they could produce milk.
Some of their calves were reared for veal and about three quarters of the heifers became replacements for their adult milk-producing cows.
The long working hours lead to tiredness and fatigue and the family were exposed to numerous life-threatening safety and environmental hazards which included snakes, heat exposure, falls, musculoskeletal injuries and pesticides.
Cafe in Monto
The Stiliano family tilled and endured in the cotton fields to earn enough money to establish a cafe in Monto about 96.2km from Biloela offering quick service, long opening hours, and tasty meals seven days a week.
Their cafe offered the traditional English-style steak and eggs, a mixed grill, chops and sausages, fish and chips as well as the American hamburger, ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes and sodas could be purchased as sit-down meals or take-away.
Every Tuesday was to become a popular social past-time at their cafe by farmers from the surrounding areas who took time off from their daily chores on their farms to enjoy a delicious cafe-style meal with family or friends.
Americanization of Eating Habits in Australia
The Greek immigrant cafes and milk bars had transformed Australian food culture from the very start of the twentieth century.
In most suburbs and country towns in Australia, the Greek cafes were open all hours, seven days a week.
Many early Greek cafe owners in Australia had first sought their fortunes in the United States then, brought the food culture ideas to Australia when they migrated there.  
After World War II and especially after 1952 many Greeks who migrated to Australia brought with them their traditional Greek cuisine.
Move to Adelaide, South Australia
The Stiliano family decided to move from Queensland to Adelaide, South Australia in 1951.
Steve and his son's George and Philip drove 2,148.8 km from Monto to Adelaide by car.
Anna, her mother, and brother Gary traveled to Adelaide by aeroplane.
The Styliano family set up a fish and chip shop at Jetty Road, Largs Bay for three years and then moved to the working-class suburb of Thebarton where they continued to work in small business and later in farming.
Steve and his wife Erini worked long hours in harsh conditions and then with the full time help of their eldest daughter, Anna in their Fruit and Veg business.
Anna married Stan Itsines in 1966.


Stamatis (Stan) Itsines


Stan's early life began in adversity during the turbulent years of World War II.  
He was born in 1939 in the beautiful, little Dodecanese island of Kos - the island of Hippocrates, the father of Medicine.
During this time, the Dodecanese Islands were under Italian occupation since 1912 and, during World War II, Italy was a part of the Axis Powers allied with Nazi Germany.
After the Italian surrender in 1943 however, the Dodecanese Islands briefly became a battleground between the Germans against the Italian and Allied forces.
Throughout Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Dodecanese Islands countless thousands were displaced and forced to seek sanctuary in the refugee camps of the Middle East.
In 1944, the Germans removed the residents from their homes in Kos and made the area a base which forced many to flee to Turkey.
The Turks then moved them as well as thousands of other refugees to the Middle East where the Greeks were placed in three refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.
Other Greek inhabitants of the Dodecanese found their way to British protection in Cyprus.
During the German bombing of Kos, Stan's mother and sister were killed.
Stan's father decided to leave his youngest son John with his wife's sister in Kos then took Stan and his other brother Con to Turkey (ancient Greek Harlicanusas - now Budrum, Turkey) where they stayed for about a year.
When World War II ended in 1945, the English government then helped the Greek refugees to return to Rhodes Island and from there back to Kos.
While in Rhodes Stan's father placed him in an orphanage and from there a relative took him into his home.
After about a year in Rhodes, Stan and his family were reunited in their native island of Kos.
As a young adult, Stan served as a Telecommunications Officer in the Greek Navy.
In 1964, he migrated to Adelaide, South Australia where he met and married Anna Stiliano in 1966.
Community Service
Stan is a prime example of the kind of people who make a difference in their community by giving generously of himself through his strong on-air presence on radio and through his valuable service to youth.  
The instantly recognizable golden voice of Stan Itsines with his easy listening style and distinct warmth has always been one of the most popular of the ethnic radio hosts in Adelaide.
With over thirty years of voluntary community service, he has successfully maintained his appeal to audiences producing and presenting his wonderful program, Yalazio Agean for the Greek community beginning with Radio 5EBI-FM and then with Radio Ena.
Stan was also an outstanding soccer and basketball player in his native island of Kos and was a champion athlete of the Dodecanese Islands in the 400 and 800 meters.
The reward of giving to his community extended further with his valuable service to youth by passing on his soccer and athletic skills to the youth of his community as a coach.



Michael Lisgos


Mike's Meat Store was a traditional neighborhood butcher shop that was to become one of Adelaide's best.
Michael Lisgos, its owner, was the versatile singer who found his passion singing the wonderful songs of the fabulous Rock and Roll era.
Michael was born in the small Southern Rhodes village of Lahania in 1939 and migrated to Adelaide with his mother Aglaia and sister Irene on the Italian ship, Continental in 1949.
His father, Manoli had already migrated in the mid-1930’s and his brother, Philip and young sister Stamatia were born in Adelaide in the early 1950’s.
In 1954, Michael began a five year apprenticeship with his good friend and fellow apprentice, Nick Nicholas at Con Liascos Butcher Shop in Hindley Street.
It was a partnership that has lasted throughout their working lives for these two lifelong friends.
In 1958, during his butcher’s apprenticeship, Michael was conscripted to do National Service with the Australian Army for a period of two years.
He married his wife Maria, an immigrant from the village of Gennadi, Rhodes Island, in 1962 and they have two daughters. Michael completed his apprenticeship at Con Liascos Butcher Shop and then worked there for another five years but, he always wanted to be his own boss.
That dream became a reality in 1964 when he opened his first Mike’s Meat Store on Henley Beach Road, Mile End.
He took with him, his good friend, Nick Nicholas and the business grew to be one of Adelaide’s most popular.
Michael and Nick’s working life continued when they moved to larger premises in Ebor Avenue, Mile End in 1972.
Michael and his traditional neighborhood butcher shop had a big reputation because he treated his loyal customers as his most valuable asset.
Mike’s Meat Store also supplied some of Adelaide’s finest hotels, restaurants and cafes that included the Gouger Fish Cafe, Talbot Hotel and Athens Restaurant in Hindley Street.
Michael Lisgos was also a very talented singer.
The decade of the 1950’s gave birth to Rock and Roll when Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock became popular in 1955 and Elvis Presley was to become its King.
At age twelve he had won the Sven Kalin Talent Quest and again, in 1958, he won the Australian Armed Forces Talent Quest.
Michael sang and moved like the Rock and Roll stars of that time and he looked like them wearing his 50’s era clothing and hairstyle. He was very popular at concerts and at the local Greek community dances where he was usually backed by Pentagramon or Athens bands.
His theme song was Dean Martin’s big hit, That’s Amore.


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