submitted by Terry Chlentzos on 26.08.2007
There was no real secret to the v-mail process; in fact it was simple, the soldiers wrote their letters on a form provided and it was then photographed onto microfilm which was simply flown to the USA. A reel of 16mm microfilm could contain 18,000 letters and in terms of bulk and weight the roll of film took up only a fraction of what 18,000 real letters would take. Upon arrival in the USA the letters were printed from the film and then posted onward to the addressee.
These letters were written by my uncle Philip in the months before his death in July, 1944
The letter reads:
I received your letter of Oct. 19, and was sure glad to hear from you. It took your free letter about 3 weeks to get here-- but it got here.
Doesn't it seem kinda strange knowing I'm somewhere in Northern Ireland? Oh, it isn't very far from home-- just 1/3 way around the world. Sure a small world.
Although the weather is continually damp & wet, and rain falls every day, I don't seem to mind my stay here. Although it bothers my sinus a bit, it won't let a good man down.
Amazing as it may seem, a fellow and I have written a hilarious 3-act play to be presented in the very near future. The title, "As the Bartender Saw it." Read by many. I'll venture to say that the satisfaction they gained from it forces me to also say it's very good. (Despite my boasting).
Very soon I expect to drop in and see what Belfast has to offer. Ever hear of it? HAW.
The spending of British money was a bit irritating and complicated at first, but time changed everything. Some sure wished they went to school now. The English accent is used very strongly & really do enjoy conversing with some of the people. Well, Pete, I'll end now. Hope you & Helen are in the best of health and tell Helen I said bells-- all the way from Ireland. I'm in excellent health.
Your brother, Phil
p.s. Write soon
submitted by Vikki Vrettos Fraioli on 26.01.2007
This letter was written by Konstantin Bernardos to my grandparents Yiannis and Marigo Alfieris, in the USA. They had lost contact for many years after Yiannis and Marigo immigrated to the USA. K. Bernardos somehow finds their address and writes this letter.
Marigo's mother was Efrocene Bernardos from Christoforianika.
Any information on the author or his descendants would be appreciated.
Translated the letter reads:
Konst. E. Bernardos
27 Odos Aiginis, Sinikia Kypselis
in Athens on May 14, 1951
Dear John and Marigo,
As they say, only the mountains cannot get together. After 35 or 38 years, all of a sudden Vasillis, Regoulas husband, came to my house. I did not recognize him right away. He told me that Regoula has a correspondence with you and that you were asking about me. I was so emotional and surprised. Even my eyes were watering – because after the Second World War for about five years the question was going around in my mind; how was Diamandis, John, Marigo and their children doing? Also the child of Panayiotis (I think Panayioitis is Diamandis’ brother that lived in San Francisco). I have an album that has all the pictures that I took when I was with you. I have pictures of John, Marigo and their child, Kostaki they call him, I don’t remember.
How are you? Years and years have gone by. Then I as a young boy and today I am in my 60’s with a family (3 boys). I didn’t have your address to write. When I learned the address of our relatives in Baltimore and New York to learn if you had a correspondence with anybody and if they knew anything about you. Some of the relatives said they didn’t know you, others didn’t answer. Maybe they were afraid that I would ask them for favors or something. Well the point is, after so many years, I have heard from you and I would like you to write back to me. Don’t be lazy! Write for everybody and how they are doing. I am 26 years married and as I mentioned, I have three boys. The first one was in the Army and was just discharged 3 months ago.
God saved my life during the war. Greece these days is going through the Civil War. A lot of damage was done during the war. We didn’t have any water, phones, bridges were destroyed, and people were in misery. Probably you know through the newspapers. I hope we will not have any other wars like this. Things started getting better now. They are working on transportation and factories are open again. Villages in northern Greece have had catastrophic problems.
Write me about our relatives. How is the unfortunate Despina? How is she now that her husband died and they brought him to Tsirigo and then she went back to the USA?
My family sends sincere regards to you and to our relatives. Tell them to write back.
With lots of love,
submitted by Jean Michaelides on 06.01.2007
"It is well known that very many migrants only paid a token of their fare and on arriving here were automatically granted every privilege, benefit and freedom granted to the native-born.
Here, we have our churches, schools, newspapers, brotherhoods, societies, the right to naturalize or acquire business or property. All those things are protected by the renowned British justice, but above all we are endowed with one of the best educational systems in the world — free.
The result of this education now enriches the Australian community with thousands of accomplished Greek professional men.
Only recently the Federal Government allocated $50 million for the re-education of migrants. I advise Mr Zangalis to learn the real meaning of the Australian expression ‘fair go'.
Page 86, Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987.
submitted by Jean Michaelides on 22.12.2006
Nicholas Laurantus visit to Greece in 1960 stirred up his already strong feeling of pride in his native country. He wanted Australians too, to share this enthusiasm, so he ordered the printing of 60,000 postcards with four scenes of the Acropolis on one side and this message on the other:
Dear Australian Friends,
I am a Greek Australian, and having just returned from my homeland after 50 years residence in Australia I thought it appropriate to send you these views of the glory that was Greece.
Just a greeting and a message from me and nothing more.
Modern Athens, of course, is one of Europe’s fairest and most entertaining cities, and Greece generally is a quaint and interesting country, mingling as it does many centuries of customs and traditions. Its people are known as good hosts and the climate about perfect, but it is the classical period that leaves one spellbound.
A remarkable age this, in all history.
The sacred rock of the Acropolis is the birthplace of human consciousness and beauty unsurpassed.
The Parthenon has been called the divine harmony in marble, which hands cannot copy, and words cannot describe.
For the sake of perfection not a straight line in the whole building, horizontal or vertical — instead we see what is known as the Parthenon famous curves.
And from those astonishing marbles the Athenian flame still radiates its art and culture to the world. Even the dark centuries that blighted Europe after the decline of Athens and Rome could not entirely extinguish this intellectual beacon of ancient Greece.
Renan the French Philosopher prayed on the Acropolis, then wrote:
‘The Greek miracle happened but once, neither before, nor since’.
Midgeon Station, Narrandera, N .S.W .
For Nicholas Laurantus, the Parthenon was one of the three best-designed structures in the world. The other two were the thirteen-spanned bridge at Livadi and the Church of St Mary Myrtiodissa, both on Kythera; his father had helped to build both.
Nicholas sent copies of his postcard to all the Rotary Clubs in Australia and New Zealand with an accompanying letter, urging all their members to visit Greece. In return he received hundreds of replies, and this gratified him; the seed had not fallen on dry ground. From then on, he always carried a few copies in his breast pocket and handed them to those he thought would be interested, whether Greek or Australian. He was convinced that his little advertisement for Greece did promote tourism, that many people were inspired to travel there purely as the result of his postcard. In the years that followed he succeeded in distributing 30,000 copies.
Nicholas never forgot that he was a Kytheran. To him, a ‘trip overseas signified the Greek mainland and his island of Kythera, much as a ‘trip overseas’ for a British-Australian meant, usually, a visit to Britain. Other areas of the world held little interest as places to visit; he was not curious to see the forests of Scandinavia or the lakes of Switzerland or any of the cities of Europe that draw millions of tourists from other countries. He went only where he had a family tie, nowhere else.
Page 81-83, Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987.
submitted by Jean Michaelides on 21.12.2006
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Dear Brother Editor,
The first time I met our worthy President
Bro. J. H. Aldridge over a drink at our Club, I told him that I was a Greek National, and although I lived for 60 years here in Australia, I still loved my old country, as I also love my adopted country, Australia.
"Of course," he said, “that’s only natural”:
and then he started reciting the following:
‘Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who nev’r to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!”
And Bro. Aldridge went on to finish reciting Sir Walter Scott’s beautiful verse. That verse fascinated me, so I decided to write to the journal on that very subject.
You see, I am the man who recently gifted some money to the University of Sydney for the promotion of modern Greek at the above institution.
The Press wanted to know why modern Greek? Why not assist some other faculty? I replied that the Greek language is a mother language and is essential to a proper understanding of English and other European languages, because most of them are replete with Greek words and derivatives. But I also like to mention here that the Greek language, like the Greek thought, has been one of the greatest civilising mediums down through the ages. It is inseparable from European culture, philosophy, literature, science, even theology, and from almost every branch of human activity and thought. No other language has had such an impact on human society as the Grreek medium of expression.
Sorry, Brother Editor, I’ve been carried away - let me go hack to where I started:
Yes, I do love my old home land, so do most people who are horn in a free country. Nostalgia is a Greek word meaning “home-sicktness” — almost a disease, a very strong human characteristic, which should never he misunderstood by those who have never experienced its pangs.
Some people are inclined to interpret a migrant’s nostalgia for his homeland as being tantamount to a dislike for Australia. That’s not true and, in fact, the man who intensely loves his country has also the capacity to appreciate his adopted country. In other words, Australia - and Masonry also — have nothing to fear from the man who loves two countries: but what they have to be aware of is the bloke who loves none.
We all know that some migrants never manage to adapt themselves to adapt themselves to local ideas and customs, especially to the language: and therefore they are forcrd to live in a small circle of their own; but, believe me, there are some rough diamonds among them!
Lots of these people, with their close family ties, work in factories or perform other manual jobs, mostly on the basic wage: but they make sure their children receive the higher education of which they themselves were deprived.
So, every few years, a new generation emerges of dutiful sons to their parents — useful members of the community, really good Australians, and for sure, a good many of them will become good Masons.
THE MASONIC CLUB JOURNAL —- FEBRUARY, 1969
The Editor, Sydney Morning Herald.
Brave New Ethnic World
Having read the long article under the above heading in S.M.IH. 2.6.78, I am wondering why the Eederal Government is bent on spending 50 million dollars on supposed migrant needs. A very large amount of cash for very obscure aims. I am an old migrant myself with 70 years residence here and of all the myriads of migrants that I have met, never did one of them ever complain to me for such need either in language or culture. And why should they? Here they enjoy their own language schools, churches, newspapers, clubs, societies, brotherhoods, “Glendie" and every conceivable form of social activity. In addition they have entered commerce, manufacture, trades, professions and even rural production. For all these privileges the migrants are grateful and for 99% of them this is their country.
But as regards the English language migrants should be left alone as we were during all this century. Not one dollar should be wasted because languages are acquired not taught. The youngsters of course whether born here or not must by law attend the excellent local schools where they will acquire perfect English in no time with natural pronunciation and all. All the rest of the migrants will learn in their occupations or from their children. The remarkable English language in its simplicity was never a problem to European people, hence its world wide popularity. Of course learning a language is drudgery and after middle age, almost an impossible task.
submitted by Vikki Vrettos Fraioli on 02.01.2007
This was a post card sent to Maria Alfieris (nee Chlentzos) in Oakland, California, dated 15/12/47.
I beleive it was from her nephew, Manolis Sofios, from Logothetianika, and was taken by him, but I can not be certain.
To see a larger photograph of the monastary
We wish for you a good Christmas and good luck in the New Year.
submitted by Vikki Vrettos Fraioli on 29.03.2007
George was the son of Panayiotis and Maria Alfieris Vamvakaris (1887-1960).
This postcard was written to his mother's brother Vrettos Alfieris (1890-1974) and his wife Marigo (Theothorakaki)(1895-1961)
George was killed in World War II while serving in the Australian Army.
George’s WW II Certificate of Service
George Vamvakaris’ Naturalization application
submitted by Dawna Stevens on 06.06.2006
My grandfather Georgios D. Thymaras left Spetses Island in the 1920's to immigrate to the United States. He was about to return when he suddenly died. None of his children ever got to meet their extended family members until the year of 2000. He changed his sir name to Spetsas after the name of the island; It has been rumored in the family that his grandfather changed his name from Christakis after leaving Kriti, but this part has not yet been verified.
submitted by Peter Vanges on 09.05.2006
"For reasons unknown to us Kritharis moved to Mortdale N.S.W. in 1861 where he lived for the remainder of his life. We know, from a letter written on the 14th April 1902 to his brother Menas on the island, that Emmanuel Kritharis lived in the area of Mortdale, in George Street, not far from Sydney in a house called “Athena Cottage”. We learn also the astonishing information that the Kytherian member of Parliament, Kaloutzis, had volunteered his services to recommend Emmanuel Kritharis for the position of Ambassador in Sydney, if he (Emmanuel) was interested. Kritharis expresses his complete surprise because “neither Mr. Kaloutzis or any other M.P. had the power to appoint ambassadors”. Emmanuel further comments that “Mr. Kaloutzis as a person in politics and a member of Parliament should have known that “there was an appointed person in the position for the past twenty years”. He concludes by saying that such a position offers no salary and is only a honorary one and that he “would have never accepted such a post as ever since he had understood the world he had never sought neither name nor power or glory”. “I consider all that as vanity” he adds. In the same letter, as a post script, he informs his brother that “ in two weeks there will be an announcement of peace and that the King will be crowned on the 26th of June1903”. The letter is clearly written with steady handwriting and very strongly expressed ideas revealing that he not only was well educated but he also kept up with the news in Australia as well as Europe."
The First Kytherian Immigrant to Australia.
The ‘First Kytherian’ Question
First Published in The Greek Australian Vema, April 2006. pages 10/28 and 11/29.
Peter Vanges is author of Kythera. A History.
Kythera. A History. Details.
He was a long standing Committeeman of the then Kytherian Brotherhood of Australia, (11 years), serving 6 of those years as President.
Kytherian Association of Australia
When in 1916, the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” was printed in Greek, in Sydney, the name and only a few details about Emmanuel Kritharis were mentioned on page 293, that included the wrong year of his death, a reference of his being in Australia since 1854 and some information of his very substantial donation to the Greek war effort. No other details were reported that could assist us in our original research in order to establish, with certainty, who was the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia. We must remember that this book was published only three years after Kritharis’ death and therefore this information is the result of first hand knowledge.
In 1957 Ioannis Kasimatis published in Greece, his book, on the history of Kythera, mentions on p. 192 that “In the year 1850 (the first Kytherian to immigrate to Australia) was Emmanuel Kritharis.” The above information agrees with the reference in the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” as the first alludes to his arrival in Australia, while the second to his departure from the island of Kythera. Unfortunately no proof or any documents were presented to confirm this claim. Strangely and without any justification in the previous few lines, Kasimatis mentions that “some decades ago the first Kytherian to immigrate to Australia... was Athanasios Kominos”. Once again no other details or even the year of Kominos’ arrival is given in support of this claim. Official records, however, tell us that Athanasios Cominos ( Kominos) arrived in Sydney in 1873, almost twenty years after Emmanuel Kritharis.
Later in 1992, Hugh Gilchrist (Australians and Greeks, Vol. 1, p. 209) mentions... “another Kythirian family was that of Kritharis. Emmanuel Kritharis, reputed to have arrived in 1854, was a solitary man who is said to have died in Sydney in 1912 after making a large donation to the Greek war effort”. Emmanuel Kritharis’ incorrect date of death is given but other names of the Kritharis family who came to Australia are mentioned, giving us a full picture of the migration of this clan.
In my book “Kythera a History” published in 1993 the same very limited information is given on page 253 about Emmanuel Kritharis. The claim of his being the first to arrive in Australia was brief but with a more definite tone, in full knowledge that further information was needed. Since then I have undertaken the task to find fresh information that would permit me to proclaim with surety, that Emmanuel Kritharis was the first Kytherian to have arrived in Australia.
The name of Jack Melitas is mentioned on page 44, in the book “A Shop Full of Dreams”, as the pioneer of Kytherian migration. As no documented evidence is put forward this claim was disregarded and I continued with my research. The first Kytherian to arrive in Australia by the name Melitas is mentioned on page 206 of the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” as Demitrios Panagiotou Melitas who arrived in Sydney in 1903 at the young age of seventeen years old.
The Kytherian newspaper, “Kythiraiki Idea” in its publication of February 2003 under the title “Kytherians of the Diaspora ” mentions... “Some, claim that the first Kytherian immigrant to Australia was Emm. Kritharis who went there in 1850, the relevant bibliography however converge with the view that the first Kytherian ... was Athanasios Kominos who in 1875 at the age of 29 years arrived in that distant continent.”. Claims made in this article are completely unsupported and my research proves otherwise as no bibliography that we know has produced evidence to support this claim. It is regretful that “Kythiraiki Idea” even published a photo of Athanasios Kominos with the caption:.. “the first Kytherian immigrant to Australia”, when we know that he was not.
These are all the known “bibliographies” in reference to the question of the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia. The insistence of a number of commentators and reporters in ignoring the name of Emmanuel Kritharis in favour of that of Athanasios Kominos, who as mentioned, arrived in Australia in 1873, presented to me the challenge to attempt, once and forall, to uncover undisputed evidence to support my original claim that Emmanuel Kritharis arrived in Australia in 1854 and therefore he was the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia.
To my surprise, the new information collected, revealed much more than was ever known before about Emmanuel Kritharis, that proves beyond reasonable doubt, he was the pioneer of Kytherian immigration to Australia. Written evidence of the exact date of his arrival in Australia has not been found. Yet, the new information uncovered further strengthens the claim, that Emmanuel Kritharis had arrived in Australia in 1854 and therefore he was the first to reach this new continent down under.
Emmanuel Kritharis, according to his death certificate Number 2366, died on Sunday the 9th March 1913, aged 81, therefore he was born in Kythera in 1832. At a very young age, hunger and uncertainty, forced young Emmanuel to leave the island in search of a better life, not unlike so many others, who also made it to the shores of the new continent. After a long wait for the opportunity of a better life he boarded a vessel destined for the unknown continent of Australia. According to Ioannis Kasimatis, Kritharis left the island in the year 1850 and as mentioned in the book “ I Zoi en Afstralia” he arrived here in 1854.
The years between 1850-1854, were in most probability, spent in search of employment, or working anywhere he could, before the decision was made to seek his fortune in Australia, as rumors were running wild about discoveries of gold in N.S.W. and Victoria (1851). After a long, difficult and perilous voyage of many months he found himself possibly in the goldfields where young Emmanuel, soon, made his fortune. We know that as early as 1852, as many as thirty sailors had found their way to the goldfields of Australia. It is unfortunate that the records do not provide us with names or other details, so most of them will remain anonymous until further new information comes to hand.
For reasons unknown to us Kritharis moved to Mortdale N.S.W. in 1861 where he lived for the remainder of his life. We know, from a letter written on the 14th April 1902 to his brother Menas on the island, that Emmanuel Kritharis lived in the area of Mortdale, in George Street, not far from Sydney in a house called “Athena Cottage”. We learn also the astonishing information that the Kytherian member of Parliament, Kaloutzis, had volunteered his services to recommend Emmanuel Kritharis for the position of Ambassador in Sydney, if he (Emmanuel) was interested. Kritharis expresses his complete surprise because “neither Mr. Kaloutzis or any other M.P. had the power to appoint ambassadors”. Emmanuel further comments that “Mr. Kaloutzis as a person in politics and a member of Parliament should have known that “there was an appointed person in the position for the past twenty years”. He concludes by saying that such a position offers no salary and is only a honorary one and that he “would have never accepted such a post as ever since he had understood the world he had never sought neither name nor power or glory”. “I consider all that as vanity” he adds. In the same letter, as a post script, he informs his brother that “ in two weeks there will be an announcement of peace and that the King will be crowned on the 26th of June1903”. The letter is clearly written with steady handwriting and very strongly expressed ideas revealing that he not only was well educated but he also kept up with the news in Australia as well as Europe.
It is possible that, before settling in Mortdale, Emmanuel Kritharis had lived for a short time else where in Australia. Due to the distance between Hurstville and Sydney, he had little contact with other members of the Greek Community and although well known, every one called him “the monk”.  He never married, and was never naturalized. His occupation remains a mystery and his name does not appear on any other government or municipal records. Was he perhaps another deserter afraid of someone or something? Or he felt secure in his wealth and stayed well away of other people keeping in touch only with a few relatives in Greece, enjoying life in the house called “Athena Cottage”, where he lived with his close friends Spyro and Mary? We know that Spyro Bennett was a native of Greece  and that his wife Mary was the Executrix and Trustee of Emmanuel’s Will, what we don’t know is, who Spyro really was, and what was the connection with Emmanuel?
On the 7th of March 1913 Emmanuel Kritharis must had felt that the end of his life was near and signed his Will. With this Will he instructed that “all personal estate to be converted into money and to pay the proceeds together with all monies ready or otherwise to the Consul for Greece acting in the City of Sydney aforesaid to be applied by him in the Relief of the wounded Greeks and in the carrying on of the present War in which Greece is now engaged such Greeks as aforesaid to have received their wounds in such war...”. We know that his donation was in the vicinity of over thirty thousand (30.000) franks. It was the very first donation to this cause and a very substantial one. Unfortunately details have been lost with no official record of this substantial donation neither in Australia nor in Greece being verified.
Emmanuel Kritharis died only two days after he had signed his Will, on Sunday the 9th of March 1913.  The cause of his death was a) valvular decease and b) pulmonary congestion, as certified by his doctor, James Mc Leod, who last saw him a day earlier on the 8th of March 1913. The burial service was conducted by Rev. Seraphim Phokas. The certificate of his death and burial was signed by John Comino (Kominos) and Spyro Bennett. A notation in the death certificate informs us that he had lived in N.S.W. for fifty-two (52) years. His grave stands as clear indication of a person that lived an honorable life and died a very dignified death.
His death was announced in the local paper “Propeller” on Friday 14th of March 1913 as follows: “Mr ( George) Kritharis Emmanuel of Mortdale, died on Sunday last, Aged (80). The remains of the deceased were interred in the Greek portion of Sutherland Cemetery on Monday, a large number of fellow-countrymen and friends being present at the graveside”.
The burial ground of Emmanuel Kritharis stayed undisturbed in Woronora General Cemetery for eleven years to the day until his friend Spyro Bennett died on Thursday 13th of March 1924 and was buried there in the same grave. Spyros name was never inscribed there, nor did any one ever corrected the mistakes that the engraver made on the original monument. Spyro Bennett as mentioned, was a native of Greece and the husband of Mary Bennett, the Executrix and Trustee of Emmanuel’s Will but more importantly a very close friend and I suspect a trusted partner for very many years.
An agreement  signed on the 25th of June 1913 between the Executrix of Kritharis’Will, Mary Bennett and his cousin George who lived at Katoomba N.S.W., before the Consul General for Greece, reveals that Spyro and Mary Bennett were to inherit properties and goods in Australia and George, all the property on the island Kythera. Details of the Will, were officially transferred to the registry of Potamos, Kythera, on 21 August 1913.  This however is another story.
From the facts presented above we now know that:
Emmanuel Kritharis was born on Kythera in 1832. 2, 3
He died on the 9th March 1913 at the age of eighty one ( 81) in Mortdale, N.S.W. 1, 2, 3
He was buried at Woronora Cemetery on Monday 10th March, grave no. 406. 1, 3, 12
Lived in N.S.W. for 52 years as a “Gentleman of independent means”. 2
Kritharis’ real estate was divided in to three equal parts. 7
Made a donation of over 30.000 franks to the war effort in Greece. 6, 9
Was never married and never became naturalized. 1, 2
He owned no business in Australia. 1, 4
If we allow one or two years until means of transportation was found and accept that he left Kythera at the approximate age of twenty, Emmanuel George Kritharis arrived here in 1854 , a proposition that permits us to claim that he was the first Kytherian to reach Australia.
Sources and bibliography:
1. State Government records.
2. Death Certificate No. 2366/1241.
3. Records of Woronora General Cemetery.
4. Valuer General’s of N.S.W. records.
5. Hand written letter by Emmanuel Kritharis to his brother Menas, 14 April 1902.
6. Kritharis’ Will written and signed the 7 March 1913.
7. Agreement between Mary Bennett and George Kritharis signed 25 June 1913.
8. Transfer of details of Kritharis’Will to the Registry of Potamos, Kythera 21 August 1913.
9. “I Zoi en Afstralia” Sydney 1916.
10. “Australians and Greeks” Vol. I. Hugh Gilchrist. 1997.
11. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Directory 1993.
12. “Propeller” Hurstville’s local newspaper 1913
12. “Kythiraiki Idea” Jan- Feb. 2003.
13. Sydney Press 1840- 1914.
14. “A Shop Full of Dreams” Sydney 1993.
submitted by Peter Peter Poulos on 27.10.2006
Announcing the death of her husband from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Goulburn, 27th March, 1936
Dearest Mother, Greetings, I kiss you for Panayiotis and the children, and I wish my dearest mother, my letter finds you all in good health.
I believe my loving mother that you have heard of the tragic death of your Dimitries - my husband. It is very sad mother, one for you, and one hundred for me. You lost your son, whom you have not seen for years, and I myself, lost the partner of my life, and carer of the children. His death removed the heart from my body, and my life and health. What will happen? It was my luck to cry.
I want to tell you mother of my sadness and shock. I have had a nervous breakdown. Now I have experienced severe suffering with severe pains for five (5) weeks. I cannot sleep from the pain. Half of my chin is numb, and my teeth are throbbing from the pain, and I cannot cope.
Here, where I live, no doctor can help. The previous Sunday, 22nd March, I went to Sydney to do the mimosimo (40 days) for the deceased. I stayed an extra day, and went to see a big neurologist. He said it was my nerves, and he gave me strong medicine for my nerves. He told me to take it for 2-3 months. Mother, up to now, I have taken it up to 10 times, and it made very little difference. In the end he advised me to calm down and not worry. But I cannot easily forget, because his grave, his clothing, I see wherever I go; drawer or wardrobes. God help me to get well. Because I have four young children. What will happen? I am very unlucky.
The things are very complicated and mixed up with the shop. The only thing that was left was £3½ (three and a half lires), which I found after he died. Now I live temporarily with Panayiotis, and my older brother. The shop belongs to someone else. Jobs, (work) are not easy to find. I will try and get something from the Government for the children, as I am a widow. I do not worry that I am left on the street, but I worry over the loss of my husband. I feel I got killed for nothing, but I do not blame God.
I will tell you how this happened. Hear, my mother, that before he went to country towns to find a shop. In the end, in two or three days, he came back, and he said, I went to see the shop, but I did not like it. It is better that we stay here. It is a better climate for the children here. In the end that is what happened.
The following Sunday was 8 days after he went to play cards, and came back at 1 am. I was asleep, but woke up, and he said, "Tommorrow morning I will go back to the country towns to look for a shop, because as you know, there are no jobs at all." I said, "You are leaving so quickly. You should have warned me, and told me so I could prepare your clothing - in the end was it good?" In the end he got up at 7 am, and he said, 'get up' to open the shop, because the train is leaving. By the time I got dressed and went down he came back up, took his coat, and said from a distance - adieu (goodbye) my wife, I am in a hurry. That was all.
I waited Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursday night at 7:00pm, I was in the bath, and I was bathing the children to prepare them for bed. There was a knock on the door, and I saw Panayiotis, and he said, "Get ready to go to that town, Dimitries is in Hospital, unconscious." He said he had phoned for me to go next morning to the hospital. My worry and crying I cannot desribe. In the end, we took a car, George Comino, Tasso, and two more, and we left at 7:00pm at night, and we reached at four (4) am.
In the end when we went to see him in the Hospital he was unconscious. I cried out; I pulled at him. The nurse said he knew who I was, and tried to talk, but in 5 minutes his life left. In the end she took me to another room, and gave me cognac (brandy). A head nurse (matron?) came, and I asked "What do the doctor's say? Will he recover or be unconscious? When will he get better?" She said, "No, no." I said, "He wont live. He will die?" She said, "He has already died. What do you want? What are you looking for?"
It was a knife stab to my heart. I said, "Let me see him again. I want a second time." But whatever I said, no matter how much I moved him it was too late. He had died. I held him by the arm. He was soaking wet with perspiration. His pyjamas were stuck to his body.
After that, you understand, in the end, my mother, my grieving is heavy. You gave birth to him, you brought him up, and I had him as a husband 10 years. He left me with four children. My duty is to live, and look after them. I will die a widow. I swear to live for my children.
My disappointment is great, because nobody came to tell me my fortune by coffee, cards, or anything else, to tell me that I would lose my husband so young. I look at (his) clothes and I ask, is it true that I am a widow at 30 years of age. Am I dreaming? But it is true. It is not a dream.
That is what I have to write to you. I urge you to be patient. You and me. It was written, that's how he would go.
You have many kisses from the children, Panayiotis,
I kiss you with love
Within one year of writing this letter, Athena died from cancer.
Athena was a Kanellakopoulos, from Accrata. The family anglaicised their name to Connell.
She married: Dimitri George Poulos, (Tzortzopoulos), Karavas, Greece, and Goulburn, New South Wales, on 16th June 1926.
Wedding photo of Dimitri (Tzortzo)Poulos and Athena Connell
Athena Connell, from her wedding photo
Dimitri (Tzortzo)Poulos's headstone
Dimitri (Tzortzo)Poulos's gravesite
Oral history told by Con Dimitri (Tzortzo)Poulos, about brothers and sister, George, Harry, and Ollie
Photograph of Dimitri's father, George, and mother, Olympia - the woman to whom this letter is addressed - and their life history
submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 03.10.2004
On and preceding ‘National Greek Day’, 28Feb1941, a few Northern NSW newspapers carried this letter from James E. Panagiotopoulos to his brother John at Dorrigo:
By my letter I send you my best wishes, and thank God we are all alive and enjoying the best of health. Hoorah for our Greek nation! Hoorah for the war! Hoorah for everlasting life for our country Greece. Hoorah for the British Empire; and Hoorah for the young nation Australia! This war, which is forced upon our people by the unbrave, lying Italy, we will end by defeating Italy and throwing them back in the Adriatic Sea. This victory will be victory for everyone and for the freedom of the world and for justice. The God is with us, so is the blessing of the Virgin Mary. I’m sure everyone of you living in Australia will follow the wireless news with the pride of our success, of our Army, Navy and Air Force.
We who live in this sacred land of Greece, we will do our duty to the last man and to the last drop of blood. The heroic spirit of the people living in Greece is unbelievable. The determination and the hatred against Italy is so great it cannot be expressed or written. Dear John, our country will be glorious and big after this war. We are part of the greater British Empire. England decided to make Greece the central in the Mediterranean for the British Empire, and it pays England to do so, because by Greece making a friendship with the Turks we can control East, West, North and South. On the other hand we are just the same as the British people, free thinkers and free believers. I am not called to the colours yet but I expect to be called any minute. I expect you to be always a Greek and an honest man, and always do the best you can for the country you live in and for your fellowman.
With lots of love and God be with us.
Most of the regional rags were effusive with Greek praise from late 1940 to early 1941 after the Greeks had issued their historic OHI!! (No! You shall not pass…or something) and finished driving Musso’s mob back into Albania (unaware that shortly afterwards the Duce was to ride back into Greece on the Fuehrer’s back.)
The Greek War Relief Fund was then established in Sydney and branches set up in country towns all over Australia, culminating in Australian Greek Day celebrations on 28Feb1941. The Kytherians of Northern NSW excelled themselves over this period. Angelo Crethar was the leading organiser of the Richmond Greeks, while over on the Brunswick Archie Caponas worked a miracle by negotiating a temporary truce in the ongoing banana wars.
Mullumbimby shut down on the appointed day and the biggest crowd for some time invaded town to be entertained with housie, woodchop, dance, stalls, various amusements and competitions in the main street and showground. At the gala in the School of Arts that night the various movements in Evson’s Dance were performed with skill and grace by the Greek troupe comprising Mr. and Mrs. A. Caponas, Peter and Nicholas Psaltis, Anthony Feros (of Byron Bay – Archie’s fellow organiser along with Paul Samios of Bangalow), Martha Cassis and Mrs. D. Pilikas.… A further exhibition was given later in the evening, when the company included several Murwillumbah exponents…. The Psaltis brothers were decked out in national costume, as were Mina Caponas and Martha Cassis. Somehow Archie had secured the popular Ritz Orchestra, which drew ‘400 young people’ for a night of hoppin’ and boppin’. They raised £300, which was more money for the war effort than any other activity in town during the rest of the year (notwithstanding that collections by various organisations for various funds were happening almost daily, leaving a financially stressed community – excluding the zillionaires in the lucrative wartime banana industry.)
Down on the Clarence the Notaras/Bernard/Langley/… PR team swung into action. Over the ensuing months the Clarence citizens learnt more about Greece than they ever wanted to know; from the Peloponnesian Wars and the foundation of democracy through 2000yrs of subsequent history. Money raising functions were reported every second day, including, would you believe, a cricket match between the Clarence River Women’s Cricket Association and the Greek War Fund Committee. The Committee scraped home, but no thanks to Mr N. Langley and Mr A. Notaras (who) at least proved more deadly with the ball than the bat. Peter Bernard became honorary treasure of the interim committee and, with Anthony Notaras, visited every hamlet in the region galvanising the locals and picking up the cash in their armoured car. On the appointed day, and for sometime afterwards, an exhausted troupe of Grafton Greek dancers in national costume appeared at most functions in surrounding towns. All up Grafton and District raised over £600.
On the coast the Samios Bros café and George Potiri’s Coffs Harbour Hotel became the chief collection points, while Mick Feros’ pub served the same purpose up in the hills at Dorrigo. Mick seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of Greek flags.
Further down the coast at Repton Messrs G. and H. Souris and G. Potiri were the promoters of a grand social…During the evening Mr C.S. Aroney of Coffs Harbour related to the gathering an historical incident to show the fighting spirit of the Greeks…Mr Harry Souris, in the skirted costume of the Greek mountain soldier, and Miss Lena Souris, also in Greek national costume, danced the Greek dance… Among those representing the Greeks from various centres were Mr Nick Gleeson and Miss Helene Comino of Urunga; Mr John Sophios and Mrs Manuel Kalangis of Bellingen; Mr George Souris, Mrs Nita Souris and Mrs Helene Psaltis…
At Urunga Mr Gleeson arranged the dance at the School of Arts… while Mr Kolantgis organised the Bellingen Ball…attended by 600 people… The leaders of the party were Messrs Potiri (Coffs Harbour) and Langley (Grafton) and Mrs Margos (Urunga) and Miss Bolston (West Kempsey)… and they were joined by many of their countrymen and women from Macksville, Coffs Harbour, Urunga, Dorrigo and Grafton. … the dance was marked by the striking national dress worn by the four leaders of the group and the two young patriots Arthur and George Bernard, of Grafton, who carried the Greek Standard and led the party to the dance floor. … At an appropriate interval in proceedings Mr Theo Cummins of Urunga (on behalf of Mr N. Gleeson, also of Urunga); Mr Bernard, of Grafton, and Mr M. Feros, of Dorrigo… sang the praisers of the patriotic Bellingers.
South to the Hastings Jim Aroney, Peter Vlandys and Peter Hatsatouris starred at Port Macquarie while George Conomos and a heap of holidaying mates from Moree were the centre of attraction at Wauchope. [At the Greek Ball held at the Wauchope Regent Theatre … the charming Miss Aroney (of Port Macquarie), dressed as “Miss Greece”…bearing the everlasting torch…led eleven Greeks dressed in Grecian costume…] The Hatsatouris Ritz Theatre seemed to be the main venue for Port Mac functions.
Down on the Macleay the Mottee Bros of Kempsey, ably assisted by A. Tsigounis, C. Tsakes, J. Sophios, M. Conomos (and a few other suspicious looking Greek names) were the stars and broke all records by raising just over £740 (excluding Jim Gavrily’s donation of his prized banjo accordion.)
Further down on the Manning the Taree Greeks out foxed everyone else by bringing their big day forward and inviting Dr Vrisarkis, Greek Consul-General, as guest-of-honour. The occasion saw the town gaily bedecked… with Greek flags flown from the premises of Zaunders Bros, Masselos Bros, The Paragon Café, Mr M. Gememis’ and Mr Krestis’… They set another record and all up raised over £850.
[Dr Vrisarkis nearly didn’t make it back for the Sydney festivities five days later: On Friday afternoon Mr M. Yarad took in his car Dr Vrisarkis, Mrs Vrisarkis, Mrs C. Cominos and Mr Jim Masselos for a run to Bulga to show the visitors the famous Ellenborough Falls. … On the return journey, following a script straight from the Keystone Cops, they ran into a tree after the steering wheel came off in Yarad’s hands! Dr Vrisarkis was the only one injured. In a following car with Mr Gemenis were Messrs W. Dann, Chris Michael and C. Cominos…who came to the rescue.]
A little later Krambach and Forster got carried away. …“Records are only made to be broken” declared Karambach, and raised £64 at a ball attended by, amongst other Greeks, … Mr Greg Masselos (who was the real popular boy of the night in the Greek national kilt), Mr and Mrs M. Yarad, Mr George Cassimaty, Mrs Jack Cassimaty, Miss Chris Cassimaty, all of Taree; Mr and Mrs Landis of Gloucester… At Forster £56 was raised at a ball organised by Mr and Mrs Charlie Comino who invited Mr Andronicus of Sydney as the guest-of-honour. … an added feature were the costumes worn by the Greek Nationals who marched on parade from the hall entrance to the stage singing the National Anthems of Britain and Greece…
Then they all had a bex, a cuppa tea and a good lie down.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
‘Andrew’ Anargyros Vretos Fatseas
Andrew Victor Fatseas (Andy)
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