submitted by Gaye Hegeman on 27.02.2009
Nobody understands better than Katina about the gift of life. To have beaten the odds and reached a ripe old age is quite an accomplishment. In keeping with a time-honoured tradition Katina was born in the family home with the help of midwives. Her birth was difficult, she thinks, because of her mother’s age. When she finally emerged the midwives thought the lifeless baby must be stillborn and placed her on the floor on a pile of rags. As they hurriedly attended to the exhausted mother, Eleni tried to console herself with the thought “I already have two children that will have to do.” A slight movement in the newborn caught someone’s attention and when they realized the baby was alive, lifted her off the floor, washed and wrapped her, “and here I am still alive,” said a smiling and triumphant Tina.
Katina Locos was born on the 16th March 1922 in the section of Mylopotamos known as Katohora. Her parents were Andy or Andrew (Anageri) Damianos Andronicus and Eleni Condoleon (married 1912). She had an older brother Damianos and sister Vasilikoula.
Her father, who was not present the day of her birth, was on his way to Australia. His ship left Greece that very day. Twelve years later when he returned to Mylopotamos he met his youngest daughter for the first time and discovered that she had grown into a young woman. Tina found it hard to accept her father, he was like a stranger and sometimes “the sparks flew.” Andy remained in Mylopotamos for the next three years before deciding to return to Australia. His intention was to take both of his daughters, Vasilikoula and fifteen-year old Katina as he knew better opportunities awaited them. The prospect of travelling abroad created a great deal of excitement and Katina remembers the village ladies saying to her that she should be learning to embroider and applying herself to study. Thinking there would be no need for these skills where she was going Katina used to reply “No, I am going to Australia.” Vasilikoula was not so keen to leave as she was in love with a young man called George Vlakoyiani. To settle the matter a family meeting was held and as they sat around their table they discussed whether Vasilikoula should stay, or go with Katina. They took a vote and it was decided that Vasilikoula should remain and marry the man she loved. Damianos, Katina’s older brother followed her to Australia some years later where he married Chrysoula Stratigos.
Katina dearly loved her mother, there was a close bond. She remembers the years her father was absent, the struggle and the poverty they experienced. She does not think he was a good provider, in truth she hardly knew him. Mylopotomos was very cold in winter and Katina used to run around with bare feet as her mother could not afford to buy her shoes. They mostly lived off the produce grown in their vegetable garden, ate plenty of bread, potatoes, olive oil (no butter), honey, cheese and olives. It was their good fortune to live near the communal well which was located next to their house. They did not have far to go to draw water for their household needs, their animals and vegetable garden.
In spring Katina recalls that the surrounding hills came alive with wild poppies. She loved looking after their three goats and it was her job to take them up to the mountain where they were left to feed on the pasture overnight. In the morning they came home by themselves to be milked. With the milk they made Mizithera cheese. They also had a ewe which they shared with a neighbour. The ewe was very difficult to look after and used to run away from Katina. They kept the ewe for milk and when she had a lamb it was sold to the butcher who would slaughter it then give them some of the meat, perhaps a leg.
Every year for one month during the summer, Katina and her mother went to stay with her grandparents. Her mother’s parents, Katina and Emmanuel Condoleon lived beside the sea at Avlemonos, a small fishing village on the eastern side of the Island. The pair traveled on the back of a large donkey and the journey took them all day. There was no road then only a track. They were very happy times. Katina loved the sea and often used to swim. They lived off fish that her grandfather caught and she slept on the floor of their house on a blanket. Her grandparents loved her and would forgive her anything. When she was about ten years old Katina was asked to fetch water from the well as soon as they arrived at her grandparents and pour it into a ceramic water pitcher. As she placed the pitcher on her shoulder to carry it to the house it fell and broke. She was quickly forgiven. Her grandparents had five sons and one daughter, Katina’s mother (Eleni Andronicus). Three of her Condoleon uncles, Nick, Panayioti and Paul migrated to Australia and the other two, Yiannis (John) and George stayed in Avlemonos.
Although Katina enjoyed school she preferred to run around with the goats. As well as their own, she used to take other people’s goats to pasture and would be given little rewards such as a handful of raisins, a cucumber or shortbread. Some mornings when she returned home after 9 o’clock her mother would tell her not to worry about going to school. Katina went to the village school at Mylopotamos for six years to grade 5 and repeated one grade twice. One of her childhood friends who lived nearby was Marie Poteris. In her spare time when they were children Katina used to make embroidered sets and her sister wove cotton bedspreads on a loom. Vassilikoula was good at sewing and made Katina undergarments on their treadle sewing machine.
Mylopotamos was divided into three sections, Katohora, Ayia Sostas and Pisopigathi. Katina and her family attended church at St. George in Katohora. Her father came from a large family of seven sons and two daughters. They lived in a castle-like fortress, a walled community which had ten small churches. Katina’s paternal grandfather Damianos Andronicus had passed away before she was born but she remembers hearing stories about him. He was a fisherman who fished everyday with nets and sometimes dynamite and on one occasion when he used dynamite, tragically blew off his forearm.
When it was time for them to leave the Island, father and daughter accompanied by a young lady from their village, who was the same age as Katina, traveled from Mylopotamos to Piraeus by sea where they had to wait a few days for a connecting boat to take them to Port Said in Egypt. Here they boarded the English passenger liner the “Ormontes.” Their British passports gave them many privileges during the one hundred day long voyage to Sydney. Katina shared a cabin with three other Greek girls. In the cabin next to them were four young men, so it was inevitable given the proximity that a considerable amount of flirting resulted. Katina’s father kept a strict eye on his daughter as did the officers on board the ship and because of curfews in the evening the young people were usually limited to communicating with one another through the portholes of their respective cabins.
Having spent much of her life barefoot it was quite a challenge to wear the high heel shoes her father encouraged her to buy in Athens. When their ship finally reached Sydney and docked at Circular Quay, Katina stood petrified on the deck unable to walk down the gang plank in those shoes. She later learned that her Uncle Jack, (John Andronicus) who had come to meet them, seriously questioned his brother Andy about his daughter’s reluctance to leave the ship. “Did you bring a crippled girl?” he asked. When he realized the circumstances of her fear John gallantly ran up the gang plank, took her by the hand and led her barefoot, high heel shoes gripped in her other hand, safely to the quay side.
Katina’s inability to speak English determined that she should live with another uncle who had a Greek speaking wife. Although they owned a beautiful home surrounded by comfort Katina’s life was no longer carefree. The contrast between the lifestyle she had left behind and the one she had come to was vast. Washing day in her village had been a simple affair, clothes were usually washed in the stream, and amid the happy chatter of the other woman it was a bearable task. For heavier items they used a copper boiler. The wet clothes were hung out to dry in sunny spots on stone walls or draped over shrubs. Katina understood nothing about the modern lifestyle she had come to. She had no idea how to wash her clothes, did not understand how to use a washing machine and sadly was never given any help. To make matters worse every Sunday she was expected to scrub the boards of their large verandah, an indignity she remembers to this day. Those first six months in Australia proved to be a very lonely and unhappy period in Katina’s life.
From the outset Katina worked at the Andronicus Coffee and Chocolate factory at Circular Quay receiving her board and keep, in lieu of wages, and mainly packed chocolates into boxes in preparation for distribution. Each day she and her cousin Effi who also worked in the factory, traveled into the city by tram. Six months after her arrival when a change occurred in her uncle’s household, Katina had to move in with Jack (John Andronicus) and his family at Lane Cove. Katina got on well with her uncle’s Australian wife and their two sons and continued to live with them for the next four years until her marriage.
At more or less the same time two eligible Greek men arrived in Sydney from Queensland with the intention of courting Katina. Her uncle thought that Michael (Mick) Locos from Charleville, was a more suitable prospect and invited him home for a meal, so they could get to know one another. Although Katina was 19 and Mick was 35 the age difference was never raised as an issue. Over a period of several weeks Mick became a regular visitor until one afternoon in the company of John Andronicus and his wife, it was put to Katina that she and Mick should become engaged. After the initial embarrassment and blushing subsided they both agreed to the idea and officially became engaged Christmas 1941. They were married February the following year.
Following their wedding Katina returned with Mick to Charleville where they remained for the next 26 years. Mick and his brother Peter Locos owned a business in Charleville, the “Paris Café” which was subsequently knocked down and rebuilt in the 1950s as part of a complex of new shops and renamed the “New Paris Café.” They established an electrical business in the shop next to the café and when the café was sold in the 1960s and the brothers went their separate ways, Mick stayed on to run the electrical business.
In the beginning the two brothers and their growing families shared a house and Peter’s wife Sophie who was from Potamos was company for Katina. Eventually they purchased their own home, a large Queenslander with four bedrooms at a cost of $3000.00. Katina recalled there were quite a few Greeks in Charleville. Socially they were good friends with Arthur and Poppy Comino and their children. Occasionally there were Greek community picnics. They were related to the Corones family who owned two hotels, The “Corones Hotel” and the “Charleville Hotel”. Harry Corones was Mick and Peter’s uncle. The only time an Orthodox priest came to town was for a christening but there had to be several children ready before he would make the journey. Katina regularly helped out at her children’s primary school tuck shop and assisted with fund raising by making cakes for the annual school garden fete. During busy periods she also worked behind the counter in their shops but recalls that the scorching summer heat and the dust made life at Charleville unbearable at times.
After they sold up at Charleville Mick and Katina brought three of their four children, Helen, Maria and Peter to Brisbane seeking better opportunities. Diana the eldest was already married and living in Sydney. They purchased a house at Indooroopilly and bought into a corner store at St.Lucia where they worked for the next four years.
Caught up in the excitement of the moment adolescents rarely have the ability to look ahead into the future. So when as a very young fifteen-year old Katina waved goodbye to her mother at Mylopotamos in 1937 she had no way of knowing that she would never see her again. Of course, she wrote letters, sent money and kept her mother supplied with warm jumpers and cardigans to see her through the cold winter months. Her father Andy Andronicus returned to the Island and remained there until his death in 1967. Her mother passed away at the young age of 72.
A widow for 31 years, Katina’s husband Mick passed away in 1978. A softly spoken refined woman, Katina still has a slim figure and dresses stylishly. Although she suffers the usual ailments and frailties of old age her spirit remains vibrant and alert. Besides her four living children (she lost her first baby, a boy) Katina has eight living grandchildren (her eldest grandson died in a tragic accident when he was fifteen), five boys and three girls and two great-grandsons. Katina was eager to relate her life story and is happy that it has been recorded, as she is anxious for her children and grandchildren to know about her life. The love of her family and rearing her children has been the most important feature of her life.
Katina believes she has had a good life and would like to be remembered as a good mother, a good wife and good friend but if she could impart just one piece of wisdom for the younger generation it would be to “marry a younger man.”
The following notes were compiled by Peter Tsicalis from his research documents “Kytherians 1 & 2”
Andrew (Anageri) Damianos Andronicus arrived in Australia in 1899 when he was about 19 years of age. He spent two months in Sydney, six years in Tamworth and three months at West Maitland before acquiring a café at Walcha in New South Wales early in 1908. After this his movements are a bit unclear but it is thought that he returned to Greece in 1912, possibly for the Balkan Wars, and may have come back in 1914 and joined in a hotel partnership with his brother George and a cousin Potiri. He was certainly on Kythera in 1915 and served in WW1. He came back to Australia late 1922 and either rejoined the hotel partnership or acquired shares in another two hotels. He was a “hotel keeper” late 1923 then moved to Queensland in the mid to late 1920’s and had the Golden Globe Café at Winton at some stage, perhaps after a stint at Macksville. Departing from Sydney, he returned to Kythera in 1933 and came back to Australia in 1937 with his daughter Katina. Nominally based in Sydney, but often in northern New South Wales visiting Condoleons at Nimbin, and perhaps he was working at Lismore and Murbah. He returned to Kythera permanently in 1950 and died there in 1967.
Peter and Michael Locos (village of origin was Aroniathika). Peter Harry Locos, aged 12, arrived with his father and an aunt from Gerakitis in 1913. He was met by his uncle Harry Corones and taken to Charleville where he spent a few months at school before he commenced working at Harry’s “Paris Café” and subsequently buying the business. He married Sophia Panaretto in Sydney 1940. Michael Harry Locos arrived in 1923 aged 16 and also worked at “Paris Café” before entering into a partnership with his brother.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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