submitted by James Victor Prineas on 24.08.2011
Dear Friends of Kythera,
I'm writing this to you at sunrise on a beautiful morning at Agia Moni, high above Avlemonas and Diakofti. One of my ancient aunts is staying here for August and I've come to pick her up to take her to the Sunday Markets in Potamos. The gate at the entrance is creaking in the breeze. Papas Georgi is holding a service in the church in the company of about a dozen elderly visitors.
It is perhaps an appropriate place to write of the death of a great Australian-Kytherian who passed away one week ago. Mitchell Notaras, in addition to being a noted surgeon and honoured philanthropist, was one of the nicest people you could meet. Friendly, witty, erudite, he could keep one captivated with a story and was at least as good a listener. He was an important supporter of Kytherian projects, dedicating time and expertise for improvements at the hospital on Kythera as well as countless other endeavours. Our sincere condolences go to his family.
Discovering the Island for the 27th Time
It's hard to get tired of Kythera if you like a good view and a bit of a walk. I know, I've written extensively in the past about the trails and the hikers and the hidden treasures. Even if you've come to Kythera for the past 27 summers as I have, you can find a shimmering, crystal beauty in so many places, and enjoy it again and again. Relaxing under a massive ancient plane tree at the Viarathika spring contemplating the glorious view before you, with some bread and grapes and good friends is, very simply, as good as it gets. This year my family and various informal groups have visited the Magic Green Pool south of Limnionas (see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6aJ1ZT0UDc ), the fresh-water pools far below Mylopotamos Waterfall, hiked for 4 hours through thorn bushes looking for the ancient track between the airport and Diakofti and on Friday we trekked from Paliopoli up the river-bed in search of some rare deep pools which were spectacular. We've also managed to swim at 15 of the 29 beaches on the island (my boys are ticking them off) and eaten well at a dozen different restaurants. Try to do all that at one-horse overrun islands like Mykonos or Santorini! Thank god Kythera is still a bit of a backwater when it comes to developed tourism.
The current council seems to think differently with their massive development of the waterfront here - hardly a beach has been spared the sun-umbrella and deck-chair epidemic. OK, it might be understandable to have them on a couple of large major beaches like Firi Amos or Agia Pelagia, but to allow 30 sun-lounges on a perfect little beach like Chalkos or Fourni is a disgrace. Just as bad is the continuous 2-stroke coughing of the generators the umbrella-vendors use to keep the drinks cool in their kiosks. The council has sold the island's pristine soul for €5000 per beach (for a three year contract). So they have about an extra €25 000 a year in the council budget to show for it, but at what long-term cost? It will simply attract the fast-buck type of tourism, swelling the mid-summer population of the island to levels unsustainable for the infrastructure, and scare away off-season eco-tourists who appreciate the island in its natural beauty and who don't leave their beach-picnic garbage everywhere as most August-Athenians do. A friend in the travel industry here pointed out that the madness of asphalting every single little track to the coast is counter-productive - the island loses its "discover me" status which is one of the only trumps it has. Norway for example, despite its petro-riches, has raised dirt-road construction to an art-form by forgoing the temptation to surface its country lanes with tar and gravel. A 3 metre wide sealed-road here costs at least €40 000 per kilometre . The average road to a secluded beach is perhaps 3km - €120 000. You could send a road grader to level off that same road once a year for the next 400 years for that much money. You'd have a decent dirt road and a more natural island.
If you haven't been to the Windmill Hotel/Café in Mitata yet, you should. Not just because of the great position, the lovingly restored windmill or the swimming pool (open to café guests as well), but for the salad! The owners have created a diverse and rich garden (which you should tour while you're there) complete with ducks and chickens (just needs a donkey) and a perfect market garden. Order a salad and it might take 15 minutes to make because the kitchen staff will go out and pick the ingredients (except the feta and olives!) right then and there.
And there'll be a music and art evening at the Windmill Hotel on Friday the 19th of August which should be entertaining: Chansons accompanied by piano, which coincides with the exhibition of local artist Daphne Petrochilos at the same venue! More information in the banner below.
Kythera can really stop you in your tracks sometimes. I'm not talking about the bureaucracy or the unreliability of tradesmen this time. Nor of the stunning beauty of the island which catches your breath when you are confronted by a huge forest, sparkling pools of fresh water, or a awesome gorge you never knew about. I'm talking about another type of surprise.
You might remember the Kythera-Aphrodite museum project (more information at www.kythera-aphrodite.com) I mentioned in my last newsletter - something special for the island which would put Kythera on the destination-list of thousands of potential culture-eco-tourists. When we first began to work on the project, I was informed by groups and individuals on and off the island that there was a "another group" working to reopen the old archeological museum in Hora, which has been closed since being damages in the 2005 earthquake. That project group was lobbying for funding and as a result we should 1. not expect any funding for our project (which was fine as we have other funding sources) and 2. stay off their territory (archaeology) as they would not brook any competition. Which was also fine as we had had less than pleasant experiences with the archaeology ministry in Athens who appeared to us to consider all "finds" to be their own personal property, including the Venetian records in Hora. Add to that the impenetrable burocracy of that despotic ministry and the fact that there was no guarantee that they would even ever return to the island the most prized finds from Kythera, and we needed no convincing that the archaeologists can keep their "territory" all for themselves.
The concept of the Kythera-Aphrodite Museum was, as reported, to create an historical wing, a natural history museum, and a unique Aphrodite wing, plus sculpture garden and educational facilities. It is to be to Kythera what the Opera House is to Sydney. On my first day back on the island I then heard that the village of Mitata had been left a donation which which they could build a new museum (another one, as they already have the beautiful Favas Olive Oil Museum which is a "must see" if you haven't already). Perhaps a bee/honey-making museum? Wow, suddenly museum projects were popping up everywhere. Not a problem, thought I. Until: people associated with things archeological began berating me for not working together with the archeological museum group. My jaw must have dropped a mile. First they tell me to stay out of their way, and then I'm delinquent for not sharing. Boy, you can't win sometimes.
Anyway, a new EU-Funding Program has been announced which should give the archeologists all the money they need - because Greece is too poor to even put in the 25% of the budget of cultural/infrastructure projects required until now, a municipality can now apply for 100% - in other words the EU will give them ALL the money they need for it if they can get their act together and apply for it. Hopefully the council will use it wisely - so far, with millions in EU funding, they have built a sewerage works, a new hospital, and laid optical cable for faster internet, yet none of them have been actually put in operation. And some really visionary Australians, Americans and Kytherians have created a wonderful new library for the island (at no cost at all to the island) but the council doesn't seem to have time to hand over the key! And let's not forget that magnificent new piece of road to Pelagia which cost a couple of million so that we save 27 seconds of road time.
I hope that gives you an idea of why the Kythera-Aphrodite-Museum Project wants to avoid any state/municipal control: To accomplish the highest possible architectural, interior and display concepts possible, the last thing we need is for the Greek/Kytherian officialdom to be calling the shots.
Great Walls Book Project
Last year as part of our Great Walls of Kythera Book project about 100 of you submitted mostly stunning picture of walls of all shapes and sizes to the site to be included in the book. Unfortunately we haven't yet received more than half the pictures in high-resolution versions so we can layout the book (the ones submitted online were reduced to small version for the site, and are not adequate for printing). So please, if you have submitted but not sent me the high-resolution versions, please do so by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Online Satellite pictures of Kythera
Last month I noticed that GoogleMaps had updated their satellite photos of Kythera. The new pictures are from 2010 or 2011 and are much sharper than the old ones. You can access the GoogleMaps satellite photo directly here:
Microsoft loves to play catch up when they've missed the boat (in this case the "satellite"), and you might have already heard of BingMaps. They have a different set of satellite photos and what's more, they are flying light planes all over the world and getting low-aerial pictures of it all from four different angles. They've done most cities (you can virtually see almost every front door) and let's hope they'll fly over kythera soon. Until then we'll just have to be content with high-quality satellite shots:
Save the Climate
Some of you already know that, when my family and I were on Kythera for 5 months in 2009 we stayed in our converted school bus and only used wind and solar energy sources which charged our batteries. Having a limited energy supply and lots of electronics to tell you how little you have left...) you become quite sensitive to energy hungry appliances. It might interest you to know that boiling water twice a day in an electric kettle uses as much power as a one-hour washing cycle. What I noticed from subsequent "research" was that the average kettle is filled with twice as much water as is actually used! So an easy way to save lots of energy is simply to be sparing with the water you boil!
Get Serious with you Emails
I'm amazed at how many people don't know about the better alternative to online website display of their emails. There are basically two ways to access email: either you go online with your "browser" (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari) and go to the website where you can see your mails, or you use what is called an "email client". I recommend that all of you who have your own computers use the latter. The advantages are that:
1. You write your emails on your computer, not on a website, which means that everything is saved locally, you don't need to be online to write and answer mails (but you do to finally send them), and if the internet line is irregular (like it is here on the island), you don't lose the mail you've be writing if the network goes down.
2. The emails are downloaded to your computer and you can see them even when you can't get online (which is often the case when you are traveling)
3. The pictures sent to you are displayed with their captions within the mail text, and not as separate picture files which you need to click on to open.
You computer will have come with an email "client" - it might be called Windows Mail or Live-Mail or Macintosh Mail, but they all do the same thing and are easy to set up, especially if you have a gmail or hotmail account. (Yahoo is a bit of a pain in the neck - I suggest you change to gmail if you have yahoo).
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Thats all from Kythera. We leave this Thursday but will be back in October to supervise the building of our house here, for which we only need one more signature to achieve nirvana, otherwise known as a "building permit".
Best regards from Agia Moni,
James Prineas (email@example.com)
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Why does Kythera need a Museum Complex?
As on most Greek islands, tourism seems to be the only practical high-quality job creator for Kythera. And don't forget that many building projects result from tourists falling in love with the island and deciding to invest time and money here. This leads to the question: what would make Kythera a more memorable tourist destination like Santorini or Knossos?
When you think of attractive tourist destinations both general and unique attractions play a role. Take a city like Sydney. The weather, the beaches, the continent (if you're not there already), and even the flora and fauna lay the foundation of the general attractions: they can be found in many other places such as Capetown or Buenos Aires. What really puts a city on the tourist map are its unique attractions: Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, Barcelona the architecture of Gaudi, and Sydney the Opera House, bridge and exceptional harbour. Among art lovers, one of the most renowned museums in Europe is a place called Louisiana just north of Copenhagen. It's not just the magnificent collection which makes it so memorable; the grounds, the garden filled with sculptures, and the sublime architecture are at least as important.
We all know Kythera to be charming and beautiful and to a great extent unspoilt. It shares these attributes with dozens of other Greek islands and a few Turkish and Italian ones as well. While not all of us want dozens of Mediterranean liners, each stocked with about 3000 tourists, to descend on Kythera each week, a few each month would help the island's economy substantially. But they and many other tourists won't come at all unless Kythera has some world-class attractions.
Kythera's mythical link to the goddess Aphrodite is well known – she was said to have been born off its shores and the most holy temple to her in the Greek-speaking world was located on the island. A museum dedicated to her exists nowhere on earth. Add to this the fact that the story of our island, full of fascinating history from prehistoric, though Minoan, Spartan, Classical, Byzantine, Venetian, British etc. times to the present, is not told anywhere on the island itself, and the opportunity for a new and extraordinary museum concept becomes apparent.
If we are to achieve the highest standards, which are necessary if the museum is to be world-class, then it must be done without the influence of the national and island authorities, which are more adept and stalling and spoiling projects than nurturing them. We already have a team of museum, history and design professionals but there is room for more! And of course we need benefactors, who love our island and want to help create something special for it. The first major donations have been received, and we have probably found the perfect site for it as well. More about both will be reported in the next newsletter.
A photomontage of the museum-design perched over Diakofti (example site).
More pictures and information at www.kythera-aphrodite-museum.com
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Brainstorming-Team to develop ideas to promote eco-tourism on the island
by Harry Mitchell and Pat Mortaigne
There is great potential for an independent group to brainstorm and realise ideas to promote eco-tourism on the island as a means to bringing the island a more reliable and long term income stream, differentiating it from other islands and capitalising on the wealth the island has to offer. This to help stop the bastardization and commercialisation of the island as exemplified by the beach umbrella/canteen approach currently supported by the current administration - against numerous complaints.
Key points are:
Under the auspices and support of the mayor to ensure legitimacy
Liaise with Ministry of Tourism - Minister can be approached via existing contacts here
Independent and focused on eco-tourism
Brainstorm ideas over winter to arrive at top six/ ten practical initiatives that can be implemented for next summer and beyond
Each initiative to be funded by approaching sponsors, interested companies/organisations for branding
publicised to gain as much media attention as possible and position Kythera as an eco-tourist island, e.g., some initiative ideas, amongst others could be "Beach Angels":
teenagers trained and equipped (bicycles / t-shirts/literature) to patrol beaches and advise bathers on how to preserve the beach, cigarette butts, waste, etc. Sponsors logos to appear on bicycles / shirts. Initiative promoted through national press and TV pre-season in both Athens and European capitals via network of PR contacts.
As wells as:
Walking paths - in progress
Historical Museum - underway
Yoga retreat - already in place by independent operator
Musician retreat - already in place
Photographic symposium - already in place
The issue here is that new ideas can augment existing initiatives such that a marketing campaign could be launched to package the island as an alternative to the "normal" Greek island which has sold it's soul to commercial interests.
The key elements to be managed (not in the right order of importance) are:
Marketing the initiatives
Operations - practical plans, making sure they are achievable - making them happen
Funding - sponsorships
Staffing / management and leadership - securing collaborators and expertise
Support by local and national administrations
If you'd like to join us please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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I am thrilled to have found this website since I am 76 yrs old and not too good with computers. I am looking for any/all information about my relatives, beginning with my grandfather,FR Kosma Leontarakis who married Maria Petrochilou both were from Fratsia. They had some children: Giorgia, Koula, Panagiotis, Diamanda, Haralambros, Angeliki and my father Michalis. My father came to US in 1918-20??. In the US he married Andrianna Anastasopouls from Kyparissia. I can trace Angeliki back to Athens. She died in 1990's in Athens. She had married Lambrinos Kassimatis. They had some children named Kosmas, Kalliopi, Yiannis, Andrianna, Panayiotis and Charalambros. Is there anyone there who can assist or guide me as to where to go to obtain more information. Best wishes, and many thanks in advance for any help.
Yours truly, Rebecca (Veloutho) email@example.com
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Follow the Blue Dots
by Gaye Hegeman
The travel agent's remark as we stood up to leave his office, "just follow the blue dots," seemed incidental to the instructions we had just received, and I wonder if we had not known about them how much harder and less exciting our task might have been. Images of ancient treasure maps on parchment immediately sprang to mind, as we left in search of clues.
We had come to inquire about the Trifyllianika to Paliochora walking trail, once an important link between these two communities at the north-east corner of the Island. The track represents a colourful if not turbulent place in the Island's history and is said to have been an escape route, used by those lucky enough to have survived the ferocious attack by Barbarossa and his murderous band of pirates, in 1537. Frank, who is the author of a modest publication, “Kythera on Foot,” is employed by Ross Travel. They share an office with another agency next door to the Potamos Hospital.
That afternoon as we walked back to Trifyllianika, we began to find things, casually woven into the fabric of the landscape that had previously escaped our notice. On the corner opposite the hospital, our first clue came to light among three weather beaten metal signs. One of these, an old hand painted sign in the shape of an arrow, written in Greek script, pointed in a the south-easterly direction and bore the name, "Paliochora."
With Spring drawing to a close, the excitement and celebration associated with Easter came and went in a flash. Visitors from Athens had departed while the specialist biscuit maker at the lower end of Potamos had shut up shop, a sign on his door to this effect. A small flock of sheep, each wrapped in a thick layer of multi-coloured fleece, lay tethered by the side of the road where the grass was thick and green. Huddled together in a circular shape like a large flokati rug with eyes, they silently stared back at us as we passed by.
The path to Paliochora begins at Agios Ioannis, a small but very old church next to the platea, believed to predate the 15th century, in the tiny community of Trifyllianika. It is an easy walk from the Potamos turnoff to this point, taking about ten minutes. Our instructions were to follow the dirt road that turns right at the church. Already familiar with this road, we had investigated it as far as the cemetery days before, admiring the many varieties of spring flowers growing along its border. Nearing the building opposite the church we found our second clue, another hand painted "Paliochora" sign, this time with the addition of a blue dot. The ‘blue dots’ began to take on a new significance.
This part of the Island is exposed to the elements and one look at the vegetation reveals the effects of prolonged buffeting by fierce winds. The trees grow low, their canopies spread wide. Small leaves cluster thickly on the branches and at this time of the year their unobtrusive foliage and tiny flowers attract myriads of bees. Each tree sounds like a mini factory buzzing with activity. A broad expanse of dark green vegetation, dotted with pin cushion shaped trees, stretches far into the distance until it reaches two mountains, Dhighenis standing at 489 meters and Koutsokephelo at 468 meters, backdrop to the Kythera Airport. It is said that over a million years ago, this wide central plateau on which the airport rests, was once a shallow sea and the mountains, islands in this sea.
Frank's publication details thirty-two carefully selected walking routes around the Island, including a step by step description of the Paliochora track. In 1991 when Frank spent a two week holiday at Kapsali, he and his partner loved it so much they returned every year until 1997 when they purchased a house at Potamos, renovated it and since 2003 have lived on the Island permanently. Initially he explored the walking tracks at the southern end of the Island, having read about them in a walking book written in German by a Swiss nature lover who lived on the Island in the 1980's and 90's. It was this Swiss author who was responsible for the blue dots of enamel paint discreetly daubed on rocks along the walking paths. Significantly, each of these walks is based on the traditional footpaths between villages.
A 2009 map of the Island, published by Terrain Cartography purchased at a Potamos bookshop for seven Euro, lists several walking trails, the first of which is the one between Trifyllianika and Paliochora. It is described as one of the most enjoyable hiking routes on Kythera, a smooth trail without big altitude differences which leads to the Island's most interesting sight. About 1.7 km and forty-five minutes later, after crossing two ravines, the authors explain, you will arrive at the impressive ruins of Paliochora castle, then suggests that you either take the same route back, or have a friend fetch you with their vehicle, since a dirt road also leads to Paliochora.
All of this information was well and good on paper we thought, but the true test was to walk the trail and determine for ourselves whether it was as 'smooth' as the map’s information suggested, or as 'difficult' as Frank's notes implied. Spring has to be the best season to walk on the Island because of the abundance of wild flowers. Like colourful jewels on a tapestry background, they are scattered at random next to and beyond the track for its entirety, giving us a good reason to keep our cameras within easy reach. A brief inspection of the start of the trail days before revealed a loose unstable surface of various sized rocks, so we prepared a walking pole each, from some garden refuse, to steady ourselves on the downhill parts of the walk.
We decided to make an early morning start, leaving the house at about 7.40 am, the dampness in the morning air still fresh. We wore sturdy walking shoes, carried a small back pack, a bottle of water each, a small first aid kit, a few snacks, cameras, mobile phone and most importantly Frank’s guide book. Walking was slow, we wanted to be careful but also there was so much to photograph. Anxious to reach the second ravine where we knew there was a stream, we continued on until we heard the loud trickle of running water at the bottom of the hill. A strange sound like the bark of a small dog caught our attention. This, we guessed, must be the frogs mentioned in the guide book and it wasn't long before we were treated to a chorus of strange sounding 'croaks.' The visual relief of ferns, rushes and sedges along the water course, was very welcome and the regular placement of blue dots along the path reminded us we were going in the right direction.
Ancient rock walls define at least one edge of the narrow path for most of its distance and in one place at the top of a hill, walls on both sides of the track create a passageway effect. A pleasant change, which added contrast to the scenery were the isolated patches of dark green, elegant pencil pines growing on sheltered hillsides. We were glad to have worn sturdy shoes with socks, long sleeve shirts and trousers because of the presence of thistles and thorn bushes beside the path. A treat of a different kind, was the beautiful aromatic scent of wild thyme, which filled our nostrils, whenever we brushed against these inconspicuous low growing plants.
After we had crossed the third and smallest ravine, the path began a steady uphill climb threading its way until it opened out with a view of Agia Barbara where a family of nimble footed goats played. The size and nature of the gorges that surround the Paliochora site are quite spectacular and caused us to stand still in wonder. None of our photographs did justice to the view. The morning sun highlighted the uneven features of the northern face of the gorge and lit up small bushes growing among the rocks with a red glow. It was hard to imagine that five centuries ago the city of Agios Dimitrios once flourished here.
With frequent stops for photographs it had taken us close to two hours to reach our destination and by the time we had explored those parts of the site open to the public, the sun had crept higher. There was a sting in its heat, even at 10am in the morning, and knowing we had no option but return home by the same route we had come, we set out completing our journey in less time than it took to get there.
Our verdict: was it an 'easy' walk, as the map information stated, or 'difficult' as described in Frank's guide book? We both agreed that it was a fairly difficult walk, mainly due to the rough nature of the track. Our one major mistake, other than underestimating the length of time it would take to complete, was not to carry enough drinking water. One 600 ml bottle of water each was not enough. At least 1.5 litres would have been more sensible. There is little to no shade along the trail and by late morning when we arrived back at our starting point, it had become quite hot and we felt very dehydrated.
Never having walked this trail before, the regular placement of blue dots helped guide us in the right direction, and walking enthusiasts may gain great benefit from the diagrams and instructions in Frank's guide book. Although in terms of distance it is a short walk, this experience allowed us to see a unique and unspoiled part of the Island, rich in colour and texture. The path and the rock walls that border it are the only real indication that it was once a major communication link between villages. We both agreed that the day we dropped by the travel agency for information, had brought us a step closer to understanding a little more about the history and culture of a beautiful Island.
(My sister Leah, and I, spent five weeks on the Island from March to May, 2010, our plan being to learn more about our Andronicos and Panaretos ancestors. We stayed in Tryfillianika.
by Gaye Hegeman
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The Day I Married an Australian
Many readers of the Kytherian Newsletter have asked me to explain the circumstances under which I married an Australian, considering how strict my parents were, not allowing Australians into their home, nor allowing me to socialize with anyone but fellow Greeks.
The pain and anguish I have suffered, wishing to unburden my very soul, to answer the recurring questions, has left me with such self doubt, not wishing to disrespect my father in any way, as he loved me, as I did him. I miss him even today, 30 years since his passing. The relationship we shared was one of love and respect.
My father was an avid smoker. I have written before that, when I am thinking of my past, I sometimes smell a lit cigarette, here in my non-smoker home. I feel this is a signal from my deceased father to let me know he is with me, encouraging me to speak of a subject which has caused me the greatest difficulty I have ever faced. He was a good man, a wonderful father and grandfather, and as I now choose to put my words to print, I feel I am doing so with his approval, as I attempt to explain the thoughts of an older generation, one which did not allow me to associate with anyone except for fellow Greeks, and if possible, Kytherians.
Many facts have come to light in recent months, which I have never known before, once again assisting me when I think of my father's actions the day when my world fell apart, never to be the same again. Ironically they led to me marrying outside the community, which is why I need to tell this part of the story.
That morning, so many years ago, my father was in a state which I had never witnessed before as I prepared to leave for work. I had a respectable job, working for medical specialists in Macquarie Street. I was applying my makeup when, without warning, my father came into this small bathroom with a look on his face which I had never seen before. I had no warning. My father began beating me with a closed fist, screaming at me, saying words I do not remember. I tried to scream. Tried to push him away, not knowing what had caused this rage. Finally, he stopped, my face bleeding and cut and bruised, as I gasped, trying to breathe. I was crying uncontrollably. My mother was close by. I do not know why she had not come to my aid as I had screamed, fearing for my very life. Instead of comforting me, she accused me of pushing father and told me to leave the house and leave my keys.
On the street I managed to find the telephone and called a friend's mother. I was not able to speak clearly as I sobbed - this lady thought I was saying that my father had died. She immediately called my cousin, a young man who had come to Sydney from Narromine. He was sharing a house with several other young men. My cousin did not have transport, and asked one of his house-mates to drive him to me. They arrived, shocked by what they saw, removing me from the family home. Echoing in my ears were my mothers words to leave my house key. She showed no compassion, no feeling, as she looked at my bloodied face, ignoring my hysterical crying. I was not to know then that she had provoked my father to attack me, telling him lies, causing him to express himself in a way which I had never experienced before. Up until then we had always spoken calmly if we had differences, such was our relationship. I would visit him at his cafe when I wished to speak to him alone, discussing openly any issues I may have had, always coming to a good resolution, as I was a young woman in my twenties, not a child, but never disrespecting my father and abiding by his decisions even if I did not fully agree.
Having no one to turn to, afraid, ashamed of my appearance, so badly beaten, removed from the family home by my cousin to the shared home at Bondi, my face swelling as the hours passed, my eyes swollen and blackened mentioning that I would have to return home, not knowing what would be awaiting me. The young Australian man who had driven with my cousin to save me refused to take me back to a home which now held such fear for me. As I persisted, he offered to marry me to protect me so I would not be shamed - this was still a period in Australia when a young woman rarely moved out of her family home except to marry. I was so confused, as I was still very innocent in many ways.
I was kept hidden by my cousin and this young man, healing slowly, contacting only my godmother in Dubbo, telling her of the situation which I found myself in, knowing she would advise me, as she loved me deeply, knowing also how deeply my mother respected her, desperately wishing for my life to go back to how it was before this terrible day, knowing the restrictions I would face, and the guilt which I would be made to feel. But this was not something which was foreign to me, as I was willing to once more apologize for behaviour I was blamed for, still, knowing I must seek guidance from one who I loved and respected, not being worldly, frightened, feeling so alone, not knowing what to do next, as my upbringing had not allowed me to act independently.
My father's behaviour that day was that of a father fearing for his daughter, not knowing how to deal with a situation which had fuelled over a long period of time, as he would receive many calls at his work. His emotions out of control, believing his “little girl” was taking the wrong path in life, not aware that this was not the truth, but told in a manner so believable that he did not question, instead acting in a way totally foreign to him and all who knew him.
My father was a good man, who, when my husband and I attended the family home for the first time after our civil wedding, my new husband to be introduced the family, my father took me aside, walking me through the family home, wishing to speak privately to me, breaking down, crying uncontrollably, begging me to forgive him for his actions on that black day in both our lives. I embraced him, our tears seemingly never ending, as I spoke the words he needed to hear. That I forgave him, loving him always, not stopping even when he hurt me both physically and emotionally. Never did I question his love for me, forming a new bond of a deeper understanding and respect, laying the past to rest, looking forward to a new life with a new member of the family being welcomed and accepted by my father into our family, enriching our family. Now, for the first time, there was now a non Greek added to our family, breaking the mould finally, as we now had an acceptance not known before.
We hadn't had a church wedding. Knowing its importance to both myself and my parents, we chose the Wayside Chapel to once again take our vows, a small gathering, but one filled with such meaning.
The pride on my fathers face as he held his hand out to me as I was to alight the wedding car has been immortalized for me in a photo which I treasure. How difficult it must have been for him, to not only give his youngest daughter away in marriage, but with no service in our family church, a day marred only by the loneliness I felt as I prepared myself in my parents home, standing alone in the bathroom, seeing my reflection as I placed a small satin white pill box hat on my hair, my veil barely skimming my eyes, my dress, a short one, but beautiful, made of French lace, still, a far cry from the wedding I had dreamed of all of my life, as every little girl does, then, with a small but perfect bouquet sent by my husband, I prepared to leave the family home, accompanied by my father in the wedding car he had organized for me. There was no mistaking his pride when the minister told me how beautiful I looked, my father turning to me, smiling, saying this was true of his feelings also. Then he placed my hand in that of my husband, proudly speaking in a clear and strong voice when asked who gives this woman in marriage, his voice steady as he said “I do”.
I have chosen to speak openly now, knowing that many may not understand, believing many subjects should be left unsaid. The truth should not hurt, instead bringing awareness of how times have changed, with parents accepting non Greeks into their families, loving them as my father loved my husband, regarding him a son, loving his grandchildren, acknowledging all his grandchildren. My mother chose to say she had only two, never fully accepting my children, innocent children craving love from their Yiayia. But they received much much more from their Papou: his face would light up at the sight of them, and they still remember him with great affection.
Following our wedding, we returned to our small flat at Bellevue Hill. There was no banquet, but a simple buffet style array of food which I myself prepared. No bouquet was thrown, nor was there a wedding cake, as we had little money. There was no honeymoon, but instead a sense of loneliness after our few guests had left.
Recently we celebrated 43 years of marriage. I ordered a wedding cake to be delivered on this special day, 43 years late one could say.
Once again I would like to write that my father was a kind and loving man. His violent outburst came out of a fear and despair which had been fueled for a very long time. He had raised a good daughter, a daughter who would never shame the family name. His name will continue being remembered with love and respect, and an understanding of how our elder generation faced many obstacles which they were unable to approach in a proper manner, due to a lack of understanding.
I write this today in memory of my father, always loved, and respected, forever in my heart, never forgotten.
Maria (Marcellos) Whyte
4 Trinity Crescent.,
Sippy Downs 4556
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Harry Sofios in World War I uniform
by Gregory Sofios
Haralambos (Harry) Theodoros Sofios (March 1894--July 1946) son of Theodoros Ioannis Sofios (Stravokanis) and Anastasia Moulou was born in Logothetianika. He left Kythera for the US in 1907 at age 17. There were 10 fellow Kytherians on the SS Moraitis on that voyage including: Nick Kassimatis (age 42), Panagiotis Kassimatis (age 12), Theodore Kassimatis (age 26), George Margetis (age 49), Dimitrios Lorandos (age 23), and Emmanuel Malanos (age 25). After landing in New York, Harry joined his older brother John in Indiana, Pennsylvania to find work in a thriving center of the anthracite coal mining industry.
Family members spent their early years in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio. Harry settled in Bowling Green, Ohio where he was the proprietor of the Paris Dry Cleaners. He returned to Kythera in 1929 to marry Eleni (Helen) Tamvakis, daughter of Kyriakos Tamvakis and Grigoria Koukoulis of Katsoulianika. They left for the US in June of 1929. They had four sons, Theodore, Kyriakos (Charles), Nicholas, and John.
Harry was never able to return to Kythera. He died in 1946. Helen revisited Kythera with two of her sons in the 1960's. She died in Oakland, California in 1971. Harry and Helen are buried in the Bowling Green, Ohio cemetery.
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Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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