Tag Archives: greece

Not forgetting

My mother in law is a collector.

Mismatched crockery, linen, crystal, small pieces of rope tied together to make a longer length…

 

Fifty percent annoying, fifty percent admirable.

 

 

She’s from that practical generation.

The generation that understands hard work and knows what it’s like to save and wait for every possession.

The generation with an innate sense of frugality and of worth.

 

 

A strange item that my mother in law keeps has morphed, over the years, into a rather odd collection.

 

Remembrance cards – the little memorial keepsakes that are handed out at funerals.

She has hundreds but displays just a handful – they’re taped to the inside walls of a glass-fronted cabinet, in her kitchen.

 

 

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Greek immigrants to Australia formed solid bonds in those early years and together they built strong communities.  Growing up, we have always known elderly Greeks – we’d call them θεία and θείο, Aunt and Uncle, an extension of the family.  As the years passed on, they did too – I’ve often accompanied my parents to funeral services. I have a distinct and early memory of hugging my mother’s leg at a burial, my child’s mind silently questioning why the coffin was going downwards, when heaven was clearly up.

 

 

More often than not, the local Greek newspapers have entire pages devoted to death and memorial notices – quarter page photographs with a biography detailing the village in which they were born, their work in Australia and the names of their partner and children. It’s a rite of passage in the Greek community, it is customary to attend the funeral of someone you knew.  Our religion is dutiful in its commemoration of the dead and so is our culture.

 

 

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Koliva is a symbolic wheat recipe that is blessed and served at memorial services.

 

 

My mother in law’s remembrance cards are an offbeat assortment of the dead.  The photographs on some of her little cards are of young people, others are middle-aged but most are elderly.  They are relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbours and compatriots.

People she knew, lived with and loved.

 

She looks in this cabinet every morning as she takes her pills and countless times throughout the day, her gaze drift through the glass door.

 

A steadfast reminder of mortality, the brevity of our existence and the importance of all we are left with – our memories.

 

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I learnt from my mother in law to keep remembrance cards.  They’re in my wardrobe, in a little cardboard box.  With each passing I attend, I add to my collection.  To me, they are primary evidence I can one day show my children – each card reperesents a life and each life has a moral to its story.

 

There were people before us. 

People who led rich, abundant lives. 

Some were sick, others were killed and some just grew old.

Value the people in your community and you too, will be valued.

 

 

The other day, I jovially asked my mother in law why she keeps all those cards.

She hesitated, let out an uncomfortable laugh and then said that she just can’t throw them away.

 

Neither can I.

 

 

I have never lost someone exceptionally close to me but I wonder, if that time comes, will I tape their remembrance card to my kitchen cupboard?  Will someone tape mine to theirs?

 

Do you keep mementos?  How do you, not forget?

 

Love,

Robo X

 

Linking up with Miss Jess and #IBOT


Destination: Sydney, Australia

 

Anyone who knows my blog, knows that I’m mega-proud of my Greek-Australian heritage.  You can check it out here and here and here.

 

 

I admire, anyone  who can pick up and move their life to another place, another country.

What strength of character.  What opportunity.

 

 

My parents were Assisted Passage Migrants to Australia.

They each took a month long journey to an unknown land, from the the port of Pireaus, in Athens.

 

 

My dad arrived in Australia on the Skaugum. It was 1956 and he was 21.  He cut sugar cane, built kitchens and worked shifts at BHP, during the Steelworks heyday.

 

sku

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My mum arrived in Australia on the Patris in 1962.  Barely 18, she cut hair and worked in beauty parlours.  She couldn’t speak English so she would smile, nod and produce the meanest coiffure in town.  She was one of the original WAHMs, setting up shop in the kitchen, while raising her kids.

 

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These two ships were integral in bringing Greeks to Australia to start new lives.  The Patris made many more voyages than the Skaugum and it was one of the more popular vessels, until migrants began flying more frequently.

 

 

These ships were important in establishing the Greek Australian community.

Strong life friendships were forged on the high seas and people formed solid connections they would come to heavily rely on.  They formed relationships and later families.  It is no surprise that I am firm friends with the children of the people my parents met on their boats.

 

 

The Patris and Skaugum are iconic to me.

Along with thousands of other Greeks, they brought my parents to Australia.

I’m so glad they hopped on those boats.

 

 

I’d love to see your iconic images.  Link up this week over  at Musings of the Misguided.

 

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Love,

Robo X


My Island

I often share the subject of this post with people I meet, so I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share it with you at The Lounge.

 

 

Today, I’m writing about a place where history spans back to Greek mythology.

Folklore tells us that my place was once a beautiful woman and she was abducted by Poseidon – God of the sea.

Since her landmass was rich with succulent fruits and fragrant flowers, the Gods called her their bank – God’s Bank.

 

 

Her pronunciation and spelling have changed over the eons but she is known today as Astypalaia – the butterfly of the Aegean Sea.

 

WWAstypalaia

 

 

When people think of the Mediterranean, popular islands usually spring to mind.  Mykonos is known as the place to party while Santorini is known for its whitewash and sunsets.  Other islands are known for their architecture and churches, their history and their holiday lifestyle.

 

 

Unlike her sister islands in the Dodecanese, Astypalaia is not known for a great deal.  My personal view is that people don’t visit Astypalaia because the Greeks, quite cleverly, do not talk about her.

 

Those cunning Greeks!

 

 

Astypalaia is a place of vast beauty and intense serenity.  She is rich with archaeology and ancient ruins can be found high on hills and low down near pebbled beaches.

 

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The view from The Kastro, The Castle, which was built on a high vantage point, to detect invaders.

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This is the church of Panagia Portaitissa, located within the walls of The Kastro.

I lost myself by day, on beaches, winding paths and roads to nowhere.  And by night, I partied my hardest, with ouzo, bouzoukia and tables built for dancing.

SONY DSCChora, or the main town.

 

 

I’m a lucky girl.  Astypalaia happens to be my father’s home.

I’m connected to this island.  I’m drawn to it.

If I could only choose one island to show my kids, it would be this one.

 

Is it naff these days to say, spiritual home?

If not, I have more than one…

 

Astipalia

  This aspect is from below The Kastro – my elderly Aunts live in those homes just below it.

 

 

As a tot I was taught this song by my Dad.

Το κάστρο της Αστροπαλιάς
έχει κλειδί κλειδώνει,
Έχει κορίτσια έμορφα
μα δεν τα φανερώνει,

Loosely translated, it means:

The castle of Astypalaia,

has a key which locks it.

It also has beautiful women,

but it does not reveal them.

 

I’m teaching my Miss 2 that little ditty.

 

 

So I’ve only ever met one couple who have visited My Island and they raved about it more than me.

 

 If you tell me you’ve been to Astypalaia, I’ll lose my shit…

Where is your spiritual home?

Have you been to the Greek Islands?

 

 

Share your travel tales with us at The Lounge link-up – this week over at The Very Inappropriate Blog.

 

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Love,

Robo X
Email me for image sources.

 

 


A couple of bags of lemons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Monday, my mum gave me two shopping bags filled with home grown lemons.

They sat on my kitchen bench for a week.

 

 

We had a beautiful lemon tree at our old place and I too used to give away bag loads of fruit. 

Our lemon tree is one of the things I miss most about my old house.

We grew it from a small pot that my father gave me for my bridal shower, into a plentiful, lively tree.

We loved that tree.

 

 

Lemons

 

 

This time of year, when I dig out my electric juicer, my thoughts always drift to my Grandmothers. Between them, they had sixteen children, each one hand-reared, in their respective villages, in Greece.

 

 

They lived simply, ate meat rarely and they made food using grains.

Compared to my standards, they lived very inconvenient lives.

No IGA up the road, no takeaway for those busy afternoons and hardly any refrigeration.

 

 

Everything needed was made by hand.  Every day.

With purpose.  Without waste.

 

 

So as I juiced my lemons today, quickly and conveniently, I thought about my Grandmothers at my age, juicing their lemons by hand.

I thought about them as young wives; hand washing woollen blankets, pressing clothes and rearing so many children.

 

 

What did they think about?

Did they curse the never ending fucking housework when the citrus stung their cuticles?

 

 

The more we want, the more we want.

Some days, the thought of having so much stuff makes me sick.

 

 

I’d love to live more simply.

Do you think if we did more by hand, we would want less?

 

lemon-tree

 

My grandmothers passed away aged 96 and 103.

There’s definitely something to be said about the Mediterranean lifestyle.

 

 

Linking up today with Essentially Jess for #IBOT.

Did you know that I was April’s Blogger of the Mo?

Yep!  I was…

 

 

Robo X


The white marble rock

As a young kid in the eighties, a memorable moment of my first trip to Greece, was standing in front of the crumbling Parthenon.  I had a white marble rock in my hand, one I’d picked up from within the roped barriers.

 

Parthenon in Athens

Image Source

I whispered to my mum in Greek:  “Θέλω να το πάρw”. I want to take it.

 

‘You can’t’, she whispered back, firmly, a polite look on her face but clearly thinking, ‘Drop the rock, kid!’

 

 

What happened next was this.  A nearby security guard, overheard my desire to take the rock.  He raised his hands above his head and without reserve yelled, ‘Take it home, my girl!

 

‘Ευχαριστώ’.

I thanked the man and quickly shoved my newly acquired piece of Hellenic history into mum’s drawstring handbag.

 

I will never know why the guard yelled that out.

I believe though, that he felt an immense sense of pride. 

Pride, in that the pinnacle of his country was equally revered by a cute little ‘xeni’ girl, who spoke broken Greek.

 

 

That memory of Greece is important to me.  It signifies the essence of being Greek.

 

 

Greeks are proud, generous, passionate people.  Yes, anyone who knows a Greek well, will say that they are not without their eccentricities but generally speaking, a Greek will quite happily oblige, just to please you.

 

 

I was born here in Australia and I identify as Australian.

No question.  Proud of it.

 

 

I also consider myself Greek.

My heritage is Greek.

And cultural heritage becomes lost, if not fiercely preserved.

 

 

My parents are first generation Australians, Assisted Passage immigrants.

They arrived aged 17 and 19, looking for a new life.

And a new life they received.

Australia delivered in leaps and bounds.

 

 

My Grand Parents, Great Grand Parents and as far back as my family history can be traced – they were all Greek. I can speak, read and write the Greek language, though not too well.  I eat Greek food, uphold Greek Orthodoxy, and I have Greek friends.  I watch the Greek news, I have Greek relatives and I participate in Greek traditions.

When times get tough, I dream about escaping, to Greece.

 

 

I think that kid in the 1980s understood more than her Mum expected, in wanting to nick that little piece of Ancient Greece.

As much as we are products of our environments, I believe culture is also innate and it shouldn’t be denied.

 

 

Australia.

Greece.

I love both. I am both.

 

 

What’s your story?  You from elsewhere or are you dinky di?

 

Robo X

 

NB.  I have since learnt that taking rocks from the Acropolis is illegal.  It is termed Elginism, after the British Lord who removed the Parthenon Marbles and transported them to England.  I plan to return my rock, as soon as I can.

It belongs there.