Sunday, November 10, 2013


writing clipart 1 700x683

As I write to friends all over the world, I often marvel at how things have changed. It's not unusual for people to be born in one country, then move to several, maybe with family, then move again, from one place to the next, as they follow various careers.

Like most in Australia, I come from a family of immigrants... few of us don't. My Greek grandfather left the village of Potamos in Kythera, in 1904 to try his hand in a new country. He had been a farmer and a guard at the Greek palace.. here he started out as so many before him, as a kitchen hand in restaurants owned by fellow Greeks. He went into partnership with his cousin, also from Kythera and had a cafe in Bellingen, previously having been in Grafton.

I wish I could ask him why he then decided to go back to farming, this time in Whiporee, near Casino... then Aberdeen, then to Urunga, where he farmed for the rest of his years. My grandmother grew cotton and spun it, then wove it, before also leaving Kythera and coming to join her husband.Their children became farmers, cafe owners, soldiers, truck owner/drivers, worked on the railway, hoteliers, small business owners... then came the grandchildren...

Occupations changed. Here we have bank tellers, businessmen, a geologist, teachers, university lecturer, small business owners, cosmetician, media promotions director, transport operator, lawyer, timber importer, company representatives, managers, with partners as lawyer, travel agent, theatre manager, chemist, medical representative, small business owners, developers, property managers... I'm sure to have missed some. The great grandchildren have become lawyers, public relations directors, company owners, health insurance representative, computer security, engineers, swimming teacher, DJ, entrepreneurs, project manager, writer, nutritionist, and various other careers along the way...

So many have travelled overseas, most for pleasure, many to Greece and other countries, some for business... to all parts of the globe... None of this is unusual for families today, but if we could chat a while to our ancestors, what would they think of all this? Do mothers feel any different today as they wave their loved ones 'farewell' than mothers of long ago? At least today, we have communication previously unheard of... we can email, or pick up a phone... We can sit in our homes and see the person we are talking to in 'real time' via webcam. We can send them videos via the internet; photos, not needing film, can be sent via email or uploaded to the web, then family and friends invited to see them... at their leisure. The miles fade away as instant communication keeps families in touch...

As I picture my grandfather's family seeing their son leave for a virtually unknown country, I can feel their heartache... knowing that in all probability they would never see them again... was it any different for my maternal grandmother's Irish parents? They, too, watched their family leave for Australia, America, New Zealand, Canada.

(c) Wikimedia  
Bronze figures, Fleetwood, Lanc

Though both families were filled with hope, that their children would never have to endure the hardships they had in their native lands, the tears of the mother still rolled down a quivering lip; the firm handshake or hug of the father lasted just a little longer, while they tried so hard to keep their emotions confined and hearts still break a little more with each goodbye.

Crissouli (c)


  1. Very well written. I have had the same thoughts.

    My husband is a first generation Aussie (his brother was born overseas). My husband had often commented on his lack of family in Australia and had an amazing time when we went to Germany and he was able to meet his cousins, Aunts and Uncles. He felt at home immediately.

    1. Thank you, Sharon. There is nothing like the pull of family ties to give you a sense of belonging. It may be felt at times, by simply going to a place that your family once lived... I guess we all need to belong.

      It's great that your husband was able to meet with his family.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. Chris, in the old days when a family member left Ireland they were waked by their family. They knew they would not likely ever see them again. It was such a stretch to save up the fare to America, it was not easy to think that could be repeated but for two fares. My grandfather came to NY in 1907. His sister came a few years later. I have yet to find her as she did not marry. I always have just few leads to chase down.

    But just to put a cap on this, I met my dad's cousin Michéal in Clare, and he mentioned coming over to the states in 1980 and visiting my parents in Los Angeles. My dad asked about his Aunt Noni, so Michéal checked on her and she said she was very sad as she hadn't heard from that part of the family for a very long time and she wondered what had happened to them. In fact Michéal did not to my knowledge tell my dad what he found out from Noni. Strange how that is. I suppose it would have been difficult to tell on a long distance call or a letter.

    It was all so sad for so many, even today there are precious few jobs in Ireland, the children stay long enough to graduate from college and then leave for where they can find employment. I know my cousin Jim's daughter left to be with her family as her husband got a job in Northern Africa. It is a tough life but they do get back to Ireland several times a year and it is such a celebration. I was fortunate to be on hand for two of those occasions.

    We are so lucky in USA and Australia that there are usually jobs for the college graduates.

    1. James, my grandmother's family were the same... they also held wakes. It must have been so hard to watch them leave, one by one, or with mine, sometimes two at once. The girls seemed to leave in pairs... at one stage, there were three siblings here, two brothers, one sister. One brother was killed in a tree felling accident, the next two to come were to be my grandmother-to- be and her sister. They came via New Zealand and the sister stayed there, as one brother was already living there and she thought he might be lonely. So, with the comings and goings, we ended up with two girls and the dead brother in Australia, a brother and sister in NZ, one brother in the US ... but various others moved between Australia and the US, living for short times, before returning to Ireland. It has been a real challenge to keep up with their travels.

      As far as I know, my Greek grandfather was the only one of his siblings to come to Australia, though one brother moved to the US, however, several of my grandmother's siblings left Greece for Australia.

      I have an Irish cousin who came out here for a while, but had to go back to Ireland, but he'll return as soon as he is able to... as you say, there is little work there, and many friends have children who had to leave and head here.

      At least we now are able to keep in touch, something our ancestors weren't able to do.

      Thanks for your comments...


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