You know, I don’t exactly know why my uncle George migrated from a village in Cyprus to Sale, Victoria in 1947, to work as a carpenter in the post-war boom. I can pretty much guess though: family with seven kids, of which he was the eldest; in economic hardship; limited opportunities for work; and the streets in Australia were supposed to be paved with gold.
It was likely the same for my uncle Chris, who joined George in Tasmania. Chris had book learning as an engineer, but he settled into retail like his brother.
It wasn’t the same for my father. My father had a series of jobs in Cyprus: nurse, telegraphist, greengrocer. I don’t think he needed to leave. But with two siblings already overseas, he decided it was meet that the whole family join them. He moved out of family loyalty. He even paid for the whole family to get their medical testing done in Beirut.
It didn’t pan out that way.
- Andrew followed my father, stayed, and did retail too; he eventually moved to Melbourne. When we came back from Greece, dad decided we’d stay in Melbourne too after all.
- Dora followed my father, couldn’t find anyone to marry, and went back. (My father delayed marrying out of the traditional obligation to see that his unmarried sister was settled.)
- Helen was already married, and she wasn’t going anywhere.
- Chris left Tasmania, and returned with his family to his wife’s home town in Greece.
- My grandparents decided to stay in Cyprus at the last minute, and they kept their youngest, Savvas, with them.
So much for my father.
My aunt Steffie, Chris’ wife, was from a village in Eastern Crete. My father waited to marry off Dora, and gave up waiting when he was 35. (Dora, God rest her, married a year later. But that’s another story.) Just as Dora couldn’t find a suitable Greek to marry in Tasmania, my dad didn’t either.
So he put out word to Chris, now back in Crete with Steffie, whether he might know of any eligible partners.
My mother was from the same village as Steffie. Her family was not quite as poor as my father’s, but as a daughter she still got the short end of the stick. She did not want to be stuck in the village, and she rejected all local suitors. She was, therefore, an old maid by 1970 Cretan rural standards (at 25).
Steffie approached her. She said, why not. Her father chaperoned her to Tasmania, to make sure my dad was a suitable match. And she went straight to work in the fish and chips shop.
A year later, I was born.