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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 September 2014
SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2014 15 FEATURE Since then, Konstantinos hasn't been back. He is keen to visit, but has no plans of moving to Australia permanently. "I really loved it. My parents still love and talk about Australia - it gave them a chance in life. They left their country because jobs didn't exist, life was hard. They found a better life there. But they wanted to come back and try their luck in their homeland. At that age, they didn't ask me," Kon says with a laugh. "I probably would go back, but at the point of my life as it's turning now, I'm not thinking about it. I have a wife, children, two jobs - as a firefighter and a farmer. My children have been brought up in Greece, there is no way for me to go back permanently." But, similar to Anastasia, Kon says he is losing some of his friends who are moving back in the time of the Greek crisis. "For some of them it has worked out, coming back to Australia, for others not... "I guess it depends on what you are looking for in life. Either way you must work very hard. I don't believe that everything is given to you openhanded in Australia, you have to work and earn. "Here, I have two jobs, as my wife doesn't work. The truth is we get paid less and less every year," Kon explains. An active member of the group, Kon often makes his way to Thessaloniki to join Aussies in Thess gatherings. "Anastasia found me, she is remarkable. She keeps us together, and everyone else in the group is like that. We have the same background; we have been to the same places. It's a great family type of group. I met remarkable people, it's a perfect bond." Similar to Kon, Vicky Matzouranis' return to Greece was not a choice of her own. Born in Greece, her parents migrated to Australia when she was just two years old. It was lack of work and poverty that, like many other Greeks, drove them to immigration. But, as Vicky says, they were dreaming of return since the day they left Greece. "Myself, as a child brought up in such a beautiful and developed country, which offered me the very best in education and not only that, I was not too enthusiastic about returning to Greece. "I kept the thought of returning to Australia in the back of my head. My first impression was 'Where have I come? This is third world!' Greece was just booming again ... and boom it did! Beautifully!" Today, there are many more reasons that attract and keep Vicky in Greece. "The culture for one; the laid back lifestyle. The fact that summer is never dull ... always somewhere to go and something to see. We work early and arrive home early after our eight-hour shift and still have the day ahead of us to enjoy. We sleep late and socialise a lot and can meet up with friends whenever we want. "There are many differences between Greece and Australia ... climatically and scenic-wise. Life-wise. Night spots and coffee places close in the early hours of the morning any time of the week. Summer is summer and winter is winter." Having set up a life for herself in Greece, Vicky is not thinking of returning. "I am very happy here. I returned to Australia on holiday in 2010 - I don't think I could live anywhere other than Thessaloniki!" The founder of the group Aussies in Thess, Anastasia Skliros says her family is still financially comfortable in the Greece of today. What she misses from her other home, Australia, is the security factor. "I miss the government that takes care of its citizens. My first preference would be to bring my kids up in Australia. We moved back in 2005, but as my husband couldn't assimilate in Australia, we returned after three months. These are the things that worry us. "I have a lot of memories from Australia. I regard it as my home, the first home. And that's how most of the people in the group feel. "We adore Greece, but Australia is my first home. Life in Greece is beautiful, it's a magical place. But you have to be care-free to be able to appreciate this magic; you can't be burdened with everyday struggles. "After living here for 20 years I think it has made me a better person, I learned to deal with a lot of things I took for granted in Australia, and that has made me stronger. I believe that Greece has a very positive future if it's promoted properly, and that has to do with the government." Another Aussie in Thess, Vicky Matzouranis doesn't think about return either. And about the situation in Greece that pushes many of those like her back to Australia, Vicky says they are its guinea pigs. "Big political games are being played on our backs. Why aren't we reacting? The time hasn't come. Greeks have played a significant role in the state this country has been brought to ... so they should all just start paying now. The way they vote here, so passionately; friends in high places, sustaining them there - it's all paid its price and this is the thank you we are getting from those friends in high places. "The economic situation isn't a very optimistic one. We are being taxed unfairly left right and centre; our salaries and wages have dwindled very low, below half, speaking for myself, an English teacher by profession in the private sector. "And yet, these people called Greeks, with their wages and salaries slaughtered by unfair taxing, expenses up to our necks, still find time to have a coffee outdoors, a tsipouraki-ouzo, mingle with friends and smile. This is why I love this country. "I will always call Australia my home away from home!" For more information about the group, visit their Facebook page Aussies in Thess. Sh h'b f hdhl hhd h ' h o Always with the Australian flag - tavern night at Ladadika for Aussies in Thess. Day trip to Dion and Mount Olympus. Apokries time. Giving back to the community - members of the group take part at the Autism Walk in Thessaloniki. Kon Kallianidis is general secretary of the Pontian Association of Edessa and an active Pontian dancer. Members of the group Aussies in Thess gathered recently for their BYO picnic in front of the White Tower. PHOTOS SUPPLIED.
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