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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 October 2014
SATURDAY 25 OCTOBER 2014 17 FEATURE said ‘No!’ "Australia's Greeks had watched events in Europe with increasing anxiety. Their attitude to the Metaxas regime, as might be expected, had been divided," Gilchrist wrote. Campaigns to raise funds to buy aircraft also divided Australia's Greek communities. However, the majority of Australia's Greeks were supportive of Britain and the Allies. "A fund in aid of the Greek air force, backed by Greece's Consuls, by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop and by Phos, but opposed by the Greek Left, raised about £800 (to which Antony Lucas, Greece's Consul in Melbourne, contributed £500). Another fund, launched in Sydney by Ethnikon Vima, had by October 1939 raised about £2,555 in aid of the Royal Australian Air Force." When Greece declared war on Italy, public opinion in Australia changed overnight, noted Gilchrist. "The mainstream press, until then equivocal about the Metaxas regime, warmly praised Greece's resistance to Italian aggression; and, when Australian troops in North Africa defeated an Italian army in February 1941, Greeks and Australians felt united in a common cause." With many of the meeting minutes of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria dated to 1940 missing, not much was said about the crucial October day. While unfortunately there is no direct reference to the events of the 28 October 1940, on 3 November 1940 it was noted that 'a service was held at the Community's church The Annunciation of Our Lady. Prayers were recited for the success of both Greeks and Allies in the War. After the service the parishioners marched to the Shrine of Remembrance and placed a wreath'. On 26 November 1940, 'Greek funding opened', for the support of the Greek war efforts under the auspices of the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne Cr Frank Beaurepaire and the Greek Consul, A.J.J. Lucas. Earlier that year, on 9 July 1940, the community meeting minutes recorded that 'over 100 Greek shop owners of Victoria contributed their day's takings to the war effort'. While the invasion of Greece was making the cover pages of the Australian press, articles were written about Greek communities around Australia willing to go back and fight for their homeland. On 30 October 1940, Cairns Post wrote: "Greeks in Sydney tonight held parties to express relief that the uncertainties of the last month had ended. They were, however, not unmindful of the situation, especially as many of them have relatives in Greece. At the Athenian Club, the meeting place of the Greek community, the customary pastimes were suspended whenever a news bulletin was broadcast. When the first announcement was made that Greece was at war, a group of young members at the club shouted "Zito O Polemos" ("Hurrah for the War") and drank a toast to General Metaxas and Britain." On the same day, Brisbane’s Courier Mail ran an article with headline ‘Greeks here keen to fight at home’. "Many Greeks in Queensland offered yesterday to return to Greece to fight with the army. After the first batch of inquiries had reached him the Consul for Greece in Queensland (Mr Christy Freeleagus) sent the following telegram to the Royal Consul-General for Greece (Mr E. Vrisakis) in Sydney: 'Several of our countrymen have expressed to me their wish to return to Greece and join the colours. Please advise instructions.' He received this reply in the afternoon: 'Please express on behalf of the Royal Greek government congratulations to Greeks offering to enlist and ask them to await instructions.' Mr Freeleagus said that the war activities of the 3,000 Greeks in Queensland, which included 600 in Brisbane, would depend on the arrangements made between Greece, Britain, and Australia." The article continued to say that every member of the Greek community on the North Coast was 'delighted and proud' when the news of Greece's decision to resist the Italian demands was announced. Mr A. Crethar, a prominent Greek businessman of Lismore, was quoted as saying that “every Greek would do everything possible to assist in hastening the victory which all knew would come. A conference of Greeks on the North Coast would be held, to discuss what practical assistance could be given to relieve distress caused by bombing, and to plan other means of helping the mother country”. In the article ‘Greeks in Sydney - Expression of Relief’, published on 30 October at Townsville Day Bulletin, it was noted that there were 16,000 Greeks in Australia, 8,000 of them in Queensland. Enthusiastic about the strengths of Greek soldiers and their discipline, the article went on to say that Greece had the largest merchant fleet in the Mediterranean and one of the largest in the world, and that there were 1,000,000 Greeks in Egypt. *Sources: Australians and Greeks: Volume III: The Later Years, by Hugh Gilchrist, published by Halstead Press; Victoria Lord - The Ultimate History Project; Trove - National Library of Australia.
18 October 2014
1 November 2014