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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 1 November 2014
20 SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2014 'I had that type Dion Kouskouris proudly tells the story of her great-grandmother Katerina, which earnt her first prize in the 2014 Australian Hellenic Memorial Competition Dion Kouskouris, a year 10 student at Shelford Girls' Grammar, Melbourne, has been awarded first prize in the 2014 Australian Hellenic Memorial Competition. With the support of the Greek Consul for Educational Affairs, the Australian Hellenic Memorial Foundation held its fifth annual school competition throughout all Greek schools in Victoria, including schools that incorporate Greek in their curriculum. The competition was open to all ages and students were welcome to submit a drawing, painting, poem, essay or interview with a veteran, in an attempt to commemorate the joint efforts by Australia and Greece, and their soldiers during the Second World War. Dion Kouskouris submitted an interview she conducted with her great-grandmother, a strong woman who spent time in prison in support of the English soldiers during World War II. Dion proudly told her great- grandmother's story and brought the crowd to tears during the presentation ceremony in the Domain Gardens. The Shelford Girls' Grammar student has decided to put her prize money towards her fundraising for the World Challenge trip to Tanzania at the end of 2015. BY DION KOUSKOURIS A few weeks ago I visited my great-grandmother, who began recounting her life story to me. My grandmother was born in Chania, Crete. There she lived her young years with her family. The Second World War is a huge part of her life even today. Every time I see her, she always seizes the opportunity to indicate her involvement in the war. Her experience is unique and I feel the need to tell you her story to explain what else occurred during the war apart from what was going on at the front line. Well, she began her story and I was listening attentively. What was your life like before the war, grandmother? Superb! I went to school, I helped my mother as much as I could and I lived with my nine siblings. I didn't see myself as a particularly special girl. I completed my homework and I was one of the best students. I had many friends and like any other person, I had people who envied me. Around 1939 the war started and everything changed. All these details became insignificant (grandma pauses and looks at the ground for a moment). And what happened then grandmother? What were the conditions of the war? We were living in starvation! Everyone was hungry! One time you should have seen. This truck drove by full of bread loaves. We could not believe it! We could see it from afar and we were drooling. A group of friends and I ran closer. The truck had now stopped and out hopped two Germans. When they weren't watching, we began to unload the vehicle. Firstly we counted the breads and then distributed them. We fed the children first which had appeared from everywhere. How they didn't catch us then was absolutely a miracle... How else did you take part in the war? I was feeding Englishmen! As they passed through our village I would give them some food and then they would depart for battle. They were just asking for a little bit of bread. Do you understand? I had that type of soul. However, you should never give anything to anyone because you don't know what type of person they are. If someone asks you for something, apologise and go tell your mother to give them a slice of bread. I served a long sentence in prison! Prison! How long where you in prison for and why? I was jailed for eight months. They came at midnight while we were sleeping. "We want Miss Katerina! We want Miss Katerina now! Get up! We know about the Englishmen!" "I don't have any Englishmen!" I told them. They were banging on our door. My father did not open the door for them. "Don't ask me! I don't know! Don't ask me again!" They tried to make me talk. "We will call the Englishman, because he recognises you," they called out. "You have made a mistake! It is another Katerina!" Finally I could not take it anymore. They told me I would go through court and they would take my family as well. "Okay. An Englishman came to my door and I gave him some bread. Should I not have given it to him?" What did you do in prison for eight months grandmother? I was in the cell alone. Complete isolation! I only had one bed sheet. I had found some string and a needle and I would rip this sheet and re-sew it. The truth is, this is how I spent most of my days. Did they torture you? What would they do to you? They absolutely did not torture me. They did not touch me at all. Others in prison would get beaten. The Germans took a liking to me. However, they would not allow me to speak to anyone. They would take me out to get some fresh air once a day. One of the best moments was when I went outside and I cut some endives. I washed them and took them to the kitchen so I could cook them. They were saying to me "what are these?" "Eat! Eat!" I would say to them. They ate them like spaghetti (the Englishmen in prison). Tell me, were there other women with you? Everyone had their own room. No-one had company. There were women in prison, but not in the same room. There were also men, young boys and girls. They would usually collect the young boys and I always wondered where they were taking them? There was a good soldier there and I would say to him "Boom! Boom! Boom! Yes?" No, they are going to sweep! He would motion to me. We communicated any way we could. Did you have a good friend in or out of prison? No my child, isolation. Do you know what isolation means? In prison my room was two times this length, like this table (approximately one metre by two metres) and the door, which led out of the cell. We were locked inside. Four dogs guarded us from one side and four on the other along with two armed Germans. Dion with her great-grandmother Katerina.
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