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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 May 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 MAY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Following my father’s Chris Mingos’ journey to Asia Minor and Lemnos In recent years Neos Kosmos has published many stories telling of the closeness of the link between Australia and Greece through the Anzac experience. These connections have told of the important role of Lemnos as the base for the whole Gallipoli campaign. They have written of the appreciation of the young Anzac soldiers and nurses for the support they received from their Greek hosts. And they told of the digger Peter Rados, an Anzac from Asia Minor, who returned to his homeland only to die with his fellow Anzacs on the Gallipoli peninsula. We are indebted to the historian Jim Claven for providing these insights. One of the members of our local Greek community who is particularly proud of this re-telling of Anzac's Hellenic connection is Chris Mingos. Sitting on their back porch in Caulfield, Chris and his wife Irene often reflect on their story of migration and building a new life in Australia. For Chris, his mind returns to his birthplace of Lemnos and the stories of Asia Minor told by his mother and father. "I was particularly impressed by the story about the Anzac from Asia Minor, Private Peter Rados," Chris said. "As a descendent of Asia Minor refugees, the story told by Mr Claven made me proud as a Hellene and an Australian. My father came from the village of Reis Dere - not very far from Peter Rados' Artaky," he added. Chris' father Yianni had left Reis Dere with his sisters and arrived on Lemnos in 1914, settling in the little village of Lera, not far from the capital of Myrina. Like many Greeks from the old Ottoman Empire he dreamed of seeking a better life in far away America. Yet Yianni's application to migrate to America was unsuccessful. The war disrupted the lives of millions across the world, including those in Greece. Yianni left Lemnos and sought work in Thessaloniki. Here Yianni witnessed the great build-up of soldiers from many nations who came to what was then referred to as the Salonika Front. Along with the soldiers of the Greek Army, thousands of Greeks joined the Allied forces as labourers in the Macedonian Labour Corps, building roads and the infrastructure needed to sustain the army of the Orient, as it was called. Many of these would die in the service, some buried in Thessaloniki's Mikra Cemetery. The great fire of 1917 at Thessaloniki brought an end to Yianni's efforts to make a life on the Greek mainland. Out of work, he returned to the village of Lera on Lemnos. It was here that Yianni married by proxy, a young girl from Kontias named Giorgia Salakianos. While she was only 17 years old, Yianni was by now over 40 years old. Yet despite this age difference Chris remembers that Giorgia's parents assured their young daughter that the marriage would be a good one, as "he was a man from Asia Minor, who had the name of being a good husband and provider". Having failed to get to America and having tried his luck in Thessaloniki, Yianni took himself and his wife back to his village of Reis Dere in 1918, where they both started their family. Again bad luck would dog Yianni. As Chris remembers the stories of his parents: "Like countless other Greeks in Asia Minor, my mother and father suffered during the catastrophe in 1922. During the war and its terrible aftermath, Yianni and Giorgia - now with child - and Yianni's sisters were forced to flee their village, separated by the Turkish forces, and make their way to Greece and safety." "Giorgia was separated from my father and had to make her way to safety with her sister-in-law and her young son Nikolaos. In despair and fear of violations and death from their attackers, my mother - along with others - jumped into a well. Though she survived, her young son, aged less than one year, perished. She carried the pain of this loss for the rest of her life." Chris' parents were re-united on Chios - along with thousands of other refugees fleeing Asia Minor. Chris' mother's experiences on this journey across Asia Minor were so awful she could never speak of them. During Yianni's journey from Reis Dere with 40 other villagers, Yianni survived many attempts to kill him and the others. On Lemnos in 1922, Chris’ parents were joined by another 550 former residents of Reis Dere. Most of these made their home in Agios Demetrios. This was the re-named village of Lera, where Yianni had previously made his home on Lemnos. But this time Yianni would settle in Yianni and Giorgia Mingos in 1960 in Kontias village on Lemnos, the year before they came to Australia to join their son Chris. They would have eight children together. Streets and homes in the old part of Reis Dere where Chris’ parents and the Greek community lived. PHOTOS: CHRIS MINGOS.
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