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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 November 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2015 9 NEWS FEATURE Foti with niece Penny as they share their joint 6 June birthday, bunny ears and all in true Foti style. Chris Stamelos has headed the Orthodox division of Victoria Funerals for more than 20 years and his experience is one that resonates with the uniqueness of migrant loss. Chris Stamelos has headed According to Stamelos, the passing of fellow migrants brings a unique social and emotional depletion to the lives of many across Australia. "Migrants have struggled. They have opened up a new territory … a new home somewhere else, away from their homeland." This conjures a unique sensitivity. As an individual who has devoted his career to providing traditional Greek Orthodox funeral services, Stamelos tells me that the most common issues raised by migrant loss not only revolve around the loss of migrant kinship, but also questions of migrant identity and notions of home. Death on soil other than that of Greece strikes a dichotomous chord in the identity of Greek migrants. Ultimately, a divided spirit is conjured between their devotion and passion for Australia as a primary source of modern happiness, and a distinct cultural pride in Greece held even a million miles from home; overt in the Australian wearing of the Greek Orthodox cross, the thousands of olive trees that line the fences of Greek Australian homes and the tears that stream down the faces of Greek men during the traditional zembekiko dance. According to Stamelos, the divided notion of home resonates when Greek Australian migrants make burial decisions. While they are physically dying here, Stamelos says that they "aren't really settled" and reminds them that religiously, "there is only one paradise. There is not an Australian one, nor a Greek one. While [one's] bones will remain at one lo- cation or the other, the spirit won't". However, this does not settle the minds of some, as Stamelos comments that it is quite common to hear 'we will bury him here and ten years later, we will take him to Greece.’ That is how strong their tie is to home.” For Konstantinos, however, confusion is outruled by the overwhelming love he has for his family, and Australia as an economic funder of life. He ponders the question for less than a minute and his return is powerful in its simplicity. "My life is here because my grandchildren are here," he states, as he pounds his fist down on the table just as a judge would in a final judicial decision. In a spiritual briefing with Father George Adamakis, I am given deeper insight into the Orthodox experience of death in Australia. Adamakis' voice of spiritual conviction surrounds me as my view is clouded by hanging crosses comprised of three bars to remind onlookers of the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, red carpet symbolically paralleling the blood of Christ, and old brown timber pews that have heard more prayers than Adamakis himself. It is a gloomy day outside, but the candles lit by those waiting for confession provide the room with a golden haze, accompanied by Adamakis' voice as he ponders upon his encounters with multiple cross-sections of the community. "I have seen migrants lose fellow war veterans, daughters lose mothers, and even within our own parish we have experienced the loss of fellow migrants. The loss is infinitely unique and one defined by two ultimate journeys. 'We all came here in one boat; now we are all leav- ing at different times, on a different journey’ - this is the most common saying I hear from Greek migrants,” says Adamakis. During the religious journey of Greek Orthodoxy in Australia, death can cause religious apprehension spawned by aligning Greek Orthodox tradition in Australia with culturally distinct customs in Greece. Under Greek Orthodox theology, ‘when the soul dies, it is resting; There is no pain. No sorro N mourning. And when the body is buried, the soul has already left, it has entered another dimension and it is immortal’. ly diseece. hodox e soul There ow en the e soul as ennsion However, such a perspective is overridden by cultural 'attitudes' that are brought with migrants from Greece to Australia. perdden udes' with eece "Many migrants will bring their own traditions surrounding death and mourning to Australia," says Adamakis, but there is a disparity and they suffer "religious confusion". Adamakis, like many Greek Orthodox priests, provides religious clarity for his adherents; acting as a religious stepping stone for the execution of rituals surrounding death in Australia. Through the commitment of the Parish and Greek Australian migrants, Greek Orthodox religion has been well maintained, and funerals see the execution of the memorial service, the funeral, the burial and the consumption of the traditional 'koliva'; a spiritual symbol of rebirth. will adieath Ausakis, rity eli- any sts, larnts; us he als in gh of ek s, ell uu-l l, e e a Foti Limneos with wife Angela and children Effie, James and Benjamin. It is with these rituals that the unsettled minds of migrants can revel in Greek tradition in order to honour the fallen, ensure their ascension into the religious afterlife and treasure a religious connection to Greece. it l th t th ttl d The most recent spiritual connection with Uncle Foti was at his 40-day memorial service last month. My family gathered in sacred commemoration of our cheekiest uncle - the soul who, no matter what, would bring youthful fun into our family life. Combined with the memorial of two other families, I looked around the room and side-by-side stood elderly Greek men and women. Momentarily, those who i l t th M f h have known a lif k life of movef ment are stagnant. No moving forwards to a better life. No looking back towards Greece. For 20 minutes, confusion is subsided and the room lifelessly ponders the final destination. I pray for the harmonious arrival of my uncle. Until we meet again - Rest In Peace Theio Foti. oti. Foti and wife Angela on holiday with sister Anthea and brother-in-law Konstantinos.
28 November 2015