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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 June 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 JUNE 2017 7 NEWS Celebrations to mark 60 years since the arrival of the Greek «ΝΥΦΕΣ» in Australia THEODORA MAIOS This year marks the 60th anniversary from the day 900 Greek single women known as 'nyfes' (brides) landed in Australia after leaving their homeland and embarking on their journey to Australia in a quest for a better future. Greek-born educator Peter Photakis is hosting a special commemorative event which will pay tribute to those women who left their families and homes to come to Australia on the promise of a new and better life. "We have scheduled a special event which will take place on Sunday18 June at the Migration Museum of South Australia, and my aim is to reunite as many brides of 1957 as possible to share their migration stories and shed some more light on a post-World War II era that saw a stream of young women migrating to Australia to start their own families with their future husbands. Husbands whom they had never met before," says Photakis who, together with his mother and two brothers, was also onboard the ship Begoña that arrived at Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay in 1957. "Although I was young, I have many fond memories of the journey and I distinctively remember wondering why there were so many young and beautiful women on Begoña. I actually thought those women were 'neraides' and that's what I used to call them until one day near the end of the journey, my mother told me that my 'neraides' were brides, who were married via a photograph. That confused me even more," recalls Photakis. The memory of those young women holding photos of their future husbands stayed with him for years. Photakis often wondered what had happened to them, and 42 years later he began his own research project in a quest to locate those brides. "I started by looking for the passenger list of the ship, which led me to the National Archives of Australia. I also visited their offices in Melbourne and actually held and read the ship’s logbook in my hands. The journey back in time had commenced." During his research, Photakis found and met some of the brides and started documenting their stories in a book, so that each of their families could be reminded of the arduous journey they had made so many years ago. "Greeks, as migrants, are found in every corner of the world and have made a great contribution in their adopted countries. But we never forget our place of birth. The word diaspora means living away from your homeland. There are approximately 11 million people living in Greece and about five million in the diaspora. "Each bride will no doubt have good and bad memories of the odyssey they made so many years ago. Through my research, I have found that some of the brides in South Australia have met a few times and even had a 40th- and 50th- year reunion. "I would like the project to be successful because the alternative is that all these stories and information will be lost forever, and our future generations will never learn about their Greek heritage," explains Photakis. Julian Stefani AM and Steve Georganas MP will be guest speakers at the event, while Peter Photakis will share his own migration story which started at the age of eight, when he left from the village of Sianna in Rhodes to come to Australia. "We will have the opportunity to hear directly from some of the nyfes about their adventures during their 30-day journey and their arrival in faraway Australia, where they finally got to meet their future husbands," explains Photakis. "The first few years were really hard. A foreign country, a foreign people, and the whole world upside down for us young women who did not even know how to speak the language," recalls Harikleia, one of the brides. "All I remember is everyone saying to me is that it will take time, but eventually, I will get used it. The years went by and Australia which started as our stepmother, then became our mother. Thank God for that!" The Jews of Greece – A Musical Journey JIM CLAVEN What an amazing experience to listen to some of Melbourne's best folk musicians render a musical tapestry of the Jewish experience in Greece. We were able to slip into the second performance at Melbourne's Jewish Museum – both scheduled concerts had understandably sold out. Melbourne bands The Habibis and Saray Iluminado combined to perform a selection of songs ranging from Sephardic romances to the familiar sound of Greece's rebetiko. Formed in 2013, Saray Iluminado's repertoire ranges over Sevdah from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jewish Sephardic music from across the Balkans. Many will have heard The Habibis renditions of traditional music from Greece, Anatolia, and the Balkans. What struck me most was the connectedness of the song list. The compatibility of the instruments – bouzouki, violin, mandolin, and clarinet) was joined by the common themes – of romance and love, of home and loss. Where a Sephardic song evoked romance and marriage, the rebetiko talked of unrequited love, of pain of losing a lover. Saray Iluminado's Ernie Gruner and Nela Trifkovi provided instructive introductions to their songs. I especially enjoyed Nela's explanation of The Nightingale and the Rose – of how the song combined the beauty and pain of life, of the nightingale's sweet song, the pain of the thorn and the beauty of the rose. I had been introduced to rebetiko through the voice of Roza Eshkanazi. So it was wonderful to hear the singing of The Habibis’ Pascal Latra bring to life one of Roza's famous songs. Accompanied by the playing of Irine and Mulaim Vela, Pascal sang The Waitress (Garsona) – a song of the tavern, of a waitress making her living. Constantinople-born Roza came to notice as a young singer in years prior to the WWI in then Ottoman-ruled Komotini. By the 1920s she would establish her career in Athens but she would return to northern Greece – to Thessaloniki and to Xanthi. Her first husband was a Hellene from Asia Minor and no doubt this experience influenced her attraction to the distinctive rebetiko style she made her own – smyrneika. She was a true creation of the Sephardic diaspora – she played with Greek and Armenia musicians – and she sang in Greek, Armenian, Ladino, and Turkish to name only a few! The strength of her music even took her back to Constantinople, performing there in the 1950s. And what better environment to listen to her songs than in a celebration of Sephardic and Greek rebetiko. Experiencing the concert reminded me of how cultures and peoples are connected – and how this is often reflected in folk music. We must all remind ourselves that we are part of a wider humanity. The alternative can be terrible. Roza Eshkanazi escaped The Holocaust that tore apart Greece's century's old Jewish community – surviving to help others and aid the resistance. To paraphrase the words of the English poet WH Auden from his poem September 1939 – we must learn to love each other or we must surely die. Many at the concert took the opportunity to view the accompanying excellent photographic exhibition at the museum,”The Jews of Greece”. If I could make one suggestion, I would have loved to have had joined the players and their music with a slideshow of images or old videos relevant to the songs – of the Jews of Thessaloniki, of Constantinople, of Roza Eshkanazi. This combination would have made a wonderful accompaniment to the excellent music selection. Congratulations to Saray Iluminado and The Habibis for putting together such a wonderful and evocative concert. A real treat. You can catch the next per- formance of The Habibis and Saray Iluminado at Oakleigh's Caravan Music Club, 95 Drummond Street, Oakleigh, VIC at 3.00 pm this Sunday 11 June. To book go to www. trybooking.com/255636. Both bands have CDs available for purchase: Saray Iluminado's Nightingales in the Rose Garden and The Habibis' collection Selections 1995-2006. Also coming up this month is a rescreening of a great film dealing with the Greek Jewish experience and the impact of The Holocaust. The excellent documentary by Larry Russo and Larry Confino Trezoros (Treasures): The Lost Jews of Kastoria screens at the Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick, VIC on Wednesday 21 June at 7.00 pm. The film is also part of the The Saray Iluminado-Habibis combination – Left to right - Mulaim Vela, Pascal Latra, Irine Vela, Kelly Dowall, Nela Trifkovic and Ernie Gruner. PHOTO: VICKI KYRITSIS Jewish International Film Festival at the Classic later in the year.
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