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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 October 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER 2018 17 BOOKS Author Victoria Purman talks to Neos K tthe inspiration behind the Author he inspiration behind the f feisty G eek ictoria Purman talks t Neos Kosmos aboutsmos about ty Grreek characte aracterr Vasilik MitMitrropoulos in her latest novel The Last of the Bonegil see other people on their own, and they would scoop them up and make them feel welcome too. "I certainly had that with my Greek friends, that beautiful sense of family and community that you see with Greeks, that's why I loved writing about that." The multicultural friendship of the four girls is not unlike many that existed in Australia during that time. Purman revealed that the friendship of Elizabeta and Vasilki can be traced back to her mum and a relationship she had with a Greek migrant she worked with in Adelaide. "My mum's first job in Australia was at Holden. She used to sew the car seats and she worked with a Greek woman called Connie," she says. "I have this photo of the two of them standing outside Holden in the beautiful 50's, flared skirts ... and I just thought 'I can't tell the story of migration to Australia with Bonegilla and not mention a Greek character'." After leaving Bonegilla, Vasiliki is attempting to navigate life, love and work in Melbourne. But while Australia represents new opportunities, the oppressive nature of family tradition gets in the way of the true happiness she yearns for. "It was really important I captured that in the book," Purman says. "The country was changing and the cultural and social norms were changing as well. So how does a young person in the middle of all that make sense of that? It's interesting to look back on it with an 18-year-old head set. Why couldn't those girls do what they wanted? Because at that time you didn't go against your family, it was everything." When Vasilki has an arranged marriage and has asiliki opoulos in her latest novelThe Last of the Bonegilla Girls irls children Purman is again able to capture the conflict that many first generation Greek Australians felt - of being torn between family obligation and living an independent life. "Towards the end of the book you can see how Vasiliki treats her own children, how her life experience has shaped her and how she raises her daughters," she says. "I really wanted to highlight that because I think women in particular had that pressure on them to be the good Greek or Italian wife. I tried to as much as I can, to tell a thousand stories in one character. I'm sure there were Greek women who came out and married someone they liked without having an arranged marriage. But I can understand how people wanted to maintain their language and culture. "I knew that the pressure from the 50's just doesn't go away. It doesn't disappear in one generation, perhaps it's two generations." While travelling around regional Victoria and Adelaide as part of her book tour, Purman has met many families who had a connection to Bonegilla and sharing those experiences with her readers has been quite profound. "I've had Greek people in the audience crying as they tell me their stories," she says. "For a lot of people it was a part of a history that was never thought to be important. I really wanted to put it in context that this was a huge part of Australia's social and cultural history. "That previously we only had the White Australia Policy but then we opened our doors and these people have made Australia, for all its faults, the country we enjoy living in today."
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