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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 January 2019
FEATURE 4 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 JANUARY 2019 THEODORA MAIOS " country, leaving her husband and fleeing her own home with no money, documents and with nowhere to go," says Adelaide-born 59-year-old Christos Despotakis who enjoyed less than 10 years of his life with both his parents before his mother decided to leave an untenable marriage and board the 'Patris' on the long journey back to Greece. Born in 1933 in Afandou, a small village on the green island of Rhodes, Christos' mother, Stamatia, obeying her father's wishes, reluctantly agreed to migrate to Australia as a νύφη (bride) on a oneway ticket to Australia. Filled with dreams, hopes and apprehension, the 25-year-old woman boarded the ship SS Orion, following a long and tedious journey from Rhodes to Australia, armed with the photograph of a man she had never met in one hand and her dowry agreement in the other. She arrived at Adelaide's Outer Harbour in late July 1958 where her future husband was awaiting. The couple married at the registry office on the same day. Christos was born soon after and two more children (daughters) followed. Over time, it became apparent that the young couple was struggling to co-exist harmoniously. Stamatia eventually fled home with her three children and filed for divorce. "I remember those long days in court and my mother desperately trying to explain to the judges with her very limited English what took place at home. There were no migrant family support services and my mother had no financial means, so she found herself pleading to the court to grant her custody of us children and I magine a young, loweducated mother of three, in a foreign DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The untold story of Greek brides in Australia Stamatia, a bride-to-be, embarks on a journey to Australia with other migrants. allow her to return home to her family in Greece," recalls Mr Despotakis. "For me, my mother is a real hero, considering the fact that, a divorce back then was quite rare and almost taboo subject within the small and closeknit Greek community. She nevertheless had the courage to stand up for herself and protect her children at a time when, sadly but understandably, some women chose to remain silent and adhere to their husbands' needs and constant abuse," he continues. After a lengthy and souldestroying battle in court, 35-year-old Stamatia eventually won custody of her three children. The young mother along with her son and two daughters boarded the Patris in 1969. "The trip was spectacular for us children, however, leaving Australia and knowing I might never return to see my friends and even my father, tempered any feeling of excitement with a sense of sadness and emptiness that I will never forget," says Mr Despotakis who still has some fond memories of this voyage. "I remember the excitement of the passengers going back home, the confetti and streamers from the ship to the wharf as the ship was departing and that huge insignia X (Chandris) on the funnel that for us passengers, symbolised a Greek ship and a journey to Greece," recalls the father of two young boys. Stamatia’s friends bid her farewell before she left her homeland. Young Christos marched at a National Day parade on the island of Rhodes.
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