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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 January 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 JANUARY 2019 5 NEWS support the younger siblings and their beloved yiayia. The family stayed in Rhodes Stamatia left behind her family on the island of Rhodes. There was no onboard entertainment, radio or television in that period, therefore, young children were kept busy with various school-type activities and had daily rehearsals in order to showcase and entertain the passengers and parents. In his spare time, 10-yearold Christos enjoyed staring at the ocean, searching for dolphins and flying fish and making plans for the future. "I knew I was the only male in our family and had responsibilities, therefore, some nights I would sit there and play different scenarios in my head trying to come up with ideas that would help my mother stand on her own two feet when we got to the other side." Occasionally, bad weather Ten-year-old Christos (right) poses during a photo opportunity aboard the ship, Patris. Stamatia and her son, Christos. conditions such as strong winds, storms and a waterspout would interrupt Christos' day dreaming. In the absence of today's stabilising technology, the ship was almost left to the ocean's mercy, and during those times, Christos secretly found comfort inside the lifeboats. Upon her eventual return to Rhodes, Stamatia and the children found refuge and some normality at her family home, but just as life had settled into a comfortable routine, Stamatia's father passed away. Christos attended high school and during summer school holidays he worked at hotels. He also supplemented the family's income by becoming a local tiler's apprentice for some extra cash. Stamatia was also working in a ceramics factory and mother and son did everything in their power to from 1969 until 1974. Stamatia then received a warning from the Australian Embassy in Athens, advising all Australians to leave Greece following the Cyprus invasion in 1974. Concerned about her children's physical welfare and future education, the young mother borrowed money for the tickets and returned to Australia at age 41. Once again, she found herself searching for housing, which was not an easy task for a single mother with three children and on a low income. She never remarried and to this day avoids talking about her difficult past. "I can understand how she feels as this misadventure had a huge impact on her and us. However, and although I would never wish anyone to go through a similar hardship, the poverty, insecurity and emotional rollercoaster are what have shaped me as a person, giving me strength, independence, resilience whilst instilling a deep level of empathy and compassion for others." Christos said he contemplated long and hard before deciding to share his family's story publicly. He admits it is a sensitive issue and wanted to avoid the resurfacing of hurtful memories for the sake of his ageing mother, but at the same time he also felt the need to speak out and break the silence. He is now encouraging others to do the same. "I respect that there are many wonderful love stories that were forged throughout the years of Greek migration in Australia, but at the same time, I believe that some Greek brides suffered in silence for many years in abusive relationships out of fear, shame, impending gossip or simply for the sake of not breaking up their family. They were trapped and alone in a distant country", says Mr Despotakis, who is also the owner of the largest Greek radio station in South Australia. "It is time to speak up and share our stories, good and bad. We need to shed some light on every aspect of Greek migration in Australia and bring some balance to the conversation accepting that this is also part of our broader history in Australia. "Let's continue the conversation. It will make us stronger as a community," he concludes. Maritsa Mavrapidi sitting between her cousins Eftratia Mavrapidi (left) and Militsa (Emilia) Kamvisi (photo by Lefteris Partsalis, was first published on the Lesvos News website) Yiayia Maritsa dies age 90 Lesvos yiayia Maritsa Mavrapidi has passed away at the age of 90. The grandmother was thrust into the media spotlight in October 2015, after local photographer Lefteris Partsalis took a photo showing the Greek woman helping a young Syrian mother who had just landed on the shores of the eastern Aegean island after making the treacherous crossing from Turkey. Prior to the photo Ms Mavrapidi had checked the temperature of the milk about to be given to a baby, and poured water from the village tap to cool it down. She then handed the bottle to her friend Emilia Kamvysi, who bottle-fed the baby while the mother changed her clothes. Efstratia Mavrapidou was also featured in the photo. These three women, had never left their fishing village, and yet their photo was reproduced on social media and news services around the world. The image of yiayia Maritsa tending to the infant, together with her two cousins became an international symbol of solidarity to the world when the refugee crisis was at its peak. The feelings conjured by the image were so strong that Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos had personally met with Ms Kamvysi, and had congratulated her and her friends. Showing humility, she said, “Why do you congratulate me, my son? What have I done?” Asked about her feelings towards refugees, yiayia Maritsa had said, “They’re good kids. Sometimes, they help me carry wood for my heater, even though they are tired from their trip.” The iconic image even prompted a Nobel Prize nomination for the residents of Lesvos in 2016. The photographer admitted later that he had been surprised by the success of the random photo that he snapped after his attention was piqued by the scene playing itself out before him. “She was an honest woman who made us proud, and we will remember her always,” said George Saroglou, speaking to the community president of Mavrapidi’s village, Skala Skamnias told the media on Wednesday. The funeral of the elderly lady was held on Thursday.
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