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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 Aug 2019
INTERVIEW 8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 AUGUST 2019 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM One of the photos that fascinated Jim Claven and started his research journey into writing the book ‘Lemnos & Gallipoli Revealed’. ‘Lemnos & Gallipoli revealed’ We speak to historian Jim Claven about his first book, documenting the social history on Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign, and the ties that will bind Australia with Greece forever EUGENIA PAVLOPOULOU Regular readers of Neos Kosmos have heard his name and read his articles: Jim Claven, the philhellene historian has for years now shared pieces of his research, revealing unknown aspects of the historic relationship between Greece and Australia, a relationship built in times of darkness, such as the years of the First and Second World Wars. The passion of this researcher of history, coupled with his deep love for Greece are undeniably the cornerstones of his works to this day. Claven's stories are stories of war. Though they are not just that, because it's not the war that gave birth to his new book 'Lemnos & Gallipolli Revealed'. In his first book – a historically significant one for the Greek Australian community, and both the history of this country and its relationship with Greece - through his research and use of the reality of the war as his canvas, Claven brings to light the social structures and humanity behind the interactions of the ANZACs and Lemnian locals. The title of the book couldn't be more accurate. It works as a perfect introduction to what the reader will experience, entering the sanctuary of this remarkable publication, but also explains how the book came about. Fifty thousand ANZACs and Australian nurses passed through Lemnos. Their testimonies and other historical documents from their day-to-day interactions and activities on the island remained buried and untold for almost 100 years. Claven however managed to unearth stories, memories, diary notations, photos and newspaper clippings, putting them together with the accuracy of the astute researcher to reveal and present this remarkable story. "It goes all the way back to the centenary of ANZAC when I was asked to get involved with that by a number of people including John Pandazopoulos and Lee Tarlamis. At that stage I was involved in public policy really and they asked me to get involved with that. But the more I listened to it, I thought 'hang on'. You see one of the key things about approaching government is that you make sure about your footing, that the history you are talking about is correct. I took the role of preparing submissions for the government so that I had to visit libraries, and look at photographs and that fascinated me. I couldn't believe it, I had never seen them before; I had never seen them in books. It was a revelation for me," says Claven, recalling how the journey of the book started. He remembers one picture in particular rather fondly, also included in the book, of a priest surrounded by locals of all ages in the village of Tsimandria, taken by Albert Savage. "I still cannot take it out of my mind," he says. The sheer humanity behind these photos fascinated him. "In the middle of the war, when the pain and the blood of the ANZACs was saturating the Lemnian soil, Australians were wondering on the streets and interacting with people they may or they may not be able to communicate with. You can tell there is warmth in the experience." Claven wanted desperately to find out more about this story. "It started me on a journey when I looked at these photos on the digital archive of the War Memorial and the State Library of Victoria. Then what kicked in, was my historical studies and all my other interests. I have always wanted to go to Greece because of my studies on Ancient History. I always put it off because I thought I had too much to see and I needed a long time. Lemnos provided me with one way to connect with that because not only did I want to read about the ANZACS there, I wanted to read about the story of the island, whether it had an impact on the ANZACS. All these things brought it to life and made it more interesting." 'Lemnos & Gallipoli Re- vealed' has about 300 photos, with only a couple that are familiar, having become iconic. Each photograph tells a part of the story, but for Claven it is the corpus of them that matters; the story they tell when you look at them all together. Even if the reader doesn't meticulously delve into the whole book, and just looks at the photographs and reads some of the stories, it becomes apparent that this north Aegean Greek island had a big impact on all these Australians and other allied forces that went there. "Their stories, the photographs they took, their hundreds of letters back home are not about the war but about the peaceful experience they had there. The reality of the war is always in the background, and it was certainly for the nurses and the doctors; this is what they were dealing with every day - the wounded. But within that, then they look across the harbour, they look at the amazing sunset, the environment. These images have a capacity to resonate with people then and today."
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