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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 02 September 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 2017 23 OPINION An open letter to the press Dear Editor, When did Australian academia and politics, of all sides of the ideological spectrum, decide that venerating its foes and shunning or minimising the sacrifices of its allies would be the new trend that this nation would follow? Australian heritage, since the Greek migrants arrive in Australia in the 1960s. PHOTOS: WWW.GREEK-MIGRANTS.WEEBLY.COM also points to similar phenomena within the Italian Australian and other ethnic communities. On the same token, the phenomenon of some newly arrived Greeks considering the established Greeks as quaint, backward, greedy and of questionable authenticity, is also nothing new and, when viewed within the context of historical precedent is to be expected, something that any researcher must take pains to comprehend. Unfortunately, because we appear not to have established firm traditions of our own in this land as a community, despite our hundred year sojourn herein, we have no consciousness of a collective history. As a result, we are unaware of those incidences of our Australian past that would assist us to understand or interpret the social tendencies of our community beyond the living memory of our parents. As an ahistorical community, one that is not able to articulate a native Greek-Australian perspective without a constant cultural cringe of reference back to a homeland who in culture and ethos has markedly diverged from our collective own, we thus lack an obvious framework from which to understand our evolution or rather, revolution, for it is through the comparison of our early pre-war social history with our current reality that the Sisyphean nature of our communal existence becomes apparent. The repercussions assume dimensions far greater and more important than any perceived friction between both blinkered sets of migratory generations, suggesting that lived experience and geography is more determinative of identity than we care to admit. foundation of Australia as a nation has written a history with Greeks, not only in the success of the post-WW1 and WW2 results with huge sacrifice, but also the post-Cyprus war migration to Australia, embracing 100 years of putting their lives on the line fighting side by side (not in opposite sides), shedding common blood on common ground in different conflicts and fronts across the globe. Very recently, I returned to the nation of my birth, Australia, for the first in 27 years. The nation had changed remarkably and I was absolutely delighted to see these changes. I saw friends, relatives, school friends, and friends from university. What's more, I visited my old stomping ground in Sydney: UNSW, the University of Sydney, the State Library of NSW, the eastern and northern suburbs as well as the beaches and the place of my birth Rozelle in Balmain. Invariably, the discussion always turned to the situation in Greece, often with fingers firmly pointed at people like myself suggesting that we, the citizens, are responsible 'due to our laziness for the situation' in how things are handled in Greece, if not totally then at least partly. To some extent, I would have to agree that we partly are, but when I ask them to explain why the remainder of 'properly managed and transparent western Europe, the United States and even now Australia is heading for a deep financial recession or are knee deep in it? The answer I usually get, particularly by those whose total extent of the news is derived from the two-minute finance report, is generally incompetent politicians and the global climate ... However, this open letter is written today not to discuss the deeper roots of the financial crisis, the one we are living with and the one that is surely now also coming your way, no; it is to discuss the absolute lack of knowledge that Australian youth, academics, politicians and the media have of the shared history of the Greeks and Anzacs. I was amazed when talking to educators, history teachers, who originally expressed their disfavour of war - everyone as I would image, but I stressed in my discussion the fact that there are 35 different Anzac memorials in Greece, not one or two. Their responses were that they looked at me with blank stares, sure they had heard of the Battle of Crete, at least that was something, I guess. Will the diverse ethnicity of the Anzacs including the monumental contribution of the Indigenous Anzacs be ignored or forgotten as Australian society develops and grows into a society of different values? Should, the 100-year Australian and New Zealand heritage of these two new nations written alongside their allied Greeks, be forgotten? At least it shall not in Greece, for there are attempts in honouring these Anzac memorial sites by us here. It is true when they say that history is written by the 'victorious', but why are the Anzacs and the Greeks who bore the brunt of both World Wars securing the power struggle of the geopolitical situation due to its sensitive location embracing three continents in Greece, ignored? Furthermore, I continued to ask them if they knew of the 32,000 Greek civilians who were massacred to make way for the POW camps built to house the captured Australian and New Zealand soldiers after their failed Gallipoli Campaign, at Gallipoli. The homes and people that had lived there for thousands of years, at least from the time that Byzantine Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks? Still, blank stares, one - a history teacher - suggested it was a Greekinspired 'fairytale' until I showed her the Sydney Morning Herald clipping of the day easily found and downloaded from the internet together with a great number of other artifacts, almost forgotten that exist as sources. Did they know that Anzacs had based themselves in Greece, before and after the Gallipoli assault? Did they know of the nurses of Lemnos? When I asked if they knew Kalamata, they smiled and knew about its olives and excellent olive oil and even the fine tasting garden vegetables cooked with meat; lesser known was the fact that the Battle of Kalamata on 28 April 1941, in which an Anzac (New Zealander) won a VC for his actions in assaulting, destroying, and capturing 70 German troops. Australian forces as part of the Commonwealth Forces were also involved in the Battle of the Dodecanese, which later inspired the Hollywood movie The Guns of Navarone. The fact is, Alistair MacLean's 1957 novel of the same name was inspired by the Battle of Leros during the Dodecanese Campaign in WW2. Anzacs not only fought at Thermopylae but as that small band of Spartans had done thousands of years earlier, held the 'back gate' and beat off the German assault in the invasion of Greece while the Allies were on the retreat. They were the 19th Australian and 6th New Zealand Brigades that protected the backs of soldiers from 23 to 25 April 1941. For three days they bought time for the allied forces to be evacuated and to gather on Crete. Vibrantly, a school friend of mine referred to information derived from the film Water Diviner, Russell Crowe's piece of historical diatribe which seemed to portray the Turks as honourable and the Greeks as thugs, and the Anzacs as confused; I had to explain that if that is the extent of history education in Australia and New Zealand from primary school, through to secondary school that leads to university then you surely will repeat the mistakes of the past. I asked if they had seen The Prom- ise with Christian Bale - some had and some had not - but I had seen it in Leichhardt when a friend took me to the cinema. It was a sad description of events during the Armenian Genocide apparently. It was very similar to the research work I was doing on the Anzacs that spun off to the Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian genocides way before Hitler's genocide of many races. I suggested that The Promise was a far more accurate depiction of the people you call our Turkish allies, having in mind they have more intellectuals, academics, and journalists imprisoned than any other country in the world including China, and that was before the 15 July 2016 military coup attempt. Furthermore, successive Turkish regimes have killed thousands of Kurds under the watchful eye of our governments, media, and academics. “Hang on” one said, “These Kurds are our allies - we are helping them!” Today, yes, you -we - are. When the war started and the now-agreed allies were funding the Islamists to overthrow Assad, and in the process were massacring thousands of Shia, Muslims, Christians, and Kurds, and that is before they reached Yazidis, had you ever heard of them as leading their intentions as being 'honourable'? At this point in our conversations, I suggested looking up this information on their phones using free cafe wifi to see, if these allies were allies before our Freak Frankenstein Creation of ISIS and others, over three generations of creating conflicts, destroying family units and ripping nations apart to attain national resources 'writing off' a millennia of history, got out of control or were they our allies only after? The region does not have a history that is 600 years old as we are told. To their surprise, in Australia and I would imagine in New Zealand, they are still considered terrorists. One of my academic friends exclaimed: "Ohhh! Those poor Yazidis and what they have done to them.” I realised then it is as if nothing had registered: the beach was lovely with glorious views and the taste of wine soothing on this beautiful July day, I did not want the conversation to be too serious for this company of what in Australia may be considered an 'in touch' group of lovely people, but, from my side of the world, they were completely out of touch. I sipped on my beer and remembered the taste as I looked into my glass. In fact I do not blame them for the only turbulence experienced in Australia being the waves on Bondi, Long Reef and even DeeWhy Beaches, nothing like the experience of the still water-seas we have in Greece coupled with undercurrent turbulence of everything in an economic war of austerity as well as waves of problems around us landing on our doorstep. Perhaps recession, a refugee disaster numbering 10 per centof the nation's total population, a Europe in the doorstep of collapse, a Middle East in flames, a Balkans tinderbox ready to ignite again and a neighbour, Turkey, Australia's ally, threatening war again against both Greece and Cyprus, gives me a different view and/or an understanding of reality. The situation is ugly. War is ugly. Tranquility is very distant in my memory. Are we next? I wonder if we would see Australian and New Zealand troops standing side by side with Greeks once again in Greece as they did in the past. The question is if this were to happen what would they say if they saw or stumbled across one of the 35 memorial monuments? What would they say if they read the inscriptions, and recalling that there are suburbs and locations in Sydney called Tempe, Lemnos in Western Australia and Victoria? What would they say if they read the inscriptions and realised that both their fathers and grandfathers may have fought here side by side, same blood in the same mud with Greeks and no-one ever told them? History might not repeat itself but it does continue on the same course. Thank you for allowing me to take up a bit of your time with this open letter. Yours sincerely, Debbie DE Papadakis ESL teacher, researcher into military history as a historian, and freelance Australian journalist in Athens, Greece. SOURCES: The Ethnic Cleansing of Greeks from Gallipoli in 1915, John Williams, Quadrant magazine, April 2013.
26 August 2017
09 September 2017