submitted by Hugh Gilchrist on 08.01.2005
Hugh Gilchrist's Australians and Greeks. Volume II. The Middle Years
Guides for the Greeks
Between 1915 and 1939 three Greek books were published in Australia. All had a similar purpose: to guide Australia’s Greeks and promote their welfare. What they also did was to raise comparisons between aspects of the Greek and the Australian way of life, as then lived. The third of these was.....
The International Directory
Australia’s third book in modern Greek was a curious hybrid, more heterogeneous in its contents than its two predecessors. It was the International Directory — O Diethnis Emporikos Odigos — a hard-cover publication of 600 pages compiled by Andreas Papadopoulos and published in 1927 by International Publishers, of Adelaide, a firm which had only a brief existence.
If Papadopoulos was not its inspirer he was at least the person assigned to compile it. Its compilation was largely organised and financed by Georgios Nikolaidis, the founder of Adelaide’s short-lived Greek newspaper Okeanis, and by G. Hetrelezis.
The Directory, Papadopoulos declared, was intended not only as a commercial aid but also as a moral service. He had had difficulty in completing it on time, and in obtaining the co-operation of more than a few of his compatriots. This he attributed not to ill-will or indifference but to divisions in Adelaide’s Greek community, which he deeply deplored as unworthy of the Greek name. Trusting that his book would help to revive “the traditional noble sentiments of the Greeks”, he hoped that this “First Edition” might be the precursor of a work of higher standard. But there was no successor.
Although the Directory included some well-written articles on Greek religious and cultural topics, more than half of it was in English, and much of it was a rag-bag of reprint snippets of miscellaneous information on “Art, Animal Life, Biographies, Commerce, Cookery, Countries, Fashion, I-listory, Ideas, Lectures, Literature, Mythology, People, Poetry, Religion, Statistics, etc”.
There were articles on the history of Greek art (in English) and on Australie, L’Isle Merveilleuse (in French) and on life in a score of other countries. A section (in English) on ancient Greece, and another (in Greek) on Australian history were followed by biographical notes on several leading Greeks’ in Australia, illustrated with photographs. Anonymous verses on Aegean islands, an essay on Greek art and an account of the Australian pastoral industry provided a later section, followed by an article (in English) by Archbishop Knitis on the Greek Church in Australia. A glossary of business terms, a miscellany of statistical information and a list of commercial firms in Australia and Greece ended the compilation.
Andreas Georgios Papadopoulos, from the village of Kioni in Ithaca, was the third son of the local priest, lie had received a good education at the Commercial College in Athens, spoke English well and had a working knowledge of French and Italian. lie was 20 when he accompanied an uncle to Australia in 1908. In Boulder, near Kalgoorlie, he worked as a kitchen hand and later as a gold-miners hoping eventually to enter some profession, but without success.
In 1916 he returned to Greece but five years later emigrated again to Australia, possibly to avoid call-up for service in a looming war with Turkey. After working in shops and a variety of occupations, trying in vain to break into journalism, he moved in 1930 to Melbourne, conducted a fruit shop in the suburb of Hawthorn, and married Angeliki Papadopoulou (possibly a distant relative), who had emigrated with her brother from Ithaca, and was a niece and god-daughter of the Melbourne restaurateur Antony Lucas.
Although on amicable terms with Lucas, Papadopoulos fell into disfavour with him by siding with Archbishop Knitis and Consul-General Chrysanthopoulos in the Greek Church dispute in the 1 920s. A freethinker, influenced by a Kefalonian religious critic, Andreas Laskaratos, he nevertheless treated the Greek Church with respect.
Today the Directory’s chief interest lies in Papadopoulos’s long essay (in Greek) on “Women’s Freedom in Australia", a phenomenon which, he wrote, “causes astonishment, shaking the very foundations of the soul and evoking the wonder of the Greeks”.
What shook him was the spectacle of “young ladies of the best families, in their teens, who quite unexpectedly solicit young men”, and of “women of every social class, whether beautiful or ugly, indiscriminately escorted by gentlemen in pairs, crossing streets, squares and parks, in high spirits, in the hours up to midnight”, and “couples standing on porches and terraces, with endless chatter and laughter and prolonged embraces, under the indulgent gaze of their parents, who welcome their daughters in the company of young men quite unknown to them".
Equally disturbing were “young ladies who have taken the keys of their homes in order to let themselves in whenever they wish, or to spend the night under the dense foliage of park trees”. “What is considered by us obscene” he went on, “is encountered in public gardens, where disciples of Venus are not disturbed by the sudden appearance of a stranger or by the indiscreet glance of a policeman".
Australian women, Papadopoulos declared, on the one hand consumed, spent and squandered, but on the other hand produced and contributed to the family budget by participating in work and social life; they could travel alone on trains, stay in hotels, walk alone in parks, and attend public entertainments unaccompanied, without being molested, unless they invited it. “Scarcely past puberty, a girl casts off all maternal guardianship, speaks her own mind and minds her own business.” Parents did not try to conceal “life’s panorama” from their daughters, but encouraged them to observe passing dangers and social evils and thus gain self-confidence. “One is aghast, yet ecstatic, at the unique skill and daring whereby an Australian woman chooses her thoughts and words, picking her way dexterously through the dangerous reefs of small talk.”
This early development of judgement, he thought, made women wiser but colder, and less tender and lovable companions of men. “From infancy they are accustomed to games which seem remarkable to a Greek. This easy approach of both sexes, these liberal morals, do not provoke dramatic scenes in everyday life, because the erotic flame is quenched before it grows into mania, desperation or suicide. Love appears as a tranquil and natural passion, not as a brutal tyrant. Hard as it is for us to understand the unfettered freedom of the Australian woman, to her it is incomprehensible that one could commit murder or suicide for love, because to her love means gaiety and laughter, not a pathological disease or a suicidal passion."
Loving a woman in Australia, he continued, meant talking, dancing and generally having fun with her, whether she be married or a virgin. Australian society was permissive of everything, and a woman’s standing was not judged by her love life. Australian women did not look for sentiment everywhere, or ruminate like European women, who meticulously analysed everything in the light of a world of ideals. More practical than European women, they were better armed for the perilous voyage of life, satisfying their vanity and ambition by going about in the company of a male non-relative, or even of many men; and nowhere else could one see diamond-laden and befurred ladies escorted by shabbily dressed men. “These queer systems”, he conceded, “make life in Australia an eternal joy and a never-ending feast”.
But this freedom, he contended, made full confidence between husband and wife impossible, since it did not demand a husband’s sacrifice for his wife, nor her unconditional obedience to him. “Australian society cannot condemn a woman for being at a dance hall or some public spectacle while her husband is at his pub or club.”
The excessive sentimentality of “Platonic” love affairs like Paul et Virginie or Romeo and Juliet, Papadopoulos wrote, inspired Australians to hilarious laughter, because Eros acted only feebly on a society in which Epicurus, not Plato, reigned, and in which the word jealousy was unknown, and where he-women strove for sovereignty in what was male terrain.
But the Australian woman, he added, experienced and shrewd, did not offer her charms for sale, and misbehaved only when she wished to satisfy her desires; educated in practical and polytechnic schools, she became a secretary, accountant, nurse, scientist, housekeeper, etc, or helped her farmer husband in the fields; her emancipation was seen by Australians as a blessing, dissipating the miasmic sentiments and pseudo-romanticism of decadent societies. Hence, he concluded, Australians enjoyed life without the pressure of social timidity existing elsewhere; violent passions, whether erotic or other, could not be aroused in such a practical people; their only fanaticism was to eat, drink and be merry.
A man of intellectual spirit, Andreas Papadopoulos never fully achieved his ambitions or his potential. Although influential in Melbourne’s Ithacan philanthropic society Odyssefs, of which he was president for six years, he remained on the fringe of the wider Greek community, possibly because his views clashed with those of Antonios Lekatsas. A contributor of articles and poems, notably to the newspaper Phos, and a frequent speaker at Greek functions, he was beginning to achieve a modest commercial success when he died in 1943 at the age of 56.
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