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Oral History

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submitted by Alexandra Ermolaeff on 14.01.2004

Queen of the Octopus

Sophie Poulos (Tzortzopoulos) was born in Gladstone, QLD, Australia to a Kytherian father and an Australian mother.

In 1978 her father Nikolas Tzortzopoulos took his family to live on Kythera. They lived in the scholi (the former agricultural school) in Karavas. Sophie was 14 years old at the time. This is what she remembers about the early days of living on the island.

(This story is transcribed from an audio interview with Alex Ermolaeff recorded in 2000)

Queen of the Octopus - sophieboat

Actually, if you think about it, its like going through time my life. Going to Greece was like going back in time - especially on an island. It was so primitive in a way, but it was beautiful. Everything was natural. Scary ‘cos you didn’t speak the language. Culture was different. I mean you didn’t have a phone in your house. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to go up to the local shop. If you wanted to check if your mail came you had to go up these hills.

We didn’t have a washing machine (this was when we first went), and they had the old type of basins made out of stone. We would rub them - our clothes, we would take our clothes and rub them and clean them there because we didn’t have anywhere else to clean our clothes. So, we actually went back in time to do things that people were doing two hundred years ago maybe.

Queen of the Octopus - washingbasins
The plystra (washing basins) in Amir Ali, Karavas where Sophie and her family did their washing when they first went to live on Kythera.

It was really hard… it took me two years to learn the language! And I had nobody else my age to associate with. I only had old people around that I couldn’t even communicate with. They would say hello. They were very polite and loving people, but they weren’t my age. So I didn’t have much to do, apart from when I was helping Dad, you know, (doing) heavy labour. I worked like a man. I’ve built houses on Kythera, I’ve dug walls, I’ve dug ditches,...... I’ve dug graves.

So, even though I loved doing those things - I loved getting out and doing that type of work, I was becoming really depressed because I wasn’t getting any more knowledge from outside and I was getting lonely. I was starving for knowledge. And I use to say to my mum – when she’d say “What’s wrong with you Sophie?” - I would say “I don’t know? But I feel really depressed and sad”

I use to love the rainy days in winter. I would get all warmed up and take my raincoat and go and explore - because everyone would be inside their houses. And I could go and explore those old places without anybody saying “What are you doing here?!” Me and Lucky (her younger brother) went once and we found this letter and Lucky read it. It said “My Dear Parents….” - it was from Australia and the son was saying how hard he was working to send them money. It was really emotional that these parents were so much in poverty that they had to send their children away. Trying to make a better life for them.

When summer would come the island would fill up with all these new interesting people and you would see fashion. Which was “Wow! I want a pair of those!” or “I want to do my hair like that!”. So I was getting something from outside. You would go swimming. Meet new friends, people from all over the world.

Summertime was my best time. I loved the sea - The Mediterranean Sea. I would go from say nine o’clock in the morning to say two o’clock in the afternoon just diving catching fish and octopus. And I use to walk out of with all these things from the sea and people would be amazed. It was great! We’d sit there and make a fire and we’d cook the stuff that I had caught and have a feast.

They used they still do actually, still when I go back they call me the ‘Queen of the Octopus’. That is how I am known on Kythera.

Sophie Poulos lives in Sydney, Australia with her two sons Emmanuel and Nikolas.

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1 Comment

submitted by
Nicholas Megalokonomos
on 01.01.2010

This is my great mother that cares for me and loves me. :)