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James Prineas

January/February 2007

A NEW COMPETITION: "Those who never Returned"

Dear Friends of Kythera,
my friend and veteran Kythera-Family.net contributor Spyro Calocerinos has come up with a great idea. He pointed out that there are lots of life stories on the site about those who had made the big time, but neglected were many of their parents who made their daughter's and son's success possible by working hard and often sacrificing their own desires in favour of their children's education and happiness. My grandfather Dimitri for one worked from six in the morning till eleven at night in the cafe in Holbrook, and never had a holiday or even saw a movie despite the fact that the "picture theatre" was across the road. My grandmother Eleni was of course at least as industrious as well. At the same time they sent their children to private schools and made sure they were never wanting. On the day that Papou Dimitri finally sold his cafe, after 40 years of ceaseless work, he suffered a heart attack and never made it to the new home he had purchased for his family in Sydney, never mind returning to the island he had left in 1911.

Perhaps you have a story about a relative who never made it back? If so, put in in our People/Life Stories section (or just sent it to me if you don't think you can handle the uploading, easy as it is...). In the next newsletter I'll announce the prizes we have on offer and in April I'll announce the winners.

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I was baking a spinach pie last Friday - don’t forget I live in sub-zero Berlin and putting on the oven isn’t something to be avoided like it is in Australia in the summer - and I had to ask myself if I’d have been so interested in Greek cooking if my yiayia hadn’t made a pie for us a few times every month. It’s been a quarter of a century since she died, and I was a teenager when I last tasted her pie, so I can only go on memories, which are notoriously unreliable. At least mine are.

Mum recently reminded me that yiayia used silver beet instead of spinach and she would cook the chopped-up stems with the onions in lots of oil. She didn't like waste. I’m not sure if I liked the stem part of it. Still, silver beet stems or not, I’d give an arm and a leg if she were here now - at the age of 83 when she died, not the 106 years she’d be now - so she could try my spinach pie and listen to my rotten Greek, which I hadn’t learnt by the time she died.

What would we talk about? The pie of course for a start. She might be scandalised that I have modified her recipe with savoy spinach and pine nuts. We would almost certainly talk about Kythera. I have been going there now for longer than she lived there in the first quarter of the 20th century. We could swap impressions. Perhaps I even like it there more than she did. When she went back to Kythera for a visit after 50 years in Australia, the reality didn’t live up to the memory – she returned home 3 months earlier than planned.

Using Kythera-Family.net is a little like picking the brains of elderly or deceased relatives. “How was the journey to Australia back then?” “What was the racism like?” “Did you serve Greek food in your cafe?” “Why did so many Kytherian families move to the big city when their daughters finished school?” “What were the spices you used in your keftethes?” Most of you probably know the answers to all those questions, but do your children or grandchildren? Or will their children in 20 years? Are you going to write down the answers to all their possible questions about your life, copy it a dozen times and put it in envelopes addressed “To my great-grandchildren, whatever your names are”?

Perhaps you’ve already done it. If not, I have a better idea. Put your “answers” on Kythera-Family.net. The chances are much higher that your great-grandchild, nieces and nephews and 3rd cousins twice removed will find your words there than in a 20-year-old envelope at the bottom of a cardboard box which wasn’t unpacked the last time someone moved.

Don’t have any questions to “answer”?
How about these ones for a start:
1. How Kytherian do you feel?
2. Do you visit Kythera? Describe your first visit.
3. Did you enjoy being (part-) Greek/Kytherian as a child?
4. Were you part of the Kytherian community?
5. What did your parents tell you about their lives?
6. List all of the living and dead Kytherian relatives you know of and give a short description of their relationship to you and your memories of them.
That should keep you busy for a few minutes...

(By the way, when my spanakopita cools it looses an inch in height. Do any of you know what I can add which will stop the shrink?)

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......the coldest, dampest, most solitary period of the Kytherian winter, when many older islanders feel like the world has deserted them. In some villages only one or two houses are inhabited, their occupants huddled close to the fire. Influenza and rheumatism is the norm rather than the exception. Many dread having to go out of the house into the permanent cloud with covers most of the island.

For those of you in Australia with heat-waves and droughts to contend with, you might think a bit of cold rain would be a pleasant change. It’s easy to forget the isolation many of our relatives there are experiencing. Send them a bit of sunshine by calling them occasionally. They’ve literally kept Kythera alive so we can visit a “populated” island in the summer months, and it’s the least we can do.

If you don’t know, or can’t find their number, try looking on the internet at http://www.whitepages.gr and clicking on the “English” button. The trick with that site is that you have to choose “Other town” and then “Attiki” under “Prefecture”. Then under “Town/Area” you can select “Kithira”. That’s because Kythera is part of the prefecture of Pireaus, which is of course part of Attica. You might have to try different variations of spellings if you don’t get the results you want (Calokaironos, Kalokerinos etc.) And also try leaving out the first name initial as it sometimes interferes with the system. If your Greek is rusty, IT DOESN'T MATTER.

If you’re reading this in the evening, it is daytime in Greece. Just call. Most people don’t take naps in the winter, so don’t use that as an excuse. Just call. You’ll be able to hear the smile when they hear your voice. Just call.

James Prineas, [email protected]

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Visit the BRAND NEW Kytherian Association of Australia website!
Keep up-to-date with all the latest news and information about our upcoming events. Check it out now and let us know what you think! Click onto www.kytherianassociation.com.au for more.

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