Upload Your Entry
James Prineas

November 2006

A Greek-American Discovers Roots in Australia

Url to document: http://www.kythera-family.net/index.php?nav=6-21&cid=9&act=9&did=11823

Reprinted from the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church Epistle, Nov. 2006

By Terry Keramaris
Many of us with ties to Greece may be able to name the village from which our pappou or yiayia emigrated. Some of us have gone a step further, delving into our immigrant genealogy or even tracing the family tree back a few generations.

My father’s family comes from the island of Kythera, a small island located between the western tip of Crete and the Peloponnese. About a year ago through a website called www.kythera-family.net, I became acquainted with a second cousin, Vikki Fraioli, who lives in Modesto. We discovered a shared interest in our family history, and collaborated to expand a family tree prepared in 1935. Through hours of research we not only enlarged our family tree, but uncovered relatives in France, South Africa, and especially Australia. Vikki constructed a website to share information with the Kytherian and online communities.

Vikki and I visited Kythera this past August, and participated in a “Discover your Roots 2006” seminar. We talked about our research, showed the detailed genealogy of three Kytherian families, and even met with the curator of the Kytherian archives, which hold records back to medieval times. We found our own ancestor records dating back to the mid-eighteenth century. We shared our findings online and with our new-found relatives.

Upon our return to California, we were pleasantly surprised to find invitations to participate in the 2nd International World Congress of Kytherians, an international symposium to be held in Canberra, Australia from September 15-17. We decided to go for it, and flew to Sydney on September 8. Our presentation would be entitled “Kytherians of California: Making Connections with our Past, Present, and Future.”

Mr. George Poulos, of Kythera-family.net, graciously hosted us in his lovely home in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. We also got the chance to meet our distant Aussie cousins in person, and we instantly felt like family.

We spent four days in Sydney, and became acquainted with the amazing Kytherian-Australian community. While only about 3,500 people inhabit Kythera today, the descendants of the island’s Australian immigrants number over 10,000. Most of these Kytherian-Australians live in the Sydney area. Dr. Victor Kepreotis, president of the Kytherian Brotherhood of Australia, welcomed us and introduced us to the Kytherian community.

We attended a meeting of the Kytherian Ladies’ Auxiliary, and heard about the annual Debutante Ball, a black-tie event which about 750 people attend. The Kytherian Ladies also put on the Melbourne Cup Fashion Luncheon, held on Australia’s most famous horse race day.

The Sydney Kytherians are strong supporters of their Hellenic heritage. One of the most popular programs is Friday Night Greek Dancing Classes, with about 250 young people, from infants through grade 12, participating each week. These classes are completely free and are financed by the Nicholas Aroney Trust, established to promote ongoing Kytherian Cultural Activities.

Additional organizations include the Kytherian Young Mothers Group, the Kytherian 4WD and Recreation Club, and the Kytherian Soccer Club (whose members were still celebrating the first-place win in their division). Clearly the Kytherians of Sydney are a cohesive and strong group.

John Howard, Australia’s Prime Minister, opened the Symposium, held at the magnificent 3-story Hellenic Club of Canberra. After his speech, we had a chance to mingle with him during tea break. The conference explored several thematic units of Kytheraismos - defined as the Kytherian sense of identity. Over the three days, topics ranged from scholarly presentations on Kytherian literature and gender roles, to the historical role played by Kytherian immigrants to Australia and the current challenges faced by today’s Kytherian-Australian youth. Vikki’s and my presentation was well-received, and we became known as “the American Girls.”

Other highlights included a Friday reception hosted by the Ambassador of Greece at the stately Greek Embassy, and a dinner-dance Saturday night at the Hellenic Club. Being at a glendi in Australia is no different than attending an event in the USA: we eat, we dance, and we dance some more.

We may live different countries, but our Hellenic heritage unifies us and makes us realize how lucky we are to share a common legacy and tradition.

Leave A comment