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Peter Vanges

Mrs Mary Panaretos, Mrs Agapi Lianos nee Kominos [Comino], and Miss Stavroula Lianos [the daughter of George and Agapi Lianos].


[Picture: 10th December 1902.]

The logical sequence to my research on the “First Kytherian" [man] to arrive in Australia, is the endeavour, to furnish the answer to the question of who was the first “woman” to undertake the long journey down under.

Anyone involved in research of this nature knows that the task is time consuming and not always rewarding, as names are in many instances illegible, often misspelt and most disappointingly, in the early days, only an entry of the number of passengers was considered sufficient. The gender and the Christian names are also at times not recorded. [1] As we know, the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia was Emmanuel Kritharis, [6] who never married and as records indicate, for many years only men undertook the long journey to this far away continent. My research began with the idea that the first woman to leave Kythera had to be, either a wife or a sister of a Kytherian who had managed to become financially secure and comfortable in the thought that, he was going to stay for long time in this country.

We know that the early pioneers came mainly from the Ionian or some other Aegean islands, with the Kytherians spearheading the early chain migration that commence in the 1890s. [5] If statements made are to be believed, only a very small number of women from Greece was recorded in the Victorian census of 1871, but their names remain unknown. [4] As it has been proven, the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia, was Emmanuel George Kritharis in 1854 and was followed by Miltiades Vizanis in 1860 [if he was Kytherian as claimed] and Athanasios Kominos in 1873. Ioannis Kominos came in 1884 and his brothers Dimitrios in 1888, Nikolaos in 1891, Kosmas in 1892 as well as their brother-in-law Georgios Lianos in 1898. [1]

Other early Kytherians are, Panagiotis Fatseas 1889, Emmanuel Strategos 1890, Victor Panaretos with Menas Kominos in 1892, Ioannis and Spyridon Panaretos and Efstathios Arones in 1895. [2] A number of other Kytherians arrived in Australia in the 1890's, with only some of them selecting to be naturalised as did Dimitrios Kominos in 1898. [3] Dimitrios decided to undertake a short visit to Kythera and his brother-in-law, Georgios Lianos, took the opportunity in asking Dimitrios to accompany Georgios’ wife Agapi and their daughter Stavroula to Australia. By this time Georgios Lianos had managed to repay all his debts as well as to keep sending money to his parents and most importantly to his wife Agapi and daughter Stavroula, whom he left back on the island some years previously. [3]

Dimitrios’ trip to Kythera only lasted a few months. [9] The visit to his beloved village of Perlegianika brought back old memories of good times and bad, happy stories and sad, like the one about the Byzantine city of Agios Dimitrios known as Paliohora, which was not far from his village and was ransacked by Barbarossa with thousands of its inhabitants slaughtered. He also relived happy moments of the good old simple way of life that had taught him so much.

When the time came for Dimitrios to return to Australia, as he had promised his brother-in-law, he brought back with him Georgios’ wife Agapi and daughter Stavroula, As no name of a Kytherian woman was found in any of the earlier records, this had to be the appropriate time. Details of Greek women arriving in Australia [7] are known, but the name of the first Kytherian woman to arrive in this country was never determined. It seemed to me that there was no better opportunity, or reason, for any Kytherian woman to leave her family and the island until now. Therefore, Agapi had to be the one. Everything fitted the puzzle perfectly. What was more understandable than for a woman to take the hard decision to leave everything behind and to endure such a long trip in order to be reunited with her husband, especially as she would have been escorted on the long journey ahead, by her brother?

Having cross-referenced all the available information [see also, Hugh Gilchrist,­ Australians and Greeks - Vol II, pages 195-199], I was convinced that Agapi had to be the one. The research continued, looking specifically for Agapi and Stavroula Lianos as the most probable candidates to be the first Kytherian women to arrive in Australia. Unfortunately no entry under “Lianos” was found. Gilchrist, however, was clear that Agapi and Stavroula left the island for Australia with Dimitrios who was back in Sydney in 1902. Convinced that I had missed Dimitrios’ name I returned to the year 1902. Dimitrios was an Australian citizen and his name, I was convinced, had to be registered. The lists of every ship arriving were carefully re-read. Special attention was given to the arrivals of November 1902 as that was the month that Dimitrios was supposed to have returned to Sydney. He was definitely not amongst the arrivals of that month.

Having already spent many hours searching for Agapi or Dimitrios I was not about to give up. The possibility of a mistake was always there, so, I continued with the research. Suddenly out of the blue the name “Barbarossa” was staring at me. There I was looking at details of a ship by the name “Barbarossa” that left the German port of Bremen and had sailed into Sydney on 10th of December 1902. [1] The calligraphy [see below] at the top of the page, as well as the legible writing of the names on the list, made it easy for me to continue, smiling at the irony of the possibility that Dimitrios, Agapi and Stavroula could have travelled all the way to Australia aboard a ship that bore the name, “Barbarossa”.

[Picture: in the ship Barbarossa of Bremen
Port of Bremen to Sydney]

Half way down the second page, I noticed next to the names of five passengers, [see next page] the notation “Tourists”.’ Tourists? Tourists to Australia in 1902? Not only that, but, all five names looked and sounded to me, at first, as Italian. Underneath the first two entries of Mr and Mrs Panaretto, a name that read like Sometri Caminos [read Dimitri Kominos] appeared. To my pleasant surprise, the very next name was that of Agapi Cominos. Was this the Agapi that I was searching for? After a second look I was convinced that I had found her at last. Under the name Sometri Caminos, the name Agapi was easily recognised . Now, another problem emerged. I was searching for one only, as the first Kytherian woman and there I was, looking at the names of not one, but three women who arrived together in Sydney on 10th of December 1902, aboard a ship named “Barbarossa” and their names were, in the order and as they were written:

M Panaretto
Mrs " "
Demetri Comminos .......Tourists
Agapi " "
P " " ]

As if all previously encountered difficulties were not enough, it was necessary to determine, which Panaretos had returned to Australia and the name of his wife. All indications pointed to Victor and Mary [Marouli nee Arones] Panaretos. For me and as far as the written researched records will permitt me to be sure, I can now claim that Mrs Mary Panaretos, Mrs Agapi Lianos nee Kominos [Comino] and Miss Stavroula Lianos [the daughter of George and Agapi Lianos] were the first three Kytherian women to arrive in Australia, together, in 1902. As to which of these three women set foot first on Sydney soil, I am afraid we will never know.

Sources and bibliography:

1] State and Commonwealth Government Records 1895-1902

2] “I Zoe en Afstralia” Sydney 1916.

3] “Australians and the Greeks” Hugh Gilchrist,Vol II. 1997.

4] “The Australian People” James Jupp 2001.

5] “Kythera. A history” P Vanges 1993.

6] “The First Kytherian Question” P. Vanges. Kythera-Fainily.net.

7] Sydney Press of 1 890s.

8] “Greek-Australians” L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis 1989.

9] Peter Tsicalas. Kythera-Family.net.

Peter Vanges
Sydney 2006.

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