submitted by George Poulos on 06.07.2007
Eulogy for yia yia.
Georgia Ulgiati, great grandaughter.
This beautiful eulogy was written and spoken by Georgia (my daughter), at Nanna's funeral last Friday. It was adapted from a school assignment she did in term 1 as part of the Religion syllabus at St John's College. She thought it would make a perfect tribute for our wonderful Mother, Mother in Law, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother & Aunt.
She spoke beautifully and straight from the heart. We were all very moved and so proud of the courage Georgia showed to stand up & speak in front of so many people. We believe Nanna would also have been very proud.
- Kristi Ulgiati.
We gather here today to give thanks to God for the long life that he granted my Great Grandmother. We enjoyed every moment that we spent together and are all better people for having known her.
I would like to share with you some details from of her remarkable, long life.
Born Chrisanthe Georgopoulous on the 17th of January 1910 in her home in a tiny sea side village called Agia Pelagia on the island of Kythera, Greece. Chrisanthe was the youngest of six children having two brothers, Manuel & Peter and three sisters Vretoula, Metaxia and Stamatia.
Their Mother’s name was Eleni, and their father’s name was Theodore. Chrisanthe never really knew her father as he died suddenly when she was three months old, which left her mother to raise the six children on her own. They were a poor family who relied on a small herd of goats, a few chickens a vegetable garden, some olive and fruit trees to provide food for the family and generate some income. Their family home was a small cottage which consisted of two bedrooms a small kitchen and living area combined, there was no electricity, sewerage or running water. The children would collect water from the well and fire wood from around the village each day. They had to bathe in the ocean as they had no modern conveniences such as we enjoy today. Despite the hardships they were a very close family and Chrisanthe was the favorite as she was the baby. Her older brothers and sisters left Greece when they were old enough to find work. Chrisanthe stayed at home and cared for her mother right up until she left her homeland for Australia.
As a child Chrisanthe had very little schooling. When she did attend school a couple of days a week, it was a five mile walk each way up a steep mountain side to reach the school house. She made this walk barefoot as she didn’t have a pair of shoes to wear until she was nine years of age. Despite her lack of formal education she was one of the wisest people I have ever known & the lessons she taught could not be found in a book or classroom.
Chrisanthe came to Australia in 1936 where she married my great grandfather Paul Yannakellis. They were married in the Greek Orthodox Church in Bourke Street, Sydney and later made their home in the Central West town of Gilgandra. Here they ran a restaurant business working 14 hour days seven days a week. Chrisanthe could speak no English when she arrived in Australia but soon made friends with her customers who helped her along. They changed their surname to “Kelly” so it would be easier for their non-Greek friends and customers to pronounce. Chrisanthe came to be known as Chrissy or Nanna Kelly to the many friends she made over her life time.
Chrisanthe had four children. Stella (my grandmother), Eleni (who died as an infant), George and Theo ( my Great uncles). They lived in the family home in the main street of Gilgandra and all worked in the family business along with various relatives who came and went over the years.
There were very few other Greek families in Gilgandra until the 1940’s and 50’s where country towns became popular for immigrant families. The nearest Greek Orthodox Church was located in Dubbo so the family would travel as much as they could to come to religious celebrations. At such gatherings they would enjoy the company of other Greek families from neighbouring towns.
Chrisanthe’s husband passed away suddenly when he was in his early 60’s leaving her and the three adult children to look after each other and keep the business going. She did this until two of her children took over the business in the 1970’s, converting it from a restaurant to a supermarket. My great grandmother continued to work until she was in her mid 80’s.
Chrisanthe’s health started to fail and she was lonely without any family living nearby so she moved into a retirement village in Gilgandra. Eventually she decided to also move to Dubbo to be nearer to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We give thanks for the life of our Yaya who was a special lady. She was a gentle, happy person and even when someone made her upset she never let it show. She didn’t like any conflict in her family. Her family was her whole life.
When we used to visit Yaya at her home in Gilgandra, I remember there were always wonderful things to eat. My favorite was the Greek short bread biscuits she made. They are called kourabiethes. The whole family would come together for Sunday lunch we would talk and eat. She would cook all the traditional Greek food we love. When my Uncle Theo came home from Sydney & Uncle George brought his family from England it was cause for extra celebration and she would spend many days cooking all their favourite dishes no matter if the temperature in her kitchen was over 40 degrees. Anyone who was ever a guest at Yaya’s table would know that she would never let you leave until the last morsel of food was gone. She loved to cook and her house always smelled delicious.
I really loved Yaya’s house. It had three bedrooms but she chose to sleep on the verandah. She liked the cool breeze through the louver windows. I loved her lounge room the most. She had a bar with lots of Greek drinks in colorful bottles but she rarely drank alcohol herself. Perhaps an occasional cold shandy with my Grandpa after a hard day working in the garden. Her favorite drink was a good hot cup of tea. She had an open fire and a piano which is now at my house and I’m learning to play. She had one cabinet which was filled with her special treasures, my favorite were her Greek dolls which I loved to play with. Her home was modest. She didn’t care very much for fancy things but it was a home filled with love and everyone who entered was made feel welcome. When the time came it was very sad for her to leave her home and many friends in Gilgandra.
She loved her garden and spent a great deal of time looking after her fruit trees and keeping her vegetable garden. There were lots of fruit trees, but my favorite was the mandarin tree where I could reach up and pick the fruit to eat.
From Yaya I have learn’t that life isn’t always easy and you have to work hard to have what you want in life. I also learn’t that being angry to people and getting upset over little things is not worth the worry so just be kind and forgiving. She tried to teach all of us that. My Yaya had a very strong belief in God and has kept her Greek Orthodox faith although she was very old and frail. She believed that she will be reunited with my Papoo in the world to come.
When we went to visit her in the nursing home, I had mixed feelings about it. Sometimes felt sad that she couldn’t be with us at home. Other days when she was happy I was happy. My sister and I would do dances and she clapped along, she smiled and had a good chat with us. She had days when she felt sick or too tired to talk but she always knew who we were and her eyes told us she was very happy to see us.
Even though her quality of life was not so great towards the end she was not one to complain & her good manners never waivered. All the nurses who helped care for her loved her & would tell us that she was always so grateful for the care they provided.
All of us who have shared a part of yaya’s life journey loved her and will never forget her. She will be waiting happily with her husband and other loved ones in heaven for us to meet again.
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