Saturday, December 22, 2012


Evangelismos church: The real story
The construction of the Evangelismos Church in Melbourne, commencing in 1900, our first lasting endeavour as an organised community is the keystone of our foundation myth as a Greek community in Victoria. Yet what is widely not known, or intentionally left out of such a myth is that this endeavour was not restricted to Greeks alone. While founding of the Evangelismos Church did place the Greek community on the broader social map of Melbourne, it did so at the expense of the ecumenical vision of the Orthodox Church, and the aspirations of the small Syrian and Russian communities that had cleaved to the vision of a permanent Orthodox church being built in Melbourne, for all Orthodox faithful to enjoy. The founding of the church then is a triumph of willpower and a tragedy of petty nationalism, racism and exclusionist micro-politics that have blighted our community ever since.

According to historian Hugh Gilchrist, in April 1894, at the request of a group of Syrians and Greeks in Melbourne, Russian consul Poutiatin, wrote to his counterpart in Jerusalem, asking that the Patriarch of Jerusalem send a priest to Melbourne. According to Poutiatin, the Orthodox (not just the Greek) of Melbourne, had told him that they undertook to pay £1 a head per year to maintain a priest and wanted: "a middle-aged priest who could conduct the liturgy in Arabic as well as Greek and a man well educated enough to "repel the intrigues of the Catholics." For the avoidance of any doubt, Gilchrist notes further that "their reason for addressing their pleas to Jerusalem than to Athens or Constantinople, was to attract an Arabic speaking priest."

Three months later, a committee of Greeks and Syrians signed a letter to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, reminding him of their request and guaranteeing a stipend of £100 for a priest for five years. This committee called itself the "Provisional Committee of the Melbourne Orthodox Community," and included such founding fathers of the later Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria as Grigorios Matorikos, Georgios Lekatsas and Konstantinos Raftopoulos, as well as the Syrians Salman Botros and Zakharia Golemi. The Patriarch was slow in replying and the Orthodox of Melbourne continued to use facilities provided to them generously by the Anglican church.

Hot off the heels of an unexpected visit to Australia in 1896 by Samian priest Dorotheos Bakaliaros, the Provisional Committee of the Melbourne Orthodox Community sent of its Syrian members, Souliman Keami to call upon the Jerusalem Patriarch. While he was in Jerusalem, Keami met Athanasios Kantopoulos, from Rhodes, who he believed would be eminently suitable.

On 7 March 1898, a meeting was held in Grigorios Matorikos' shop in Swanston Street, attended by Greeks, Syrians and Lebanese. The committee was instructed to write to the Patriarch, requesting a priest able to conduct the liturgy in Greek and Arabic. Kantopoulos, a polyglot who spoke Greek, Arabic and Russian, duly arrived in Melbourne on 10 June 1898.

The Evangelismos Church foundation stone was laid by Kantopoulos on 6 December 1900. A collection raised towards the cost of the building, contributed to primarily by the three Greek businessmen Matorikos, Lekatsas and Maniakis but also by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and the Syrian John Abicair. Some Lebanese parishioners donated icons and the first churchwarden was also Lebanese.

It was at this point that things went horribly wrong. According to Father Kantopoulos, the church committee, abrogated to itself the right to determine matters within his own ecclesiastical jurisdiction, worsening the relations between priest and committee. Further, the committee took it upon itself to draft a new constitution for the Community. That constitution, commencing with a preamble including the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed, restricted its membership to persons of Greek origin who could speak Greek. The Syrians and other Orthodox, who had worshipped with the Greeks, shared their vision, contributed to the Church, did more than anyone else to secure a priest and were led to believe that they were an integral part of the same community, were thus excluded. At a meeting to ratify the constitution, a journalist who was present reported: "For some time there appear to have been strained relations between the Greek and Syrian sections of the congregation over the question of control."

Father Kantopoulos, as an Orthodox priest, could not accept the alienation of part of his flock, especially on racial lines, as ethnophyletism, or ecclesiastical racism was condemned by the Holy and Great pan-Orthodox Synod in Constantinople on the 10th of September 1872, as a heresy. At that Synod, it was held that the Church should not be confused with the destiny of a single nation or a single race. As a result of Father Kantopoulos principled stand against the racism of the proto-Greek community, he was locked out of the Evangelismos church and sacked. As one of the trustees of the church, Maniakis, later commented: "He practically suspended himself. We suspended him because he mixed with the Syrians and the others."

The Community went on to defame Kantopoulos, and to arbitrarily resolve to leave the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, making attempts to place themselves under the Church of Greece. The reason they did so was also stated by Maniakis, who stated that the Greeks wanted to be "under the protection of a free corner of the Greek race." This stance, caused a further division within the small community, pitting those, predominantly Ithacans who had come from areas that belonged to the Greek kingdom, against those Greeks who came from areas that were still subject to Ottoman rule.

There is significant evidence that despite his ignominious treatment, Father Kantopoulos continued to enjoy the support of many members of the Greek and Syrian community. In August 1903, a Melbourne Greek, Panayiotis Peppas, addressed an emotional letter to the Jerusalem Patriarch, declaring that Kantopoulos "was beloved and esteemed by the entire Orthodox Church in Melbourne, - Greeks, Syrians, Russians and Serbs - except "three brass-headed speculators - Maniakis, Matorikos and Lekatsas - and about ten people working in the fish-markets." A similar letter, signed by a combined group of Greeks and Syrians, denounced the "scandalous and wicked extortionist faction," which had deprived the Syrians of their "legal rights." All this was to no avail and in September 1903, the Community's council erased Kantopoulos' name from the foundation stone of the Evangelismos church. In that year, also, Alexander Maniakis registered himself as the head of the Greek Orthodox Community of Victoria.

Father Kantopoulos remained in Melbourne until 1907, and retained his ecumenical vision, ministering to the Orthodox believers of all nations, even preaching in New Zealand and to the Australia aborigines. He most notably survives in public Australian discourse as a footnote in the pages of Federation, the artist Tom Roberts painting him in his canvas depicting the ceremonial opening of the first Federal Parliament. In the meantime, the Syrians and Lebanese, dispossessed of their rights, continued to attend the Evangelismos church until 1932, when they, along with some Russian families, constructed the church of Saint Nicholas on the same street, a few blocks further down from the Evangelismos Church. This was a truly polyglot church, with services in Arabic, Russian and Greek.

Even despite the appalling racism meted out to their Orthodox brethren by a few shopkeepers, the hierarchy of the Greek church did not abandon the Syrians. The aptly named Archbishop Timotheos Evangelinidis consecrated St Nicholas, Archimandrite Theophylaktos would occasionally serve the liturgy there and the Syrians and Lebanese, now under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch co-operate closely with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese today. Yet had not the ugly head of racism reared itself from the outset, arguably our communities would have been closer and much more integrated than they are today.

Quite apart from a legacy of racism that has inexplicably seen the Orthodox communities of Australia divided into ethnic jurisdictions, something that horrified the ecclesiastical authorities of 1900's, the exclusion of the Syrians and the arbitrary governance of a church by a cabal of shopkeepers and petty-capitalists, who believed that their business acumen qualified them to minister to the spiritual needs of their less affluent brethren, in defiance of the doctrines and canons of the Church, created a legacy of fractiousness, jurisdiction hopping and strife that has blighted not only the organised Greek community until the present day, only to be resolved in Melbourne and Sydney through sensitive and considered handling by all involved and still persisting in Adelaide, but also has served as a precedent for intrajurisdictional strife between other orthodox communities run by businessmen ignorant of church traditions and the canonically appointed spiritual representatives of those Churches.

The founding of Evangelismos Church is rightly lauded as a great achievement. Yet it is high time that its negative aspects are also re-examined, and afforded their rightful place within the historical discourse of our community.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Bank of Cyprus Australia, a fixture on our community banking scene is no more, at least in that form. Now it is the Delphi Bank, a name which to my mind, is far more inclusive and representative of the Greek people as a whole, than the far flung island of Cyprus. After all, the ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the centre of the earth. Legend has it that when Zeus unleashed two eagles from opposite ends of the earth in order to locate its centre, the two eagles met over Delphi, where they dropped a big stone, much like a modern day bank would drop its interest rates today.

Whether or not Delphi Bank will follow suit and become the epicentre of the banking world is something that only Chronos will tell. In the meantime, there is something magical about passing through the columned portals of any branch (for if the Bank seeks to capitalise upon its name, it might as well theme its décor accordingly), accosting one of the chlamys or himation clad caryatid-like tellers and asking whether it would be possible to obtain a loan. “It is not for me to make such pronouncements,” the caryatid will intone, without inflexion. “Let us consult the Oracle.”

It is then that you will be ushered past the tellers into a back room, where a shrouded figure sits on an ergonomic management chair in the shape of a tripod, over a fissure in the floor that looks deceptively like a heating duct. This is Pythia, your Oracle, (which is Delphi-bank-speak for branch manager), who is out to ensure that you are in receipt of ten out of ten service, every conceivable time. Pythia doesn’t notice your entering the room as she is too busy inhaling mist from the warm spring beneath the bank, which also doubles as a Temple of Apollo. For this reason, you run the risk of her entering an exalted state of mind and giving you financial advice as if in a trance, before you have even asked her for financial accommodation tailored to your own personal needs at sensible interest rates that will not impinge painfully upon your lifestyle, and thus assist you to realise your dreams.

If you catch her on a good day though, her prophetic powers will be at their peak. Blowing smoke rings out of the holy mist issuing from the heating vent, she will pronounce: “Come hither stranger, for I can see what is in the innermost recesses of thy heart. Thou sleekest a loan of the god.” You are actually lucky that you have managed to obtain an appointment with her. The Oracle is invariably closed in the winter months, when the chief executive officer, Apollo, is conducting performance reviews among the Hyperboreans.

Borrowing from the gods was considered prudent practice in times ancient and their most prominent branches, the temples to Artemis in Ephesus (in which no less a personage than Mark Antony indulged in a little embezzlement), the temple of Hera in Samos and of course the temple to Apollo in Delphi as well as later private banking institutions in classical Athens, made a killing, offering loans at an interest rate of 12%. This made sense, for as well as being places of worship of the gods, they also accumulated a large amount of treasures from devotees and it would not make sense for this amount of capital to remain idle, gathering dust. For the Greek then, engaging in capitalist economics, was a legitimate form of worship.

Some banks and their ancillary temples were built in order to cover up sordid crimes. For it was at Delphi that Apollo, the founder of the Bank at Delphi, shot an arrow that killed the dread serpent Python, guardian of the Castalian Spring. As he was underage at the time, he was able to escape prosecution, though he was required to undergo eight years of community service. It is directly over the Castalian Spring, that the head office of the bank at Delphi was constructed, obscuring the place of the crime for all time.

As you gaze at Pythia, still peering into your soul while at the same time taking sniffs from the heating duct, punctuated by an excessive blowing of her nose, your eyes are drawn to three inscriptions, carved in the wall above her: «Γνῶθι σεαυτόν,» which means “know thyself,” «μηδέν άγαν,» meaning “nothing in excess,” and «Ἑγγύα πάρα δ'ἄτη,» which means “make a pledge and mischief is nigh.”

“I see you have read our product charter,” Pythia snorts, in elegant hexameters. “By the way, this meeting is monitored for the purposes of quality review, so if you are at all unsatisfied, you may be randomly contacted by an Olympian to whom you can state why, in your opinion, you were not provided with a ten out of ten oracular banking experience today. These are the principles by which we provide solutions to your everyday banking needs. Know thyself and your capacity to borrow and make repayments, borrow and spend nothing in excess and make no pledge without meaning it, for here at the bank, we demand a good deal of security for our loans and if you renege on your pledges, we are in a position to do you a good deal of mischief. She is not joking. It augurs ill for anyone who should anger Pythia. Not only will she consider this a breach of the loan terms and issue a notice of default of mortgage, she will also make pronouncements such as that which she made to the financially unsound Nero, after he failed to make his monthly repayments: “Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back, matricide! The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!” Yet Pythias are generally an unpredictable lot. A predecessor, influenced by Marxist economics, secretly joined a people’s community banking co-operative and made such ridiculous determinations for loan applicants as: “Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.” During her tenure, loans were granted without proper scrutiny of audited financials and in the aftermath of a credit squeeze, she had to be disciplined, sent for re-evaluation and finally, retrenched.

In the ensuing silence, Pythia begins to writhe and wiggle, waving her hands over the principal and interest loan calculator like a talentless street artist. Then, she begins to make utterances of gibberish before picking up a pen and ticking some boxes.

“So do, I get the loan?” you ask, before she plunges into hysterics, heaving and shivering as she throws memoranda of common provisions and epitome of mortgage documents into the chasm of the heating event, sniffing the moist air deeply as she does so.

“The omens are not favourable,” she screeches. “The god tells me that your heart is clean. He also tells me your credit file is as black as the screams of the damned in Tartarus. You will get what you want, once you know what that truly is” As you back away from her half in reverence, half in fear, someone catches your arm. You look up to see the kindly face of a priestly loans officer. “The Oracle has spoken,” he confides. “It is up to us, its priests to interpret.” In his hand he holds a handful of coloured beans. “Toss them and the will of the god will be revealed,” he encourages. “White for yes, red for no.” You close your fist around the beans and let them fall to the ground. As you walk towards the automatic marble doors, still too nervous to open your eyes, you hear a voice. “Brilliant. You will receive your tablet of approval in the mail in the next two to three weeks. Thank you for banking at Delphi.”

With or without ethylene inhalers, we wish our newly branded oracular bank every success.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 15 December 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012


After reading Irena Karafilly's novel, "The Captive Sun," Louis de Bernieres commented: "I enjoyed this book immensely.Karafilly succeeds brilliantly where I had decided not even to try."

There is no doubting his sincerity. It is a considerable challenge to produce a work on such an epic scale, covering an immense breadth of time and event, without lapsing into superficiality, or, as often happens, a plot so intricate and tangled that it cries out for sequel upon best-selling sequel of declining value. No, works of this nature require the brush strokes of an impressionist who is able to dextrously and subtly convey the essence of the historical period to which s/he would have us bear witness. Irena Karafilly is just such a writer, and through her masterly, painterly strokes, a canvas encompassing much of Greece's twentieth century history unfolds before the reader, in all of its painful and tortuous vitality.

According to the author, a Canadian who divides her time between Montreal and Greece, "The Captive Sun," took seven years to research and write, after gestating for a decade. The story was inspired by an obscure poem about a Greek village woman, who immolated herself on Lesbos in the late 70s.

'Living in the village of Molyvos,' Karafilly explains, 'I learned that she had been the local midwife and, long before that, a schoolmistress rumoured to have collaborated with the Germans, and reportedly dismissed for her political views during the civil war. There was a lot of contradictory information, but everyone seemed to agree that she had been beautiful, well-educated, promiscuous, and exceedingly outspoken. The same woman is said to have inspired Myrivilis's Greek classic, "The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes," but the two characters have little in common other than their profession and their golden eyes.'

Karafilly is an award-winning writer, journalist, and aphorist, whose depiction of modern Greek history is as precise as it is fair-minded. Even more remarkable, for an outsider, is the author's understanding of the dynamics of that history and its impact on the Greek people. As a result, using the island of Lesvos as her microcosm, Karafilly's treatment of Greek history, commencing with the aftermath of the Asia Minor Catastrophe and culminating in the ignominious storming of the Athens Polytechnic, offers a psychological profile of an entire nation. Particularly refreshing in her approach is the ability to convey just how fluid historical events can be for the Greek people, along with their capacity for living simultaneously in both past and present. The author's treatment of her backdrop is thus generous, evocative, and informed by a strong aesthetic sensibility.

"The Captive Sun," a compact tome of some 470 pages, manages to overlay the masterfully dramatised historical setting with a skilfully interwoven social perspective. The main thrust of the novel is a brilliant and nuanced portrait of Karafilly's heroine, Calliope Adham, as a surprisingly liberated, quintessential Renaissance woman. Her fictional journey is thus a juxtaposition of the paradox of an enlightened individual longing for the exclusionary contemplation of philosophical truths while simultaneously throwing herself, with varying degrees of gusto, into the intricate complexities of communal life. A bookish iconoclast, Calliope is forced to navigate the rigid shoals of prescribed behaviour, while also retaining a sense of individualism. As the plot thickens, the author acquits herself dextrously by weaving the development of her heroine's character into the temporal and political changes of her country. We can thus measure the slow emergence of the fiercely independent Calliope within a traditional village environment, even as we track the slow and inexorable slide of that village in and out of occupation. By the time we reach the sixties, we come face to face with a self-confident, totally liberated Calliope, who, though increasingly European in outlook, remains passionate about her own culture and homeland.

Calliope Adham's rich love life is also granted a tempo that mirrors both her own development and that of her country, rendering "The Captive Sun's," literary merit all the more exceptional. Calliope's abiding and continuous love for a German officer is the fulcrum upon which much of the novel rests. Yet this is no ordinary romance. Not only is the heroine ostensibly consorting with the enemy while participating in underground activities, but in doing so she is undertaking a form of resistance unique in its own right. It is fascinating to note how the heroine's love for the cultured German officer develops as her literary knowledge and self-awareness expand, and her own involvement in the resistance movement deepens. Karafilly's treatment of the various sexual encounters that are portrayed within the novel are possessed of a highly emotional timbre that emphasizes their over-all effect on the heroine's psyche, transcending and deconstructing pre-conceived ideas of identity, self-definition, and gender roles. There is no gratuitous foray into love's conventional mechanics here, but rather a considered insight into the psychology of various forms of love and how these are influenced by, and in turn influence, the world around us. Karafilly's sexual scenes are poignantly written, forming yet another tableau upon which love, politics, and literary aspirations seamlessly mingle. (And by the way, Karafilly is also refreshing in her almost perfectly consistent adoption of a precise transliteration of Greek names in order to better convey their phonetics to the reader.)

A best-seller in Greece, "The Captive Sun," is a tapestry that is lavish without being grandiose, haunting without being repetitive, and meticulous without being convoluted. That it succeeds in chronicling the story of an extraordinary woman and her lifelong struggle against social and political tyranny is due in large part to the telluric nature of Karafilly's writing style, a style that is as elemental as Greece itself.

"The Captive Sun" is a highly accomplished, thoroughly researched, and compelling read.


"The Captive Sun" is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and in Greece, under the title, "Η ΑΣΥΜΒΙΒΑΣΤΗ ΜΟΥΣΑ," by Psichogios Editions.

For more information, visit:

First published in NEOS KOSMOS on Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday, December 01, 2012


When I was at university, I would spend my day off with yiayia Kalliopi. Ringing the bell, I would listen to her slow footsteps, muffled by the Edwardian carpet of her entrance hall, approach the front door. The door would open slowly, and a smiling face would explain in Samian English: «΄Αλαου Κουστάκ.' Σι πιρίμινα. ΄Εμπα μέσα να σ' κάμου τουστάκ'»

According to yiayia Kalliopi the most perfect toast could only be made using Granny Smith white bread, smothered in Meadow Lea margarine and placed within a rusting archaic toaster whose cord had frayed, almost exposing the live wires underneath. Such toast could only be enjoyed with a cup of tea, Lipton by choice. Coffee, enjoyed by most of my relatives, was to be execrated, for it was evil, in that it excited the blood and caused people to act irrationally, whereas tea was the only drink suitable for civilized company.

According to yiayia Kalliopi, her father, my great grandfather back in Samos, once thought of growing tea, but decided that tobacco was more lucrative. He was a very clever man, because he didn't need to use his fingers to do arithmetic. Yiayia Kalliopi was also very clever. Had she been able to study, she would have gone far, even become a professor, but her father pulled her out of school when she was in grade three saying: "Why do you want to go to school for? So you can learn to write love letters to boys?" Yiayia Kalliopi could have been a great intellectual. She remembered all the poems and songs that she learned at school and made me learn them off by heart too. Apparently intelligence ran in the family, because her niece was a high school teacher. Yiayia Kalliopi also read the lives of the saints and the Bible but didn't believe that there would be a resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment. "That's what the Jehovah's Witnesses say in order to suck you in," she would laugh. "Once you are dead, that's it." According to yiayia Kalliopi though, Lazarus did come back from the dead and he asked for something sweet. Also, he wouldn't tell people what he went through.

Yiayia Kalliopi loved going to church. She would wear her headscarf and sit on the left hand side, in the third row from the front. In the mornings and the evenings I would hear her whispering prayers but when I would ask her how she prayed, she would smile and say that these were not things that children should know. Yiayia Kalliopi believed that priests were silly and hypocritical because one day, the village priest came to her father's shop during Lent and purchased a smoked fish. My great-grandfather told him off but he, unfazed, his it under his cassock and walked off. For this reason and because I was displaying an unnatural interest in things religious and metaphysical, Yiayia Kalliopi told me, «Άμα γινς παπάς, θα σ'κόψου τα ψ'λιάς.» Consequently, I believed, right up until my late teens that Greek Orthodox priests were castrated, Origen-like, prior to their ordination.

According to Yiayia Kalliopi, there was no resistance movement in our village on Samos during the Second World War. Instead, there was a guy called Betsos, who terrorised the Italians. He did not do so out of patriotism but because they came to his fields one day and confiscated his oranges without telling him. Swearing revenge, he went up into the mountains and wreaked havoc upon them and the Germans until the end of the war. When Betsos was on the loose, yiayia Kalliopi said, no one was safe. My great grandfather offered some mandarins to a German detachment that was searching his shop for weapons, but they kicked them out of his hand. He did not join Betsos because Betsos was uncivilized. During the Civil War, the Royalists offered Betsos a highly paid position in the army but he told them that it was the Italians who had stolen his fruit, not the communists, so he went back to his farm.

According to Yiayia Kalliopi, there was nothing wrong in being a communist, as long as you believed in God. Her brother Panos was a communist, having become indoctrinated while serving in the Greek army in Palestine during the war. When he returned home, he was bursting with ideas about how the Party was going to change the world and tried to discuss this one day over dinner. My great-grandfather slapped him across the face and forbad him from ever discussing politics in the family home. Soon after, the family dispersed theio Pano moving to Athens and my grandmother to Australia.

According to Yiayia Kalliopi, Pappou Kosta was engaged to someone else who died during the war and so he had to marry her instead. After a while he decided to migrate to Australia and when my father and aunt were young, my grandmother followed him. She caught up with him at Bulla, working on his cousin's farm, who had been there since the thirties. According to yiayia Kalliopi, conditions were so squalid that she put her foot down and said: "I didn't leave one farm to come to another," and so the family left for Melbourne. Yiayia Kalliopi said that in 1954, there were no other Greeks in Essendon. According to her, they had a chance to buy on old Victorian house that is now a mansion in the most expensive street in the suburb, but my grandfather didn't want it, because it did not have a cellar for storing wine. Though, my grandfather did once threaten to open up my grandmother's skull with an axe if she continued to pester him about the way he was planting beans, according to yiayia Kalliopi, he was very quiet and never laid a finger on her, or my father and aunt.

According to yiayia Kalliopi, my grandfather quit smoking because one day, when my grandmother was out, he was forced to break precedent and purchase cigarettes himself. When he saw how much they cost he was horrified and went cold Turkey straight away. According to yiayia, my father first walked and was toilet trained at nine months old. His first words were «Θέλου τσάπα,» and he inherited her intelligence, industriousness and speed. Unfortunately, he also inherited her height, which was a problem as she was only five foot tall. Yiayia Kalliopi said that when my father obtained his driver's license, she bought him a nice sensible car with which to drive the family around, but when she went to Greece on holidays, my father sold it and purchased a Monaro. This yiayia Kalliopi said quite often, especially when my father was near, along with how she was chasing my father around the house in order to beat him for a misdemeanour one day, and he grabbed the back door to stabilise himself and pulled it off its hinges.

Yiayia Kalliopi said that her Jewish boss in the restaurant where she worked always told her to add an extra pinch of salt in the food to give it taste and because salt is very good for you. Whenever we would visit, she would make a barbeque, burning old offcuts, some of which still had paint on them. My cousin would have chocolate milk but I was not allowed to have chocolate in my milk. According to yiayia Kalliopi, only the eldest could have chocolate in his milk and I had to make do with strawberry. This system also applied to Neapolitan ice cream and was only broken when my sister, as a baby, purloined the Neapolitan ice cream container from the refrigerator and ate the chocolate section. A similar system also applied in terms of the poems that each of us had to learn, which we tailored to our characters and attributes.

According to Yiayia Kalliopi, the reason why her tiganites, bourekia, and dolmadakia were better than anyone else's was due to the addition of «σάμθινγκ». Her grey eyes would wink and she would assume an air of mystery. Though we have since found her notes, written in phonetic Samian Gringlish, that «σάμθινγκ,» could never be replicated. Yiayia Kalliopi would fill bags with cakes and garden produce, especially tomatoes and cucumbers and send me on a produce run to all the widowed Samian ladies living in Essendon, in mute advertisement both of her skill and inability to age.

According to Yiayia Kalliopi, when she died, I would remember her for her cooking. Fifteen years on, her injunctions have become my habits and her cautionary warnings my inhibitions. And not a day goes by that I do not begin at least one sentence with the words: "According to yiayia Kalliopi.."


First published in NKEE on Saturday 1 December 2012