Saturday, November 28, 2015


I have in my collection, a silver coin of Phraates IV of Parthia, the successor state to the Persian Empire. On that coin, his title, the very Persian "Shahanshah" that is, "King of Kings," is inscribed in Greek as ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ. Beside a relief of the King shaking hands with Zeus, is the inscription: ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ containing   all the necessary attributes of a king, as benefactor, manifest and, mysteriously enough for a Parthian king existing on the fringes or beyond the borders of the Hellenic world, a Philhellene.

Every time I hold it in my hands, the verses of Cavafy's poem,  "Philhellene" course through my mind:

Make sure the engraving is done skillfully.
The expression serious, majestic.
The diadem preferably somewhat narrow:
I don't like that broad kind the Parthians wear.
The inscription, as usual, in Greek:
nothing excessive, nothing pompous-
we don't want the proconsul to take it the wrong way:
he's always nosing things out and reporting back to Rome-
but of course giving me due honour.
Something very special on the other side:
some discus-thrower, young, good-looking.
Above all I urge you to see to it
(Sithaspis, for God's sake don't let them forget)
that after "King" and "Savior,"
they engrave "Philhellene" in elegant characters.
Now don't try to be clever
with your "where are the Greeks?" and "what things Greek
here behind Zagros, out beyond Phraata?"
Since so many others more barbarian than ourselves
choose to inscribe it, we will inscribe it too.
And besides, don't forget that sometimes
sophists do come to us from Syria,
and versifiers, and other triflers of that kind.
So we are not, I think, un-Greek. 

Much as we do as a community here, Cavafy's unnamed Philhellene inhabits a borderland world between east and west, Hellene and Other. Yet the very poem's title suggests that this is a person who is consciously seeking to align himself with the Hellenic world, this being evidenced by his concern for the quality of the coin's engraving as well as the messages, both visual and verbal that we wishes the coin to convey. Though his kingdom, beyond the Zagros mountains of Persia, is far removed from Greece, here Hellenism has been standardized into an unfelt aesthetic and ethical ideal. 
It is an ideal the acceptance of which is ambivalent: The young, good-looking discus thrower the king wants inscribed at the back of his coin is not imagined with desire or is a product if his memory. Instead this is a desensualised aesthetic, as is evidenced by  the king's detached casual instruction: "something special on the other side."

Similarly, the Philhellene king's ostensible love of all things Hellenic is undermined by his seeming contempt for the actual purveyors of Hellenism, sophists..from Syria,
and versifiers, and other triflers of that kind.." who occasionally turn up at his doorstep. The concluding verse, "So we are not, I think, un-Greek," for me, at least is an eerie look forward to our own purveyors of Hellenism, in the form of the odd visiting Greek politician or singer, who is purposely shipped out here in order to remind us time and time again, that we are "more Greek than the Greeks."

For us to require this reassurance, obviously there exists an underlying insecurity within us as to our identity. Like the Philhellenic king, we take great pains to make our adherence to our own conception of "Hellenism" manifest, through staging events where as one recent writer on the fringes of Hellenism stated, we can: "Get our Greek on," panygiria, where we don traditional regalia, the music we listen to, and dance to, the organization of our pastimes, or our unquestioning adoption of "Hellenic" pastimes with which we have no connection, such as the drinking of the ubiquitous frappe, or being moved by the profundity of Hatziyiannis lyrics. Ultimately, our responses to our own identity, are shaped by our responses to other's responses to ours with regard to our identity.

For Edmund Keeley, the Philhellene King is at best, an instance of "unlettered aspiration," and at worst, of "cultural affectation and imitation. He is, a "parody of the Hellene he aspires to be," a charge not a few Helladic Greeks or newly arrived Greeks often level at us, "barbarian pretenders." There exists among many of them, the tendency to deny the validity and worth of any transformation at the periphery, of what was originally drawn from the centre. Similarly Sonia Ilinskaya writes of the inevitable "degeneration of Hellenistic civilization, itself, worn those branches of it that reached into the eastern provinces." According to this view, then, it is inevitable that Hellenistic (ie. Greek-seeming but not Greek) culture in the Antipodes, which is as far away from the mother culture as possible "here behind the Zagros, out beyond Phraata" can only ever be a pale ersatz form of the original product.

However, Alekos Sengopoulos, who knew the poet, suggests that Cavafy is actually sympathetic towards the Philhellene king, as is suggested not only by his verbal insistence on restraint and simplicity (nothing excessive or pompous), but also his awareness of his geographical remoteness from anything Greek, one that is mirrored by Cafavy's own sense of cultural displacement, living in Egypt, far from the metropolitan centres of Greek culture. That sense, is by and large, shared by most Greek-Australians certainly of the first and probably of the second generation.

Rather than mocking us for our inauthenticity, an insecurity about which we ourselves bring back to Australia, every time we return from Greece, ("Why so silent? Ask your heart:/didn't you too feel happier/ the farther we got from Greece?/ What's the point of fooling ourselves?/ That would hardly be properly Greek." Cavafy asks in one poem), the poet may be merely highlighting a cultural phenomenon and instead, castigating the detached pedantic types for whom memory comes by imperative and feeling is constantly checked against convention. This is ever more so evident in Cavafy's "Returning From Greece," where the poet mocks those puritans who in their quest to maintain purity of blood and custom, would pour scorn at the Philhellene king, and by implication, all of us Ersatzians: "It isn't right, Hermippos, for us philosophers/ to be like some of our petty kings.who through their showy Hellenified exteriors,/ Macedonian exteriors (naturally),/ let a bit of Arabia peep out now and then, a bit of Media they can't keep back. And to what laughable lengths the fools went trying to cover it up! / No, that's not at all right for us./ For Greeks like us that kind of pettiness won't do./ We must not be ashamed/ of the Syrian and Egyptian blood in our veins;/ we should really honour it, take pride in it."

In 'Returning from Greece,' Cavafy finds a way to liberate the Philhellene king and all of us, from our deep-rooted Antipodean cultural cringe, our Poseidonian devotion to forms and symbols that somehow will preserve our identity by way of a momentous 'coming out' confession: "It's time we admitted the truth:/ we are Greeks also-what else are we?-/ but with Asiatic affections and feelings,/ affections and feelings/ sometimes alien to Hellenism." Phraates IV's coin in my hand then, serves to remind me of the exoticism and excitement that comes with belonging to a "buffer community," occupying a fascinatingly ambiguous ground between a particular and a global culture. As Martin McKinsey wrote, where Cavafy refers "to a particular instance of Hellenisation in the late antique Middle East as "a means to arrive," here we might more accurately speak of it as [our] local culture's means to survive," liberated from the pedants and the purists who are pained rather than take pleasure in the periphery.
First published in NKEE on Saturday, 28 November 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015


The old man stood as if transfixed in front of the refrigerator. Clad in ragged blue tracksuit pants that held upon them a suspicion of freshly turned garden soil, a striped shirt and bedecked in sandals, he clutched the egg carton firmly and yet lovingly, lifting each egg meticulously and peering underneath it to ensure its inviolability.

"Oh my God, you are skasying my gaidaro!" came the piercing screech of a corpulent forty-something, yoga-panted lady. Clutching a handbag almost as large as herself, she held out a faux metal bracelet bedecked arm and pushed the old man backwards, teetering on her precipitous platform wedges as she did so.  "You are seriously tsatisying me." Addressing no one in particular, she continued: "Look at him, going through each egg like his life depended on it. Kseftila." 

As he looked on in bewilderment, she proceeded to angrily snatch the egg carton from his hands and throw it into his shopping cart. Resigning himself to his fate, the old man pushed the trolley obediently behind the spandex encased being before him, following it towards the bacon section. When they were a safe distance away, I sidled up to the eggs and carefully scrutinised the cartons for the most recent date of production. Having picked one, I proceeded to meticulously lift each egg within in it in order to ensure they were intact, a procedure that I had absorbed through countless Saturday morning shopping trips with my father.

«Δεν θα παίρνεις αυγά από την μαρκέτα,» a voice offered behind me«Δεν είναι φρέσκαΑν θέλεις αυγά, να έρθεις σπίτι μου, που έχω κότες.» Invariably, when shopping at our local "marketa" which is the approved Greek-Australian equivalent for αγορά, and indeed until the age of fifteen, I knew no other, one will come across compatriots, who will, without having ever spoken to you before, know that you are Greek and being possessed of superior food foraging skills, will not only point out the defects of your own, but also, call upon you to justify these.

Thus at the «φρουτομαρκέτα,» while once busily engaged in the task of collecting bamyes, and in Hellenic fashion, studiously ignoring the black texta writing on the cut-out cardboard square pleading: "Please do not pick individually," I was accosted by a black-clad elderly lady possessed of the largest eyes I have ever seen. "Do you eat these?" she asked. When I replied in the affirmative, she enquired: "You Grik?" Having assured her that this was so, she then launched in the Cypriot dialect, into a lengthy exposition of the art of selecting okra, masterfully refuting point by point, my assertion that smaller bamyes are to be preferred in the preparation of μπάμιες γιαχνί, not only because they are sweeter, but also because they are easier to eat. According to her, size is all and she displayed a remarkable consistency in formulating her argument in those terms. She ended her diatribe by extending an open invitation for me to visit her and sample her own version of the dish, redeemable as she assured me, at any time, without notice.

Similarly, at the κρεατομαρκέτα, when ordering some eye fillet on one occasion, an old gentleman, a regular at the marketa coffee shop who, no matter what time you arrive there, is always holding forth on the issues of the day to a rapt audience, interjected angrily: "That's not meat for a real man. Real men eat chops and sausages. Αυτά είναι για πούστηδες.» He looked me up and down, his slanted eyes reveling in the provocation. «Τι να κάνουμε,» I shruggednonchalantly. «Και οι πούστηδες πρέπει να φάνε. Πώς λέμεπεινάω σαν πούστης;» The old man considered this for a moment, realized I was calling his bluff and burst out laughing. Prior to making his way back to his designated perpetual seat at the coffee shop, he invited me to his home for a barbeque, where, as he informed me I would receive an education as to how real men cook meat. (On a wood fire, not an effeminate gas hot plate.).

I have harboured a morbid fascination for offal ever since my childhood and cannot resist the opportunity to contemplate it, even in its raw form. Nine times out of ten, while staring at the offal displayed in the butcher's window and mentally salivating, (the butcher's parents are from the same village as my father and I went to school with him, so he charitably indulges my disturbing proclivities) I will feel a pinch in the small of my back. Turning around, I will observe the smiling face of my father: "The fish shop has fresh ζαργάνες,"  he will confide urgently. "Go and get some but make sure you don't get the snapper. It's overpriced." On the odd occasion where he is accompanied by my mother, she will interject: "Don't worry about it.  We will get them. Come over to our place and we will  cook them for you."

The ancestral φρουτομαρκέτα  where my grandparents and parents shopped no longer exists. Visiting it was an exercise in socialisation as we could not walk ten metres without coming across someone from my grandparent's respective villages, or indeed any other local Greek identifiable by their attachment to a clear tied up plastic bag full of a mysterious yellowish liquid,  known as άλμη, in which the paper-wrapped feta cheese had to be submerged. In this way, I not only learned how to fruit-shop (one begins with a general brisk survey of prices, circling the target area like a shark before coming in for the specific kill), but most importantly for my future weekly shopping trips, how each party was interrelated, for those who linger still remember me, in our contemporary encounters. Such chance meetings would stretch our shopping day by several hours, as we would be inevitably invited to one or the other's home for coffee.

Along the way, smiling Greek shop owners would offer me a piece of fruit, or a slice of ham, fitting bounty for a good little Greek grandson who remained still, did not ask for chocolates and helped his grandparents with the shopping though I suspect this was partly a ploy to mollify my forthright grand progenitors, who did not ever refrain from castigating the objects of their patronage, if the quality of produce turned out to be questionable, thus unacceptably casting their own judgment into question as well. If I close my eyes, I can still see my late grandmother counting out two cent pieces in order to pay for a kilo of tomatoes, oblivious to the exasperation of those in the queue behind her.

Nowadays, being young and speaking Greek at the marketa still has its advantages, as my two and a half year old daughter is quickly finding out. In a community where Greek is no longer the first language for the majority of young Greek-Australians, the ladies who work in our φρουτομαρκέτα are exhilarated when they hear my daughter saying the names of the various fruit in the Samian dialect, (we say μπουρνέλλες instead of δαμάσκηνα for plums, and κατσνάρ for muskmelon) and this always results in her being the recipient of lavish presents of fruit. Similarly, once, while attempting to address her tears which were spouting profusely, uncannily with the trajectory of ballistic projectiles due to   my inability to find enough change to feed into the ride I promised she could enjoy, an unknown lady who emerging from the deli bore witnessed to the moving way in which my daughter made her displeasure known in Greek, walked up to the ride and with a broad smile, deposited the requisite coinage. It goes without saying that upon the rides' conclusion, she invited us to her home for coffee.

When I leave our marketa, I have to negotiate a perilous path between a Scylla, in the form of a gossipy family friend who, having all the time in the world, feels the need to interrogate me closely about my purchases, my family and all persons who I currently know and will get to know in the future, and a Charybdis, in the form of an ancient humpbacked uncle who in his mid eighties, still sports a delicately quaffed Elvis Presley hairstyle, carefully pigmented with orange Grecian 2000 and who insists on reciting one of his vast hoard of endless epic Greek poems.

Invariably, when I return home from the marketa replete not only with provender but with the news of most of the Greeks in our suburb for metadosis to my progenitors, I will be called upon to face one final task: the raised eyebrow and the Sphinxian question upon which next week's sally to the marketa depends: "What on earth took you so long?"

First published in NKEE on Saturday 21 November 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Say the word Treloar to a Greek who has never heard of him, and the connotation is immediate - in the accusative, Τρελό means crazy. Similarly, the refugee village named after him in Thrace, also conveys a connotation: ΘΡYΛΟΡΙΟΝ, because this means Place of Legends. And these are the two aspects of Major George Treloar's character that the descendants of victims of what possibly was the first organized genocide of the Twentieth Century, in collaboration with the Russian community and the City of Ballarat wish to honour, by way of a public monument to his legacy: his madness - a divine madness (which is George Treloar's middle name) that caused this restless spirit to push himself into a succession of novel and multi-faceted experiences, culminating especially for the Pontian community and White Russian refugees, in him being lifesaver.
Secondly, and the work lifesaver is key, here, is his legend, which endures to the present day. And it is this legend that makes the memory and example of Major George Devine Treloar, enduring.
At present we have been witnessing hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants flooding into Greece from Turkey, many of them drowning on the way. They are fleeing from one of the most brutal wars ever to have blighted the Middle East, which has completely destroyed their homes, livelihood and the very society that they felt secure in. None of these people have any idea where to go. They have no homes and no money. In actual fact, that have no certainty of a future. They are also following in the footsteps of previous refugees, and George Treloar would have been familiar with their by ways.

Here lies the significance of George Devine Treloar and why for Greek-Australians, he is a legend. He was a restorer of hope. As a representative of the League of Nations High Commissariat for Refugees in northern Greece, he organized for Pontian refugees basic facilities and provided for needs that restored to people in exactly the same position as the current Syrian refugees, their dignity and humanity. He provided security where before there was chaos, warmth where there was hatred and confidence where before there was despair. Thanks to the plucky Treloar, who did not hesitate to take on his Greek and International superiors, who wanted to play politics rather than attend to the humanitarian crisis, or profit from their charges misery, the refugees in his care were given what they desperately needed most, the understanding and charity necessary to rebuild their shattered lives. In this way, he facilitated in the re-settlement of one hundred thousand refugees. At the same time, the residents of Ballarat were also raising funds for the relief of these refugees, something that their descendants, especially those in Australia have never forgotten because the generosity of Treloar and his people has become a legend, a θρύλος, since the recipients of that generosity have made sure that it was passed down to us. They revere him, absolutely, as a selfless humanitarian who reached out to our people in their pain and provided them with succor, fittingly in accordance with the Gospel of Matthew: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you ... to eat; I did thirst, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye received me."

Major George Treloar is a legend for another reason, and this is because of the immensely positive experiences that the Greek people had with noble, selfless and thoroughly decent Australians like him that made them, when faced with a choice, decide to migrate to Australia. In that way, Treloar, others like him and the residents of Ballarat form an important part of the backstory behind the Greek-Australian experience, showing a bond that pre-existed post-war migration, one that endures to the present day.

Treloar is even more so legendary because his divinely crazy life reads like a film script. Some of the key scenes that made the director's cut are worth mentioning:Born in 1884 at Ballarat, he educated at St Patrick's College, where recently he was commemorated by the Pontian Genocide Co-ordinating Committee with the installation of a plaque.   The peripatetic Treloar was a  bank clerk at Ballarat for five years, then a jackeroo in western Victoria before he farmed in Western Australia. While travelling by ship to Adelaide, he was recruited by actor-manager Julius Knight and toured Australia with his troupe, playing in romantic dramas. Treloar also travelled to South Africa and England where he was acting when war broke out in 1914.
Having previously served at Ballarat as a lieutenant in the 3rd Victorian Rifles, Treloar immediately volunteered. He served in France, was commissioned and ultimately promoted to major. Buried twice by shellbursts on the Somme and almost bullet-riddled at Ypres, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. In 1918 he commanded the Brigade of Guards Officers' School of Instruction and, following the Armistice, served with his battalion in the Rhineland Occupation Force.
After commanding the post-war Royal Military, Naval and Air Force Tournament at Olympia, London, in 1919, Treloar joined the British Mission to the White Russian armies as assistant military secretary to Major-General Holman. At Constantinople after the withdrawal of the mission, Treloar served with the Tsarist army as a colonel under the White leader Baron Wrangel. When the White Russians were defeated Treloar commanded a British camp for Russian refugees at Tusla on the Sea of Marmara. During his time, with Wrangel, he would have had ample time to collaborate with the native Greek forces along the Black sea who fought with him, and also, to see the beginning of their expulsion and destruction, in an eerie precursor to the Asia Minor debacle. He worked for two years voluntarily and continuously, endeavouring to improve the hardship and sufferings of these Russian refugees and amassing a valuable photo archive of the time he spent with them.

On behalf of the League of Nations, between 1922-26 Treloar was engaged in the resettlement of Greek refugees from Asia Minor; at first at Komotini and later in Thessaloniki. By 1923 his mission was handling over 108,000 refugees. His efforts to organize food, shelter, medical care and resettlement precipitated disputes with indifferent league officials in Geneva and with a senior Greek official. However, for his efforts, Treloar was appointed to the Order of the Saviour and the refugee village Thrilorion near Komotini was named after him.

In Constantinople in 1923 Treloar married Kathleen May Douch whose father was an engineering consultant to the Turkish government. Further strengthening the Greek connection, Kathleen was born in Thessaloniki, as were their children, including David Treloar, who is the patron of the current effort to erect a monument in his memory. 

When the league's resettlement operation ended, Treloar returned to Australia where he sold insurance and sought business opportunities in Queensland before unsuccessfully contesting the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Ashfield for the United Australia Party in 1930. In 1935 he moved to Western Australia. As 'The Archer', he became known for his trenchant radio commentaries on foreign affairs and for his programme, 'Perth Speaks'. A man of commanding presence, forthright speech and strongly-held conservative views, 'the Major' stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council seat of West Province in 1950 and worked for the Liberal and Country League until 1956. Treloar died on 29 November 1980 at Dalkeith and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery, Perth.

The poet, Yiannis Ritsos wrote of trying to find a word commensurate with the stature of freedom. Similarly, no one can find no words or in fact any monument commensurate with the stature of Major George Devine Treloar's humanity, bravery and decency. What we can do, however, is to collaborate not only in making our thanks manifest, in the form of a public monument that will serve to remind all of the life-changing brilliance of this boy from Ballarat, but further, to ensure that such attributes best exemplified by the legend that is Treloar, are celebrated and hopefully serve as an inspiration for those in the future who would follow in his footsteps, that began a century ago, on a no longer so distant land. 

The Jews have a saying: "He who saves one man, saves the world entire." The Greek descendants of the refugees saved by Treloar are now estimated at two million. In honouring him with a monument in his home town, the Greek community and the City of Ballarat are forever establishing Ballarat as a place of pilgrimage and as a key location in commemorating the aftermath of the Asia Minor catastrophe.

The Treloar Monument Fundraising campaign was officially launched at the Central Pontian Association "Pontiaki Estia" last Friday, in conjunction with the City of Ballarat. 

First published in NKEE on Saturday, 14 November 2015

Saturday, November 07, 2015


Ἁπό τους καθ᾽ημάς Αντίποδες,᾽ the title of Greek Australian academic Dr Christos Fifis’ latest publication, is a particularly apt one. Bearing connotations of appropriation (Asia Minor was referred to by the Greek people as η καθ᾽ημάς Ανατολή – that is, “Our Asia,” until the Catastrophe of 1922), the title causes the reader to pause from the outset and ask: To what extent do ‘OUR’ Antipodes form part of the Greek world? How ‘our’ are ‘our’ Antipodes, in the sense that the term has been generally understood within the various constructs of Hellenism?
            Fifis’ book, written in Greek, and seemingly targeted towards a Helladic audience that would know its Antipodean cousins, better purports to be a brief handbook on the history of Greeks within Australia. While it does not present any particularly new research material to add to the corpus of works already published on the topic, the book is novel because of its wide focus and sophisticated attempt to place the Greek community squarely within the broader Australian social context. 
            Such an approach is important. Until now, there has been a tendency by historians of Greek background to present the Greek community in Australia as within a ghetto, left to its own devices and completely untouched or uninfluenced by the world around it, reflecting personal ideologies about the structure and ultimate aims of such a community. Fifis on the other hand, goes to great pains to show how at each stage of its development, the Greek community was affected by such events as the Great Depression, the Second World War, Menzies’ crusade against communism, the institution of multiculturalism and even the conservatism of the Howard era. According to Fifis, rather than being a hidebound entity of finite ideologies and perspectives, the Greek community has evolved, in reaction to and constant dialogue with the broader Australian community, from a society of bourgeois shopkeepers, to one dominated by the proletariat and social activists, to one, in these days, of social conservatism, reflecting outlooks of social and economic class. His argument is expertly made through a nuanced analysis of Australian history from the Greek perspective (“our” Antipodean history) that deserves further attention.
            Fifis’ comparison of the Greek-Australian community of Melbourne with that of Alexandria, which became popular during Greek Consul-General George Veis’ controversial sojourn in Melbourne, and outlining why both socially, economically and linguistically the two bear no relation to each other is original and utterly convincing. In my mind, a parallel with the Greek colonies of the Crimea, would be more convincing.
            Though he outlines the basic development of most Greek communities in Australia, Fifis pays most attention to his own community, that of Melbourne. Mercifully, though he discusses the rift between the Archdiocese and the Communities that has polarized various Greek communities around Australia, he is one of the few historians of Greek background who do not inflate the importance of it. Instead, Fifis perceptively identifies within that rift, further than the conflicts of ideology and power, a broader tendency within the Greek community towards division and ultimately, disintegration. To advance this argument, he rightly points out that while the conflict between the Archdiocese and the Communities has dominated Greek-Australian discourse, it and its effects have been largely irrelevant to the majority of Greek-Australians who have traditionally expressed themselves through the formation of an innumerable number of clubs based on their place of origin, rather than any entity that expresses a religious or political affiliation. While he lists some of these clubs, particularly the more ancient ones, Fifis does not delve into their doings at any length, we suspect because historically at least, they are not worth the effort.
            In keeping with his impressionistic attempt to render the totality of the Greek-Australian picture, Fifis proceeds to provide insights into the various spheres of activity that Greek-Australians have involved themselves in, including the union movement and campaigns for social justice, again endeavours that are intrinsically linked to the prevailing social conditions in Australia at that time as well as politics. While Fifis provides an exhaustive list of Greek-Australian politicians, he takes pains to explode the myth, widely held in Greece (and in Australia) that the involvement of such persons within Australian politics can further the “Greek” cause. In actual fact, (and Fifis quotes extensively from Greek-Australian politicians who state that while they are Australians first, though proud of their ethnic identities), such attempts when they exist, are met with suspicion and derision by the media and the wider community.
             Unsurprisingly, considering his background and continuous contribution to the organized literary and educational activity of the Greek community of Melbourne and beyond, Fifis provides a valuable overview of the emergence of Greek language education. Of interest is his presentation of the opposition of the Archdiocese at the time to the institution of the study of Greek at a tertiary level, owing to fears that the lecturers would be ideologically unsuitable, showing how the rifts within the community influenced seemingly unrelated aspects to its existence. His presentation of the development of Greek-Australian media is also of great value, tracing its polarities and ultimate paradigm shifts. He also provides an important understanding of the contribution of Greek-Australian writers, both in Greek and in English, perceiving in their works, patterns of nostalgia/ therapy (for the first generation) and attempts to interpret and contextualize aspects of Greek culture and the mythologies of the Greek identity (for the second generation).  In his analysis, proving the unpredictability of the Greek community, Fifis refutes the theories of early critics who believed that the first generation would not indulge in the writing of literature. 
Sadly missing, however, is any substantive mention of the contributions of Greek-Australians to Australian sport, especially through Aussie Rules Football or through such Olympic Gold Medallists as Michael Diamond. An analysis of their importance could show how their achievements served to ‘legitimize’ and render the Greek community ‘intelligible’ to the mainstream. Similarly, actors and public personalities such as Lex Marinos, one of the earliest points of contact for television with the ethnic community, or the importance in redefining ethnic cultural identity in the works of Nick Giannopoulos, George Kapiniaris and Mary Koustas have also been overlooked, though this is justifiable, as they deserve a lengthy scholarly treatise of their own.
            Most significant then, are the matters that Fifis does not mention in depth particularly those pertaining to the second generation. No real attempt is made to analyse the involvement of the second generation in the activities or structures founded by the first generation. Active youth organisations that exist on the margins of the Greek community that are currently undergoing a viral reassessment of their cultural traditions within the Australian context such as NUGAS, AHEPA Youth and the various vibrant Pontian and Cretan youth groups are not treated in any significant way. Instead, Fifis dwells upon language loss, acculturation and assimilation within the latter generations, occasioned often, as he states, as a result of mixed marriages, the tendency of modern ‘homogenous’ couples choosing to rear their children as monolingual English speakers being taken as a given. According to him, this process is irreversible, even with the recent infusion of new migrants from Greece. It remains to be seen to what extent they they will be assimilated within the already existing Greek community, or form a micro-community of their own.
            These omissions are purposeful, masterful and in no way detract from the importance or value of Fifis’ work. Instead, they go to the heart of Fifis’ central thesis: What are ‘our’ Antipodes? Can an acculturated second generation really share the same sense of belonging and perspective so as to render the same values to the word ‘our’? Does it makes sense for that generation, born and bred in Australia, to refer to their homeland as the ‘Antipodes,’ with all the connotations of inversion of the natural order of things that this term conveys? The answer, both in Fifis’ eloquent silence and in his sensitive and well-reasoned conclusions about the second generation Greek Australians, is, probably not. As such, he rightly recognizes that a treatment of the diffuse, integrated, largely assimilated and almost indefinable Australian-born generations is beyond the scope of his work, (they are not Antipodean, they are native) one that remains as a sociological and historiographical challenge for his successors.
            Fifis’ view of the Greek community in the Antipodes is thus multi-faceted, sophisticated and thoroughly ambivalent, as is evident in the last verse of his original poem with which he concludes his overview and in which his entire understanding of “our” and “Antipodes” is questioned: “Australia of the impatient departures/ and of the pleasant arrivals./ Some fifty years later/ who are the genuine Australians and who are the migrants?/ And who are the New Australians?/ And what are the Aborigines who didn’t count back then?” 
            A work that should be compulsory reading for all who would appreciate the complexity of the Greek Australian community within its proper context (especially Greek consular officials), Dr Christos Fifis’ latest work will certainly be a seminal text in the further study of who we are, and most importantly, in who we perceive ourselves to be.

First published in NKEE on Saturday, 7 November 2015