The history and heritage of the tiny Greek island of Castellorizo is thriving, faraway from its physical location in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, thanks to a team of dedicated women who have family roots on the tiny island.
Castellorizians in Australia– known affectionately as “Cazzies” emigrated in large numbers during the first few decades of the 20th century, establishing communities and families, and eventually becoming an integral part of Australia’s multicultural fabric.
Irene Elliott, Victoria Kazaglis-Gallagher, Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, Anna Koutsis, Despina Lucas, Petula Samios and Patricia Sechos wanted to do something to preserve the timeless family stores of their ancestors who left behind their homeland to travel to a faraway land and start new lives.
Journey to a New Land, Castellorizian Migration Stories, Volumes 1 and 2, evolved from an exhibition of narratives, photographs, documents and personal items belonging to Castellorizian migrants, held in Sydney, Australia, in 2017.
The books reveal a total of 135 his-stories and her-stories, vivid and personal accounts, conducted by meticulous interviews of a Castellorizian immigrants to Australia from different ethnic origins and also different experiences, including stories of Castellorizians chased out from Anatolia risking their lives to cross the Aegean and eventually to Australia.
The collection includes over 800 precious old photographs.
“We see how a peaceful and constructive engagement was maintained between the Castellorizians and the communities of the ‘apikies’, satellite Castellorizian settlements on the south western coast of Anatolia, when Christians and Muslims accommodated each other, out of habit, with good will and practical necessity, until at least 1912,” Anna Koutsis told The Pappas Post when describing the books.
“We learn why so many Castellorizians migrated to Anatolia from Castellorizo, and how and why so many migrated to Australia.
Affectionately called “The Rock “ by its expatriate population, second and third generation Castellorizians born in Australia continue to identify themselves as Cazzies, shaping new identities in their new homeland both on an individual and collective level.”
Some fascinating stories from the collection:
Magdalene Simeon Galettis (b.1932, Castellorizo) Her father Konstantinos was born in Alexandria of Castellorizian descent and lived in Florida USA. Whilst visiting Castellorizo, he married her mother, Maria, and took her to live in Athens, returning to the USA to make arrangements for the family to join him. World War II broke out, so the pregnant Maria returned to Castellorizio to be with her family, where they lived comfortably, the children attending school, all being in Italian as the island was under its rule. They were permitted to attend the Greek Orthodox Church. The people of the island were sent as refugees to Cyprus for 3 months then on to Gaza, Palestine. Those who had relatives working on the Suez Canal, and some did, went to Egypt, as did Magda and her family, to an uncle, so they stayed near him at the Thermal Springs of Moses camps. In these camps there were 6,000 Chiotes, 6,000 Samiotes and 3 Castellorizian families. Finally, after 2 years (1943-45), 3 ships picked up the refugees. Magda and her family were on the Last ship, the ill-fated ship, Empire Patrol, to return them to Castellorizo. Fifty miles outside of Port Said the ship caught on fire, the survivors including Magda and her family were taken to Port Said then by bus to Elisat, Egypt for a month where they lived in tents. People donated clothes to them as they lost everything. Thirty-three people drowned in the catastrophe. Returning to Castellorizo, most of the houses had been destroyed by bombs and fire. People began migrating to the United States, Australia and Brazil. Magda never knew her father as he died in Florida. Magda and her family lived in Rhodes until 1957 with an uncle. Magda’s sister left to marry in Perth, Western Australia, a year later her brother also went to Perth, and in 1964 Magda and her mother arrived in Perth also. She married Malaxos (Max) Tsiko Galettis, their families had been friends on Castellorizo, and came to live in Sydney in 1965.
Ekaterina Sakaris (b. 1900, Castellorizo) At the age of 16, Ekaterina left Castellorizo with another young Castellorizian girl and travelled to Australia, destination Port Pirie, South Australia where she was to marry a Castellorizian, Phillip Sakaris from Kalamaki, Anatolia. The first stop was Port Said, when on disembarking both girls were told that their fare had not been fully paid and could not board the next ship. Of course, this was not the case and after surrendering some jewelry to the ship’s official were allowed to board. Next stop was Singapore when whilst disembarking they were told that the next ship to Australia was in 6 weeks. Six weeks of fear followed where they were locked up together in a room, this traumatized her so much that she swore she would never travel again. She married Phillip, who worked in the smelting works in Port Pirie however even though he was a good worker was dismissed as the rest of the workers were ready to strike as they did not want to work with a foreigner. They moved to Sydney where he opened his own business realizing that if he worked for anyone else, he would most likely be treated in the same way.
Evangelia Diamond (b.1907, Castellorizo) Born Evangelia Pappapetrou, she lived in Kalamaki, Anatolia with her family. Her father ran a Bond store and a restaurant there. They lived happily there with many Turkish and Greek friends. Young Evangelia often played with the children of the Pasha in his harem. As the Greco -Turkish war waged the Pasha , entered the harem and urged her to rush home and tell her parents that they should immediately take the family back across the water to Castellorizo /Meis ( as the Turks knew the island ) , on the pretext of seeking urgent medical attention for her father and not to take any belongings with them so as not to raise any suspicion. They escaped safely to Castellorizo overnight.
Antonios Vasilios Geminis (b. 1855. Kalamaki/Kalkan, Anatolia) The name Gemenis, is thought to be derived from slippers, called Yemeni, that one of his ancestors wore. An intrepid adventurer, took his boat from Castellorizo and sailed the high seas leaving his wife with a brood of young children behind on the island, reached Darwin in 1890 and then moved to Samarai, Papua New Guinea, where he traded sea cucumbers. Divorced his wife, a rarity in those days, as she didn’t want to join him there.
Stavros Hatzilefteris (b. Castellorizo, 1898) Stavros travelled from Castellorizo to Russia at the age of 11 years, to join his sister and brother-in-law in Samara, enjoying a very wealthy lifestyle until Russian politics got in the way and they all returned to Castellorizo for a while. His brother-in law established a milk and yoghurt factory in Phinike, Anatolia. Stavros and his sister’s family migrated to Australia where he changed his family name to Steven Diamond, and subsequently joined the Australian Workers Union.
Constantine Allayioti (b. Castellorizo 1907) During WW1, ‘The Rock’ was in turmoil, nearly all who lived on the island packed up their belongings and left for safer lands. Constantine’s father had befriended the captain of a ship that was headed for Colombo in Sri Lanka, and the family huddled together on board, amongst the cargo that were animals, scared of the unknown. 16-year-old Con and his 14-year-old brother were eventually sent to Australia by ship to work in their uncle’s restaurant. Their ages were dropped 2 years to become eligible for half fare, a common practice in those days. Con eventually opened his own delicatessen, ‘Elliotts’ in Sydney.
Vassilios Afkouliotis Kazaglis (b. 1871, Castellorizo) His paternal family hailed from Cesme, Anatolia. He married Maria Theodorou, whose father, a priest, Papa Panagiotis, served the Greek communities of south western Anatolia, Kalamaki (Kalkan), Andifillos (Kas), Mougla province (mainly Livissi / Kayakoy and Makri / Fethiye), and Myra (Demre). The name Afkouliotis is not a family name but is thought to derive from the Monastery Afoul, just outside of Livissi, Anatoli. It is widely thought that if a woman wanted an easy or ‘efkolo’ birth, she would make the journey to Afkoul, and if the child was a boy, he would be given the name Afkouliotis, “he from Afkoul” a way of giving thanks. There are quite a few Afkouliotis’ amongst the stories in the books.
Stavros Antonios Kondouzoglou (b. 1921, Castellorizo) The family were tobacco merchants and ran a business in Antiphellos and Castellorizo. When Antonios Stamatiou, Stavros’ great grandfather went to Antiphellos, he changed his name to Kondouzoglou so that he could become part of the Turkish community for business reasons. He was supposedly very tall but was nicknamed ‘” shortie,” hence “kontou “and the “oglou “to conform to the Turkish form of surnames. Assigning nicknames was common at the time. Upon arrival in Australia, life was not easy for Stavros and his brother Costa, their problems compounded by the fact that they had come to Australia as Italians and were considered aliens. They had to register as aliens at the local police station and applied for registration under the Aliens Act.
John Pandelis Kranidiotis (b. 1911, Kalamaki, Anatolia) John’s father Pandelis, and his brothers-in-law owned a flour mill and lived a prosperous life in Kalamaki. However as was custom in those days, all major events, marriages, christenings and burials happened on Castellorizo and not the ‘apikies’ or satellite settlements where the merchants had their businesses. When the Turks started retaliating against the Greeks living in Anatolia, Pandelis and his brothers-in-law were arrested on fraudulent charges. Their wives had to dig into the family reserves to get the men out of jail. The last time Pandelis was arrested there was no money or jewelry to save him, so he was imprisoned in the mountains of Kalamaki, he froze to death in 1921. His wife returned to Castellorizo.
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