Greece or Australia? Gina Mini says it’s complicated

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By Kathy Karageorgiou.

Gina Mini, 58, moved from Greece to Australia “for work,” as did her Greek husband. They recently returned back to Athens after seven years in Melbourne.

They are one of the many post-Greek crisis migrants to Australia, but unlike most who have stayed on, Gina and her husband returned to Greece.

The couple are representative of many Greeks who moved to Australia in search of better employment after the Greek crisis; reaching its crux many argue between 2012-2016.  In this period, it’s estimated that over 30,000 Greeks arrived in Australia. The financial incentive for this exodus replicates the Greece to Australia migration of our parents’ generation most prevalent in the 1960s. 

Gina relates to me her migration cycle tale.

“My now 65-year-old husband had already left for Australia a year before me due to the Greek crisis in 2014 because his job as a tradesman wasn’t as in demand any more. He was happy with the availability of work in Australia and with the pay,” she says. 

Gina at the Victorian Market.

Asking what they thought of the lifestyle in Australia, Gina replies:

“Having lived in Greece since I was 18, I’d had, well, almost enough of ‘lifestyle’ – in terms of going out and stuff. I too was in Australia this time to work, so it was different to when I was a child and teenager growing up there. I have memories of fun and games in the backyard. Now, there are more apartments going up, changing that backyard vibe,” she half smiles. 

“So, I guess I was content with the lifestyle I saw and lived in Australia this time. We did go out for coffee, for dinner, but it was mainly hard work, then relaxing gratefully at home.”

Home was a small rented flat, Gina explains. With two adult daughters left in Greece, her heart was torn between Greece and Australia, as Gina’s parents, sister and brother were also in Australia.

Gina in Mykonos with her daughters.

“At 18, I had no choice really, I had to accompany my parents who decided to make the move from Australia to Greece in the 1980s. They returned back to Australia a few years later, but I stayed as I’d met my husband and got married,” she says. 

“I did a hairdresser’s course and worked for a while in that profession, but I hated it.  I then had my daughters, yet in the meantime was bored of being a housewife, so… I studied hard at home and managed to get a teaching of English as a second language certificate – the Proficiency.

“Thereafter, I began teaching English in the afternoons and evenings in local language learning schools here in Greece (Frontistiria). I loved it and did that for many, many years!

“But then, with the Greek crisis, I didn’t have as much work in Greece, plus I started thinking more seriously about my retirement future. You see, at the Frontistiria I wasn’t being insured for my aged pension. I always did miss Australia – I was born there. My formative years were there. And so the adventure began.”

Gina explains her trials and tribulations on her return to Australia in 2015:

“I scoured the online job ads, as well as putting one foot in front of the other literally, and found a job in a nearby take away food shop,” she says.

“It was work. It wasn’t ideal – the owners worked me super hard.

Gina in Sydney.

“I then simultaneously found a dream job on weekends. This was as a Greek school teacher for Greek as a second language with young kids. Even though it was a 3-hour drive from where I lived and I caught the train there – it was worth it.”

With enthusiasm she tells me of all the events and celebrations she helped her pupils prepare for. This involved activities like making costumes and overseeing them recite their lines, making koulourakia and “basically keeping Greek traditions and customs alive.”

Gina left her weekday job at the take away food shop and landed a telephone sales-oriented position for a large kitchen manufacturer.

“Great company, great people,” she tells me glowing. “I loved the job – I also won sales awards and made great friendships. They also told me the job’s always there for me!”

“All was going well in Oz for me and hubby, but we missed our daughters.”

Gina with kangaroos in Australia.

I ask Gina where she would rather live from here forth. A difficult question particularly for Greek Australians who have lived much of their adult life in Greece. 

She responds: “Well, I love both countries. Obviously, Australia has better employment prospects for us – though things are expensive there, so it’s a difficult choice.”

She then nods decidedly and says: “six months here and six months there. That’s what I want to be able to do.”

Go for it, Gina and the best of luck.

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