Xanthoula Papadopoulos’ wartime love story on display at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance

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The beautiful love story of Xanthoula Papadopoulos and Australian soldier, Herbert “Slim” Wrigley, has been put on display at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance as part of the new ‘Lust. Love. Loss. Australian stories of wartime relationships‘ exhibition.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the exhibition uses artworks, photographs, memorabilia and personal objects to explore a great sweep of war themes often overlooked by official histories.

In the case of Xanthoula, the exhibition details how she was only 14 years old when Slim Wrigley, from Yarraville in Melbourne, was welcomed into her family’s home in the Greek village of Retini in September 1941. This act of mercy saw Xanthoula’s dad executed by the Germans.

Slim Wrigley had himself escaped from a German prisoner-of-war camp in Salonika (Thessalonika), 120 kilometres to the north-east. Eventually, he returned into the mountains to fight with the Greek resistance.

Studio Portrait of Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley, 1950. Photo: Shrine of Remembrance.

Xanthoula and Slim Wrigley re-connected four years after the war ended, the SMH reports. Xanthoula found a slip of paper with his name and address on it and was encouraged by her mother to write to him in case he had survived.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Xanthoula and Slim Wrigley began to correspond regularly until he offered to pay for her fare to Melbourne. She arrived at the end of January 1951 and discovered “a very gentle man, well-educated, handsome and honest.”

In less than six weeks, Xanthoula and Slim were married, and remained together until he died in 1995.

“It is a big story,” says Xanthoula, now aged 94. “It was a very long time ago.”

To hear this story and more you can visit ‘Lust. Love. Loss: Australian stories of wartime relationships’ at the Melbourne Shrine until November 2022. Open daily 10am-5pm, shrine.org.au.

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