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Adelaide High Students join seniors to learn Greek and keep immigration stories alive

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When Year 9 Adelaide High students and their teacher arrive for their annual catch up with members of the Greek Union of Aged Pensioners at Thebarton Community Centre in Adelaide, the joy can be seen on the faces of all.

“Please welcome our lovely children who are here with us today, what a happy day this is,” sounds a firm but happy female voice in the loudspeaker.

The students, split in groups of two or three and join the seniors who sit around the tables sipping on Greek coffee and chatting vibrantly with their friends while encouraging the youth to join in.

“Poio einai to onoma sou (what is your name) and apo poio meros tis Elladas eisai (where in Greece are you from),” the students ask the pensioners in Greek as they try to write the answers on a piece of paper they have in front of them.

As the intergenerational project begins for another year, a synergistic vibe fills the community centre. 

“We have been doing these visits for four years now. It’s all about connecting young people with the older generation and making sure their language and stories will be carried on to the future,” Adelaide High Modern Greek Teacher, Dimitra Rozaklis, said. 

“The students will go back to school and write a short biography of the person they interviewed and they will then give this back to the community.” 

Most of the pensioners have their own children and grandchildren to interact with but are happy to see that young people not necessarily of Greek background are interested in learning the language.

“It is very encouraging that they [students] can speak Greek,” Dimitra Georgiadi, 74, said.

Ms Georgiadi immigrated to Australia from Nauplion in 1966 in search of a better life and had been a fruit picker for more than three decades until she retired in 1999.

Photo L: Year 9 Adelaide High School Student, Electra with Ms Dimitra Georgiadi

“Life was very hard in the beginning. I was picking peas and had to fill up a sack to make one dollar and later on I was picking apricots for 90 cents a tray. 

“When I had kids, I used to put them in the car and take them to the orchards with me. When it was too hot, I had to cover the top part of the car with a damp blanket to keep the temperature low,” she said. 

For Year 9 student, Electra, socialising with Ms Georgiadi has been a great experience.

“Finding out about their stories and knowledge and what they’ve been through is really exciting. I really like seeing them be happy and lighting up about us coming here.”

Photo R: Year 9 Adelaide High Greek Class Student Raiyana

Student Raiyana started learning Greek in primary school and continued her studies through high school because she didn’t want the knowledge to go wasted and she developed an interest in the culture. 

She said she can relate with the elderly on a different level.

“My family also migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka 11 years ago and although I was young, I have memories of how hard life was for them at times, back then,” Raiyana said.

Greek Union of Aged Pensioners of Thebarton & Suburbs Committee. From L to R: Secretary Kathy Milohis, President Diomitrios Papanikolas, former President Pota Varkaris and Katerina Keliouris

“Looking at them [the elderly] I understand how hard it must have been to start a life from scratch. I am happy to be here and keep them company.” 

President of the Pensioner’s Union, Dimitrios Papanikolas, says the intergenerational project is a great initiative and wishes the students could visit more often.

“I love kids and their efforts are really remarkable.The feedback we get from our members is great. We hope we can have the students again with us for our Christmas party.”

READ MORE: What does ‘OXI Day’ mean to you? Adelaide High Greek Class students respond

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