Christmas then and now: Fronditha Care residents reminisce

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They immigrated to Australia in search of a better life. 

In their suitcases, together with their belongings, they brought the customs and traditions of the homeland which despite the hardships they preserved as unwavering habits in time, and passed on to the next generations.

Three Fronditha Care residents remember how they used to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Greece, how they maintained their customs and traditions in Australia and they send their messages to the younger generations of Greeks abroad.

Sofia Pagrati: “I will continue to preserve the Greek traditions”

Sofia Pagrati immigrated from Athens to Australia approximately fifty years ago.

“There was poverty after the war, whether you lived in the village or in the city,” said Mrs Pagrati, a member of one of Fronditha’s Social Support Groups.

“We could not always buy sweets and waited for the holidays to buy kourabiedes and melomakarona”.

Mrs. Pagrati talks about the fragile Christmas ornaments with which she decorated the tree and describes how eagerly she and her brother were waiting for Santa Claus.

“As we grew older, we realized that mom was buying the presents. She then used to take us to Aiolou Street in Athens and let us choose toys from the stalls. My mother would usually buy me sawdust filled cloth dolls. 

“When I was fighting with my brother, he would pull the doll’s hand from one side, I would pull from the other. The sawdust would drop and this would leave me with the cloth in my hands,” Ms. Sofia, describes and smiles, as she remembers her childhood.

Although so many years passed Mrs Pagrati is keeping her childhood memories close to her heart and as she says, in turn managed to pass them on to her children as well.

George Fifis: “We always celebrated the Greek way”

George Fifis immigrated to Australia from Aitoloakarnania in 1954.

“I was a blacksmith by trade and came to Australia with the intention to stay for only two years. I found a good job and stayed. Australia was much better than Greece back then,” Mr Fifis says and goes on to describe his difficult youth.

“Growing up in Greece, I used to blacksmith far from my village and waited for Christmas to go and visit my sisters and my mother. 

“You see, my father died when I was six years old,” says Mr Fifis moved.

” Christmas however, was a happy season for the whole family. We would invite our relatives over and we’d celebrate together. 

“When I came to Australia, I didn’t have my family but I had Greek friends. We’d gather and celebrate Christmas the Greek way.” 

Stamatiki Athanasakou: “Young Greeks should mingle with Australians”

Stamatiki Athanasakou, originally from Arna, Laconia, came to Australia following her husband who had immigrated under a program of the then Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM). 

The Program, was initially established in 1951 to help resettle people displaced by World War II.

“He came to Australia first and later on he was allowed to invite me, for free. Because my parents had six girls, they wanted me to get married and they let me go,” says Mrs Athanasakou.

“During the first years, we would socialize with both Greeks and Australians. We followed our traditions as we would in Greece. Like Greeks do.”

Asking her for her advice to the younger generation of Greek Australians, Mrs Athanasakou urges them “to have courage, patience, to work hard and socialize with Australians as well.”

“Australians were happy to meet us and always took good care of us,” says Mrs Stamatiki, not omitting to thank Fronditha’s staff for looking after her and her friends during an especially challenging year. 

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