‘They worked for you and me’: Content creator Kat Zam honours our Greek immigrant roots


By Marianna Alepidis

Content creator Kat Zam wants to make sure we don’t forget the stories of the first Greek immigrants – you may know them as yiayia and pappou, or perhaps even mum and dad.

Zam has launched her new series Greek Diaspora Stories across Instagram and TikTok, hoping to preserve the wealth of stories housed in the hearts of the generation that is slowly closing their circle of life.

“I feel that the Greek community went through so much to come [to Australia]. We’re just so privileged to live the lives that we live here and it’s because of them. If they had a family in Greece, my life would have been so different,” Zam told The Greek Herald.

Kat Zam
Kat Zam with her sister at their yiayia snd papous farm in the 1990s. Photo: Kat Zam.

“I feel so privileged that they made the journey here, and they built this life for themselves. It’s just really inspiring. I really admire their resilience because I go to the supermarket and I get overstimulated.”

Kat Zam
Kat’s papou on a truck in Greece. Photo: Kat Zam.

Greek Diaspora Stories is like your grandparents’ photo album; the bright blue one with the gold border, that has that crinkling plastic sound each time you turn the page. 

Filled with an abundance of memories, nostalgia and reflection, Zam’s series honours the sacrifice and nuance of the early Greek immigrants. Her tagline for the project, ‘Δούλευαν για σένα και για μένα’ [They worked for you and for me], captures the essence of the content creator’s connection to the project, but also reminds us of their forward thinking decades ago. 

Kat Zam
One of Kat’s papou’s from Sydney, herself and her sister in the 1990s. Photo: Kat Zam.

“The tagline is one of the lyrics from the song Diaspora by Glykeria. Every time I listen to that song I literally cry. I think of my yiayia and pappou who have their farm in the country and they literally started that from red dirt, scratch; 100 acres, they planted all these vines, they grew all this fruit. And that’s their contribution and I guess they did it for their families, for us. And that’s across the board with everyone’s yiayia and pappou; some worked in the factories, they did all these things and they did it for us, for their families,” Zam said. 

The first video of the series features Zam’s own yiayia who lives in regional Victoria. She details her thousand-kilometre trek from Sydney to regional Victoria with Zam’s pappou, and her joy of gaining employment at a factory which granted her the ability to buy her own, new clothes. 

Kat Zam
Kat’s yiayia dancing with a friend in the 1980s. Photo: Kat Zam.

As she and her husband created a new life in Australia, Zam’s yiayia built a childhood for her children, one she hoped would be easier than her own. But that wasn’t without her own hardship. 

“One of her stories that stood out for me was when she was a little girl. Yiayia had to be left alone, because her mum was working. My great grandmother was a single mum. Yiayia told me that she remembers waking up so hungry, and she had to get herself ready for school because no one else was there to help her. There was no food in the house. So she went out to the garden and picked a little tomato. And that’s all she ate. It just makes me emotional thinking about it,” Zam recalls. 

Kat Zam
Kat’s yiayia holding up a photo of her and her sister in Sydney. Photo: Kat Zam.

“Then arriving in Australia and moving to regional Victoria with my pappou, she had to sleep in a shed with farm animals. She was pregnant, living in a shed with goats.”

The small country town had its own little Greek community, fostered by the immigrants that brought along with them their culture, traditions and values. 

Kat Zam
Kat’s papou with a friend in Sydney. Photo: Kat Zam.

Unfortunately for Zam, many of the families had moved on from the town by the time she was born, and it had lost some of its Greek influence. Zam’s most grounded connection to her Greek heritage was her family.

“We didn’t have kids learning Greek dances, the church wasn’t even open every Sunday. It was open only on special occasions because there was no priest in the town, he had to travel an hour or two to get there,” she said.

Kat Zam
Kats papou with his homegrown tomatoes. Photo: Kat Zam.

Zam eventually made the move to Melbourne where she launched her content creating career and began her own odyssey in uncovering what being Greek Australian meant to her.

“I initially started creating content in 2021, which was all comedic. I would make videos about my friends when I was a teenager with this cheap little camcorder,” Zam explained.

Kat Zam
Kat’s nouna and second cousin. Photo: Kat Sam.

“It’s been an interesting journey. In the beginning I really tried to fit in and be more Anglo, because I was sort of disconnected from the Greek community and was trying to figure out my identity. But that wasn’t exactly my own experience… I think a lot of how I’ve evolved has to do with identity, because for a long time, I never felt Aussie enough, I never felt Greek enough, but I’m a Greek Australian. Then also adding in being queer. It just felt like I had all these separate identities, and they couldn’t be intertwined.”

Coming to what had felt like a crossroad, Zam saw something greater ahead, and instead of picking one, she forged her own path. 

Kat Zam
Kats nouno (RIP) giving her nescafe. Photo: Kat Zam.

“Very recently, I’ve met more people in the Greek community, like Christian from Capers, who have helped me realise that being Greek isn’t one archetype. That’s the huge thing that’s changed for me and it made me more interested in doing Greek content, and really focus on my heritage and being authentic rather than listening to what the brands want,” she said.

“As a content creator, we make money through brand deals. While that’s great, and it serves a purpose, I feel like it isn’t as meaningful to me. I want to share stories that impact people, I want to capture meaningful stuff, and I feel so much richer for having been able to do that. It just makes me feel like I’ve been successful in some small impactful way in this community.”

If you’d like to see your grandparents or parents featured in Kat Zam’s Greek Diaspora Stories you can reach out to her via direct message on Instagram at @heykatzam. 




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