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Walk Down Memory Lane: Sydney Greek Schools in the 1970s

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Back in the 1970s, for many children of migrant parents, going to Greek school wasn’t an option. It was a way of life. It was a chance to learn the Greek language, history and culture of their parents and in turn, find a place of belonging where they could express their Hellenic identity proudly.

This expression of Greekness usually occurred three times a week at Greek schools across Sydney including Marrickville, Belmore, Dulwich Hill and Newtown. Most Greek children already spoke Greek at home and so although language and grammar lessons were taught at Greek school, there were also classes on religion, geography, ancient and even modern history. Something which Terri Elefteria Dakis, who provided one of the many photos in this article, says made her feel proud of her heritage.

“Greek School was the place where I was not called a “wog” and therefore, I felt more at ease with my Hellenic identity. It was at Greek school that I could mingle with children of the same cultural background and could freely speak to them in Greek,” Ms Dakis, who went to Greek school at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Parish in Marrickville in the 1970s, tells The Greek Herald.

Christina Tsatsoulis, who is one of the students in the Dulwich Hill Greek school photo, agrees with Ms Dakis. She says that as a “studious child,” she loved her experience at Greek school because it gave her a “real flair for the Greek language.”

“Greek schools were a drag for many but if you had a good teacher it was so much fun,” Mrs Tsatsoulis says.

Greek School Teachers:

Teachers were the centre of every Greek school. They were the main source of discipline, education and in most cases, fun. They encouraged their students to perform Greek poems for OXI Day celebrations and some even taught Greek dancing.

I have many fond memories from that part of my life and lifelong friendships were formed. I was also very lucky to have had an extraordinary Greek school teacher by the name of Mrs Aliki Ellis… She taught us with great passion and was indeed a true inspiration to all of us,” Ms Dakis says.

In the interest of thorough research for this walk down memory lane, we tracked down Mrs Ellis and found out what she thought of her time as a teacher at the Greek school of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Parish in Marrickville.

“My time teaching the beautiful Greek language and culture for many years at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox church school a few decades ago remains a highlight of my life. They were some of the best years I’ve ever had,” Mrs Ellis tells The Greek Herald.

“The students inspired me as I tried to instil in them a love of everything Greek. My reward was seeing young Greek-Australians tap into their Greek roots to keep our beautiful language and culture alive and to pass on to future generations.”

The same can be said for other teachers across Sydney as well, including Mrs Voula Xanthoudakis who taught at the Greek school of St Constantine and Helen in Newtown back in the 1970s.

“The little kids were beautiful. I loved teaching them. They would come after school and most were really tired, but they still wanted to learn. Those were the best years and I wish we could get them back,” Mrs Xanthoudakis says.

Although we might not be able to actually go back to those days as they used to be, we can at least take a trip down memory lane. And what amazing days they clearly were, filled with Greek culture, history, language and most importantly, strong friendships. Many of which remain as strong as ever.

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