2035: The end of the Greek community of Australia as we know it (Part Three)

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In my previous article for The Greek Herald, I referred to the consequences that will follow the calamitous year 2035 for the Australian diaspora, when the first generation of Greek immigrants of the period 1946-1976 will have left the earthly life. What will happen to the more than 800 buildings acquired by organised Hellenism in Australia?

In order to answer this fundamental question, it will be both legitimate and useful to reveal what happened to its buildings Hellenism had acquired in the interwar period in Latin American countries, where a significant number of Greek settlers had settled, reaching 60,000 souls. What followed in 1975 in these Latin American countries was the equivalent of what we can expect in Australia in 2035.

The communal buildings, the houses of the fraternities, the shops that hosted ephemeral fraternities, their old people’s homes, some sports clubs that managed to be bought with a lot of pain and money, all kinds of housing, belonging even to small clubs, finally closed down. From Caracas, Venezuela, to the thriving communities/churches of Buenos Aires, from Belo Horizonte to Porto Alegre, and from Mar de Plata to Valparaiso and the Peruvian cities, the demographic decline and biological exodus of the first settlers there brought about the leveling and desolation in buildings and organisations.  The roofs began to get water, the windows were tired of waiting tightly closed, their crates were detached and opened, some windows were broken early on, the iron beds of the Saint Demetrius’ Home for the Elderly in the late 1990s, in Palermo, the Argentine capital, were now left thrown in the corners of the wards, without their mattresses and of course without inmates, no staff, no welfare, no money, all ruined since 1980.

Sports clubs, even casinos and gambling venues, which housed the pre-war male-centered communities of Greeks, still breathed ouzila and tsigarilla but were now deserted, with some broken chairs and two or three tables, some left with three legs only and others with two, also thrown in some corners of their large halls, with carpets now dark from the stink of redundancy and lack of human care. After years now, people had not set foot there.

The buildings still belonged to their surviving members, i.e. two or three elderly people, who quarreled among themselves whether to sell the building and give the money to the local community of Palermo, or to the Archdiocese of South America or to a Greek communal foundation. However, all three of them disagreed and argued, each insisting on his own point of view and so the buildings began to collapse due to lack of care and affection, since the younger generations did not follow and were not willing to raise the flag and principles of the preceded generation.

I experienced the same situation at the Apollo Athletic Club of Greek-Romanians in Wellington, New Zealand. I began to see the same picture twenty years ago in Australia, in dozens of buildings and premises bought by the arrogance of the Greek leaders, out of parochial chauvinism, the “I”, the “we” on the one hand, and the “foreigner Greek” on the other. In these buildings, the immigrants of both the pre-war and post-war period began to stubbornly and anarchically project their small villages, their own regional tradition, against the basic Panhellenic values, against the vision of a united Greece, a Nation, a Homeland. They threw under these roofs the buildings and shops that bought their own particular, special homelands, leaving aside and looking forward as their enemy, the one who was not Macedonian, not Arcas, not Rhodian, not Messinian, not Cretan! Over 800 buildings and structures of all kinds across the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand.

How many of these buildings are currently in operation? How many of them are in a state that honours those who owned and manage them? How many of them do have a daily use? How many of their owners and members visit them once a month, or every two months, or every six months, or at all?

Most buildings of Hellenism are now in a state of immediate crisis. In 2035, when the few veterans of life, their elderly “owners,” will have left, then, spiders will come to live there on the hermetically closed doors and inside the buildings the mice, the dirt of closure and the consequences of lack of care, desolation. The value of the buildings of “organised” (now far from being organised) Hellenism is conservatively estimated at $2 billion.

I wrote it 30 years ago and I repeat it regularly, and I have my hard-hearted compatriots, fellow Greeks, reminding me that I am “divisive, that several community leaders don’t want me, because I provoke.” There are also those who utter in a shameless manner, several suspicious people who, every time someone sets the alarm signal for the decaying buildings which are being left deserted, and for those who proclaim union and constant vigilance, begin to accuse them unfairly that they “want to usurp our properties”!

And yet, if we believed that we are all one Nation, one homeland, one homodox, homolingual people and there was a strategy and provision for the future and we had confidence in the institutions (at least those that deserve our trust), then 2035 would not be the beginning of the decaying years and a year of the beginning of the geometric decline and cultural and ethnolinguistic transformation of Hellenism in Australia.

By uniting buildings and properties under one authority, under a controlled authority, under a powerful collection and coordinating body as possible, such as the Greek Communities, I dare say, and/or like the Greek Orthodox Church… then after 2035, the great miracle can happen, and instead of decline, the light and voice of knowledge will come, and with them the progress of Hellenism in Australia.

Next week, I will refer to how I see the strategic plan and organisation for the rescue of Hellenism in Australia, through the clear and coordinated management of the hundreds of millions of dollars that can be brought about by the dilapidated and deserted buildings of the Greeks of Australia.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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