“She had the most beautiful eyes… ” he was smitten. He was just 16 when he first saw her at church, with her family. He dared not approach her, but his church going became more regular. However, he’d been accepted as an Evzone (Palace Guard) and was soon to leave Kythera, for a year at least. He couldn’t leave without knowing more about her.
He asked around, her name was Chrisanthe. She lived in the village, he lived on a farm on the outskirts. She and her sisters were known for spinning and weaving. If only his family had grown kapok instead of growing olives and herding goats.
Theo was honoured to be training as an Evzone. His height, and muscular build had stood him well. His family were so proud.. and it was one less mouth to feed.
The olive harvest festival wasn’t far away…the whole village would be there, he’d see Chrisanthe.
October was warm. The women laid heavy sheets beneath the trees, while the men knocked branches with sticks to release the fruit. Once baskets were filled with olives
and loaded on to carts, the feast was spread out.
Before long, a bouzouki or two appeared and the dancing began. There she was, smiling shyly at him. Theo made his way toward her, under the watchful eyes of her brothers. They danced as if they had done so all their lives. All too soon, the evening closed in and Chrisanthe and her family left.
It was Easter before Theo returned for a few days. His family happily embraced him, before his mother insisted he go to church. Arm in arm with his mother till they lit the holy candles, he looked around. No sign of Chrisanthe. The service seemed much longer than usual, even for Easter and Theo was getting restless. His mother bade him to be patient. As they mingled with family and friends, his mother touched his elbow and turned him slightly. Those beautiful smiling eyes greeted him.
A feast always followed the Easter Sunday service, with dancing after. Chrisanthe’s mother, Stavroula, came over to Theo’s mother, Maria, and greeted her like an old friend. It seemed they approved of the growing friendship, though they still had to work on the fathers, Haralambos and Konstantine. Of course, Chrisanthe was far too young and Theo had little to offer, other than the prestige of guarding the King’s palace. Still, he was a hard worker
and could turn his hand at most things.
The young couple made the most of their time together and agreed that she would wait for him. By the time he returned, life on Kythera wasn’t easy. A couple of very dry seasons plus the earthquake of 1903, which flattened the village of Mitata, just a few kilometres away, saw many leave for chances of a better life. Theo decided he would join them, choosing Australia as a number of his cousins and friends had done. But first, he was determined to marry Chrisanthe. That would make her passage easier when he had established a future for them.
They were married in April 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church in Potamos, where they had first met. Chrisanthe was now 22 and Theo, 26. The time passed quickly, before Theo made his way to Port Said in 1906 to embark on the Grosser Kurfurst, to travel to Sydney, via Perth. He had a job waiting in a cafe, thanks to a fellow Kytherian. Despite very long hours and sleeping on the cafe floor, Theo was determined to learn all he could before moving on. His brother in law, Speros, offered him a job in his cafe in Glen Innes, where he was much happier, working and saving hard for the next 23 months.
Theo entered a ballot for land, which he was granted… 640 acres at Myall Creek, Whiporie. He dreamed of a dairy farm and started clearing the land. It wouldn’t be till around 1909 that he could bring Chrisanthe to Australia. Still no hut, but in 1910, Chrisanthe went with him to the farm, despite being heavily pregnant. Life was hard, especially raising their son in the isolation of the bush.
Theo and his cousin, Michael, decided to try cafe life again, so the young family moved to Bellingen. Life was easier there.. and two more children were born. When Michael left in 1911 to go fight the war in the Balkans, farm life in Aberdeen beckoned.
What a contrast: rich soil, kinder climate, familiar faces and their lucerne and small crops farm prospering. They stayed there till 1927, before moving to Urunga, a small seaside village. Their family had grown by six, five born in Aberdeen and one in Perth, putting stop to a planned trip home. Sadly, they left a toddler at rest in nearby Scone, after losing him to convulsions.
Urunga saw them settled back into farming. They became the centre of a growing Greek community in the nearby towns. World War II set them on a different path. Three brothers enlisted, four remained on the farm, deemed to be an essential service, with a government contract to supply food for the troops. They worked very long days and nights with kerosene lamps attached to their old tractor. Chrisanthe and the two girls worked for the Red Cross and also cared for many families left alone.
These years took their toll on Theo, who succumbed to heart troubles in 1953, thus ending a love affair which lasted over 50 years.