I was fortunate enough to grow up in what we called a family of many nations..
My father’s parents were Greek born, having emigrated from Potamos, Kythera, a small island near the southern tip of Greece. My mother’s mother was from Co Clare, Ireland, yet both my parents were born in Australia. I inherited the light olive skin and dark hair from the Greek side I was told, but the reddish tinge ‘definitely came from the Irish’ according to my Irish Great Uncle Martin and his sister, Great Aunt Molly(Mary).
I have always had a fascination for other cultures.. part of my incessant need to keep learning. I never did learn much Greek, my father didn’t think it necessary as we were Australian, though he spoke fluent Greek. The few words I did learn were from Papauli and Dad’s sister, Mary. It’s not that I didn’t want to… and I can understand a little more than I can speak, which still amounts to very little.
You can imagine how excited I was when my Uncle Sim, Dad’s brother, arrived back from a trip to Greece with a lovely Greek bride, Koula. Here was my opportunity… They were married in Greece on Dec 26, 1960. Koula had left her family behind for a new life in our far off land. She had been born on Aitoliko, a tiny island, on Sep 17, 1926… her full name was Vasiliki Vissios, but we all called her Koula…. Yes, she would have been 90 today… I can’t imagine her as that old…
I still see her as that new bride, who spoke virtually no English , but was so keen to learn. They lived with us for a time when they first arrived and she and my Mum became great friends, despite the language difficulties.
I wanted to be able to help her to learn English and to learn more Greek in the process, so several afternoons a week, I would come from school, then take Aunt on the bus to our nearest shopping centre and we would spend an hour or so, wandering through the shops, pointing at different items .. Aunt Koula would tell me the Greek name and I would tell her the English. I think we spent most of that time laughing at each other’s attempts, but we did learn a little from each other, and she got out of the house for a bit also.
I wish you could know that you are still very fondly thought of.. and you held your own special place in our hearts. For me, you were my real Greek Aunt. I loved the way you loved us… the friendship you formed with my Mum and my Aunt Heather in particular. I saw your heart breaking when Mum died and you said how much you would always miss Peggy..You are now with them and your much missed family again..having left us on 16 December, 2012. I was privileged to spend some of your last hours with you, your son Theo and your daughter, Chriss… who will love you forever.
These images that follow portray just a little of your life… however they don’t show your sense of humour, your ability to make a joke at the most unexpected times and laugh in the face of adversity..nor do they cover your love of family, your love of dance and the kindness you shared..
Happy 90th Birthday, Aunt Koula..we miss you.
(c) Crissouli 17 Sept. 2016