Monday, 28 July 2014

A Family House History


A Family House History

Greeks Overseas

As often happens when first generation Melbourne Greeks meet they find similarities in their histories. Many, like Takis, have taken an Australian name and were born in Alexandria. The problem for these Greeks is that when they think of ‘home’ in part it is Alexandria, but they also dream of the village that their parents (or grandparents) came from when they moved, before or after WW1, to work in Alexandria.

 The Appeal of Simple Village Life

Lemnos today

The appeal of these villages is now the contrast of the life there to their lives in bustling Melbourne or Sydney. Lemnos for instance retains the feel of older times. We have just experienced one of those events that so many return to Greece to take part in, a local saint’s day, with a march around the village, followed by a celebration BBQ in a local park.

Us enjoying Greek village life - a church fete

The Natal Home

Yannis Pandozolo, Efterpi's father, original owner of the house.

'Mrs' Pandazolo, Efterpi's blue eyed mother

For Takis mostly any ‘homesickness’ he feels is for Lemnos – partly a result of his parents longing, and partly as a result of visits here to see his mother and aunts who remained in Greece.

I remember the aromas from the kitchen, indicating that my aunts were preparing meals and sweets, under the supervision and direction of my Mother, who was the Matriarch at the time. I could hear the calls from rooms above, as other family members got ready for a swim. All you need is a towel, sandals and a five-minute stroll to reach the sandy beach of ‘Ta Riha Nera’. I remember the meals, the swims, and discussions while sipping Greek coffee and lounging in the courtyard of the old house.’

The Adopted Home

But Takis’ early memories are from his boyhood in Alexandria. He remembers when the family lived in a large apartment building, one family to a floor. His uncle lived on the ground floor, and above his family on the third floor was another family of cousins. The servants lived on the very top floor. Of these the most loved was Luisa an Italian woman married to a Greek who loomed large in his early childhood memories. She was both his nursemaid and the family cook.


George began by owning a supermarket, but later owned two leather tanneries

One of the tanneries

A Holiday Home

The church built by George on his home island in 1925, five years before he died.

George and Efterpi, were his grandparents, though both died before he was born. George, after moving to Alexandria accumulated a lot of property all over Greece. And while they lived and worked in Alexandria the house we have been restoring, on the island of Lemnos, was the natal home of Takis grandmother Efterpi, and his mother Artemis, for while George and Efterpi lived in Alexandria they would return to this house each summer with their nine children, many of whom were born here.

George and his nine children

Efterpi who married George

Death and Ownership

George died at the age of 60 soon after his last son was born, and he did not leave will behind. The business in Egypt was taken over by the oldest boys, and then later requisitioned by the government, and soon all the family wealth had disappeared. All the properties had been sold and only this house on Lemnos was left.

The nine grow up
Two of the brothers go travelling
One of the Nine, living in Athens after the war







A Continuing Holiday Home

The house on Lemnos however was left to the whole family. In Greece this is a property settlement called Exatieratou, which, as far as I have ascertained means that everyone has equal shares to everything on the site. This fulfills the Greek desire to take care the children. At first it was great, the children and later grandchildren had an island holiday house to come to each summer. There were many family holidays that took place here in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Two sisters with their progeny plus other family children

Buying and Renovating

But then ownership passed on to second cousins and great grandchildren. Now there were all sorts of problems. These last stakeholders, about 36 in all were widely distributed all over the globe, in Canada, Australia, Egypt, Greece, and France. We bought the shares of all these folk and now Takis and I have renovated the old house. But the history is still present, and sometimes we can imagine those nine children here again, chasing up and down the stairs!


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