THE GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: the deserted houses
Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the national project “In Their Own Image: Greek Australians”
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.
This week’s story is one that most people who have migrated can feel a connection to. Leaving home is a devastating upheaval, what happens to those who stay, what happens to all that is left?
I was staying with family friends on the island of Kythera, it was my first trip there and I was alone. I came across a street full of empty houses.
This initial photograph (Mitata, Kythera, 1985) of an abandoned house, led me to believe that if migration had had such an impact on Kythera, a similar situation would surely have occurred in other places that had migrated into large numbers, especially the islands of Ithaca and Kastellorizo.
From my diary (1st May 1985)
“In the morning I went to the deserted part of Mitata (Kythera)… all the abandoned houses starting to collapse, the former owners are now in Australia. I forced myself to enter some houses. The last house (Stathis family) was the best find. Old photos on the floor, framed photo still on the walls… A photo on the wall was dated “1934, Wagga” – it would be wonderful if I could trace some of these people and their children (in Australia). ”
With this photo in mind, I wrote requests for grants to carry out the plan that was being prepared. In 1990 I returned to Greece with Leonard and an Australian Council scholarship. We have found abandoned homes on these 3 islands, all with powerful stories found among the debris about the migration process. They were like Australian history museums left to rot. We also interviewed many Greek-Australians who had returned to Greece and those from Australia who had Greece in their hearts. A book was published another 5 years later in 1995. It was called “Images of Home, mavri xenitia”, by Hale & Iremonger, unfortunately out of print. That there were private photo albums and personal letters in these abandoned homes made it seem like these people were planning to return one day.
Tragic stories of people left behind in villages where sometimes few people lived there. One was an elderly woman who had no one to sponsor her, she had never married because all the young men had left. The book was intended to show migration as a two-way process, not always about the country they migrated to, but what happened to the places they left.
– By Effy Alexakis
Research: Léonard Janiszewski
Photos: Effy Alexakis
© In their own image: Archives of the Greek-Australian National Project
ABOUT EFFY ALEXAKIS & LEONARD JANISZEWSKI
Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, as well as historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have traveled Australia to photograph and collect stories. They also photographed Greeks-Australians in Greece and documented amazing stories. Images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving information about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories offer personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archives include photographs, both historical and contemporary, recorded interviews and literary material.
They have published 3 books and many articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been exhibited widely throughout Australia and Greece.
VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT: Australian Greek Cafes and Milk Bars | Facebook