ΤΙΜΕ ΙΝ ΑΤΗΕΝS            




Explore the Map above




Helen Vafeas

Long-haired Georgina was twenty-two when she left her island and followed her husband to Australia . It was 1954. She brought the two little boys with her. How their grandmother cried. The younger one was a devil, just leamt to walk. She had to keep him tied to something most of the time to stop him falling overboard. The older one. Taki, would do what you told him. In the village his grandfather would sometimes put him on the table in the kafenion. first clearing away the ouzo and the ash-trays, and Taki would do a shy, smiling, hopping little dance while the old men laughed and clapped time.

When they finally reached the docks at Port Melbourne, Georgina looked down to see her husband waving wildly up at her, his eyes full of tears. Her brother had climbed a tower next to the deck and was throwing streamers and sweets to the children. Taki unwrapped one and popped it into his mouth. It seemed they now belonged to another world.

The first few days were very happy. All the friends and relations threw parties for them and there was endless eating, dancing and laughing. Taki and his little brother got sick of being squeezed and kissed. They moved into a big terrace-house in Carlton where three other families lived. Georgina and her husband and the two boys shared a bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom were communal and always busy. The street outside was always noisy and full of cars. Taki had not seen many cars before. It was summer and in the evening everyone would sit on the balcony and talk about home. while the cars streamed past below.

A week after Georgina arrived she began work in the factory where her sister-in-law had a job. packing chocolates. She worked the morning shift, Angela worked the afternoon shift, and they would look after each other's children.

Angela's two were a little older than Taki and had learnt some English at school. They took him there after the summer holidays. Taki was just six. His cousins took him to a room and the teacher spoke to him and they left him. The teacher smiled at him and pointed to a chair. Some children behind him were push­ing him and laughing at him. The teacher went on and on. unintelligibly. One by one the children came out to the teacher's desk and she spoke to them and then wrote in her book. "Taki!" He heard his name. the first word he had recognized in an hour, and jumped. She beckoned to him. He approached her; all the children were watch­ing.

She spoke to him. He stared at her, his dark eyes frightened. She spoke again, very slowly: "What is your address.'" His eyes filled with tears. A brief expression of exasperation passed across her face. "Wonderful", she thought. "What am I sup­posed to do with this one?" She motioned him back to his seat. The children behind him sniggered. He sat very still, his moiith compressed, staring straight ahead, refusing to cry. Another hour wore on while the teacher read to them. The other children liked the story. They laughed unexpectedly and sometirnes.gasped. Taki looked at the asphalt playground outside. He looked at the teacher, her mouth work­ing and making strange, slurred sounds. He began to feel panicky and frightened. He wanted to go to the toilet, Suddenly he had to go to the toilet. He got up and stumbled towards the door. "Taki!" He kept going. The teacher's hand was on his shoulder and pushing him back. He sat down helpless and confused as the warm urine began to seep through the material of his shorts and run down his legs, spread­ing out in a pool beneath his chair.  

 The teacher did not notice until the children inter­rupted her reading with their smothered giggles. Then she looked at him. Anger and disgust were in her eyes and mouth. Dirty little thing. She waved him out of the room. He could go home, he was going to be enough of a nuisance, she had more than enough to worry about today.

As Taki half-ran towards the gate, the bell for recess rang. The boys who had been sitting behind him pelted out after him and into the street. They shouted ugly, blunt words at him. Wog! Choco! A stone hit him on the back. He ran crying and terrified two blocks towards his house. Where was it?

He recognised the daphne and basil in pots beside the front door. He ran into the hall. Their door was locked. He ran to Angela's room. It was locked too. Some­times she took the children out shopping with her before she had to go to work. Only the cross woman who lived upstairs was home. She had not wanted more children in the house. Taki sat against the door of their bedroom, huddled up, feeling sick. His mother would be home soon. She would put her arms around him and say "Ti ech/.s, pethi mou?" before taking him inside and making him something nice to drink. He crouched there for a long time, too scared to move. The cross woman tramped down the stairs and out into the street, closing the door behind her. She muttered a few words at him. He sat in the dark corridor. At last the key turned in the lock. Mama! He started up. But it was Angela with his little brother who was crying and kicking. Angela was bothered and in a hurry. "Come into my room!" she shouted out to him. But he only wanted his mother. Nothing would be alright until then.

Georgina was on the tram home after another long. boring and rigorous shift. Some of the other women were Greek but they were not allowed to talk while they worked. If you took too long in the toilet the overseer would follow and shout at you. Georgina was exhausted. Even after work she never had a moment's peace. The children were always crying and climbing over her. They were unsettled too. But today, she thought, as she walked from the tram-stop, severe and straight, her mouth compressed, she would have a few hours to herself, if she could get the little one to sleep. The older children would be at school until three. She would take off her shoes, lie on the bed and look at her photographs of home. and close her eyes and remember spring days when she and her friends would carry their blankets to the rocky stream to wash them, taking a picnic of bread, fetta. olives and fruit, mak­ing a day of the first warmth. Or when. after the day's work. she and her mother and sisters would sit outside their stone house on the freshly-swept and watered square, and eat water-melon while talking in the cool of the evening.

It would be hard. This first part. these first few years, would be so hard. Wherever she went there were closed faces and enemies. Only when she reached the house and shut the bedroom door behind her could she collect her thoughts. Thankfully, she pushed open the front door. Taki pulled himself up from the floor and was starting towards her. Mama! Noweverything was alright, she would make him safe. She saw him, all grimy and wet, all ready to burst into tears and cling to her. What had happened at school? So much trouble! Was she never to have any peace? She raised her hand and struck him across the head. He fell back against the door, so surprised he could not speak or cry. Then the huge lump rose in his throat as the unfaimess came home to him. His mother sighed and took his hand as she unlocked the bedroom door. He pressed himself against her, his head pushed against her hip; it was hard, but it was home.

Helen Vafeas

Reproduced with the permission of the Editor
Antipodes Journal of the Greek-Australian Cultural League of Melbourne 






While every effort has been made by ANAGNOSTIS to ensure that the information on this website is up to date and accurate, ANAGNOSTIS  does not give any guarantees, undertakings or warranties in relation to the accuracy completeness and up to date status of the above information.
ANAGNOSTIS will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by any person arising out of the reliance of any information on this Website

.Disclaimer for content on linked sites
ANAGNOSTIS accepts no responsibility or liability for the content available at the sites linked from this Website.
Το περιοδικό δεν ευθύνεται για το περιεχόμενο άρθρων των συνεργατών.

Anagnostis  P.O.Box 25 Forest Hill 3131 Victoria Australia