A New Life

 

Many Castellorizians went back to the island after the sinking of the Empire Patrol but conditions were very bad and most decided to leave for a new life in Australia, Rhodes, Egypt, mainland Greece and elsewhere. Much of the island was in ruins. Some however never returned to Castellorizo.

 

Paul Boyatzis tells of his return to Egypt and subsequent departure to start a new life in Australia:

 

We arrived in Alexandria where comparative luxury awaited us. With my mother and I were also the brother in law of my uncle Economos, Apostolos Exindaris and his two sisters, Theresia and Katina. We were housed in the family home with my grandmother, two uncles and their wives.

 

The first encounter was extremely sad when my aunt was first informed of the drowning of her mother Zabetta Exindari. The support and comfort of her siblings was paramount. Apostolos and Katina after a short period in Alexandria, returned to Port Said to join the other survivors in their journey back to Castellorizo.

 

We, especially my mother who was gravely ill in Palestine, gradually recuperated in cosmopolitan Alexandria and a new safe life was emerging. I went to school for the first time (Greek), and soon I was able to exchange my “Cazzy” accent to “Katharevousa Greek.” At the same time I become fluent in French and Arabic. In short I transformed from a Castellorizian refugee boy to a “somewhat pain in the neck”.

 

Excellent schooling, a loving mother, ever caring relatives, and concerned father in Australia soon changed a young boy’s past. It is of interest to add that a great deal of social life centered around the Castellorizian Brotherhood of Alexandria, arguably the oldest of its kind in the world (A copy of its Constitution is in my possession to this day). Furthermore at a young age one managed somehow to become Godfather to baby cousin Chrissy Finikiotis (now Kiosoglos - wife of John). By Castellorizian custom this was correct as I was the best man (Koumbaros) at the parents wedding in Jerusalem (see photo elsewhere).

 

In post war1947, a concerned anxious father was insufficient for a quick passage to Australia. In fact you had to be on the ready in Port Said to catch the first available ship. We did just that, having with the assistance of relatives, relocated to Port Said “wishing and hoping.” Fortunately the SS Misr arrived, berths were available, and we had to be on board within hours. Farewell to Port Said after a few months there, and as I discovered later, farewell to my school mate John, the now well know Emeritus Professor John Papadimitriou.

 

On the Misr amongst the passengers were other Castellorizians bound for Australia, including my relatives, the Zervos family who joined the ship in Suez (I believe on board were also several Castellorizian girls travelling to join their intended). The Misr was not the Empire Patrol but neither was it the Queen Mary 2.

 

Steve Zervos and Paul Boyatzis onboard the Misr 1947

 

In my mind the trip was long but pleasant. We travelled along the West coast of Africa, calling in to Mombassa and Durban before arriving to Fremantle on Easter Sunday several weeks later.

 

The reception at the Fremantle wharf from relatives and other Castellorizians remains vividly in my mind to this day. After all the Misr brought to Australia the first major post war wave of migrants. For me personally, at the age of ten years, was the first encounter with my father since the age of two.

 

The controversy that surrounded the arrival of the Misr in Fremantle and the Eastern States is well documented. Because of the relevance to Castellorizian migration a visit to the website linked to this article is worthwhile. Go to: http://www.smh.com.au/multimedia/misr//main.html

 

From my aspect, normality prevailed … comfortable environment with parents and relatives, normal schooling and learning the English language. I may have been fluent in Greek, French and Arabic but I still had to pass exams in English. Fortunately being more advanced than my classmates in mathematics I could trade with them coaching me in English in exchange for helping with them with maths.

 

Not only was food in Perth was plentiful, as compared to Castellorizo, but with the customary attendance to the family shop on weekends and holidays (The Ambassadors Tearooms for those who may remember), weight control became a long term problem.

 

Finishing school, attending University, graduating in Medicine and as they say the rest is history.

 

I hope by putting “pen to paper”, or now days “finger to key board”, I may encourage others to tell their story following our common link “The Empire Patrol Disaster”.

 

Maria Hatzikyriacos (nee Papanastasiou) tells of the family departure for Australia and life onboard the Misr:

 

By 1947 family members in Australia had organised to sponsor our family in our endeavours to migrate to Australia. There was no future on Castellorizo - most of the island's homes had been destroyed by the German bombing which we had fled in 1943. During that period, there was no assisted passage for migrants of a Greek background. Our family had to raise 220 pounds for each of the family members, a huge amount of money.

 

The first three to leave were myself, my older sister Evdokia and younger brother George. We travelled to Haifa then to Port Said in Egypt, searching for the means to travel to Australia. We spent 22 days in Port Said, going to the Cooks Tour office every day enquiring about the availability of passage to Australia. The office was expecting a boat but did not know when it would arrive. The Misr arrived after this three week period to the great joy of those in the port who were waiting for a passage to South Africa and Australia.

 

Maria, George and Evdokia bound for Australia in 1947

 

While others have referred to the Misr as a misery, and others described the conditions as 'revolting' (notably Robert Menzies), I has positive memories of the voyage to Australia. From the time our family were evacuated from Castellorizo, we had the chance to see the world beyond the small island of my birth. I was young, seeing the world for the first time and was voyaging to Australia, where a new life awaited me.

 

One of my clearest memories is that of Paul Boyatzis. I remember his distress whenever the ship's foghorn was sounded. This reminded the then ten year old of the sinking of the Empire Patrol. Paul survived that voyage; many did not. I remember comforting him on more than one occasion when Paul thought that the sounding of the Misr's horn signalled its sinking.

 

The boat stopped at Mombassa in Kenya and Durban in South Africa. I recall the decorations in Durban, which King George had visited two days before. We had not known of the English King's visit, and we thought that the town had been decorated for us. I have vivid recollections of us entertaining ourselves during the long voyage with the company of other Greek migrants. I can remember celebrating Greek Independence Day on the ship. It was 25th March, 1947, the deck of the Misr was festooned with flags and banners, the captain and his officers were present in their white uniforms, music was played and a march was conducted around the perimeter of the deck, with many Greeks displaying their family ancestral icons. After the march, hymns were chanted. My general reminiscences are that any discomforts relating to cramped accommodation and the poor and repetitive nature of the food were minor. The dominant feelings, as I recall, were of excitement of the new life which awaited us all.

 

This was reinforced with their arrival in Perth on Easter Saturday, where we were greeted with overwhelming joy and hospitality by those fellow Castellorizians whom we had not seen for many years. Some of these were relatives. Some were friends with whom we had grown up. Evdokia, George and myself were feted at many homes. Our optimism of a new and wonderful life was reinforced by this warm welcome.

 

The voyage to Melbourne was very rough. The passage through the Great Australian Bight was particularly violent. Our final destination was close, however, with our arrival in Melbourne being just as moving as that in Fremantle. Many relatives and friends had travelled from various parts of Victoria and New South Wales to meet my family.

 

I recall life on Castellorizo in the war years leading up to our evacuation in 1943 as one of hardship and deprivation. I remember my own mother selling off her inheritance, gold coin by gold coin, so that the family could survive. I also recall my mother cutting slices of bread then weighing them, to ensure her children received the same amount of food. I recall being given two spoons (and no more) of yoghurt for breakfast, and one thin slice of bread. For me, Australia was the promised land.

 

Evdokia, George and myself were reunited with our parents and three other siblings in 1950. Our final sibling arrived in 1960 with her own family.

 

Arthur Athans with his mother and sister, Katina, left Castellorizo in 1948 and joined his now married sister, Glykeria, and brother in law, Panayiotis, in Cyprus. They lived with them in Nicosia where Arthur attended technical school, training as electrician.

 

In 1950 the budding electrician joined the exodus to Australia. With sponsoring from relatives, as was the custom at that time, Arthur as a full fee paying passenger (as compared to an assisted migrant) arrived in Fremantle on the Orion on 15 March 1950.

 

Arthur Athans 19 years old

March 17 1950 - Two Days After Arrival in Australia

 

Arthur describes the initial hardships in Australia as another chapter in his life. However with hard work and many sacrifices his responsibilities were fully met. He arranged his mother’s and sister’s passage and relocation to Perth whilst completing his studies and qualifying as Electrical Mechanic with the award of “A” Grade Elecrical Worker’s Licence. He continued to work as an electrician until 1966 when he ventured with his wife, Eva, in the establishment of the well known polyethnic variety shop; The Pan Hellenic.

 


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