My yia yia and papou (Vassiliki & Aristidis)
This is a story about how my grandparents met.
All my Greek relatives live in Athens. I never met my dad but met his family when I was 16 and have visited Greece seven times. Language barriers have always been a problem as I don’t know any Greeks in my home town to practise with once I leave Greece.
Aunt Theodisia when she was 16.
My dad Georgios.
Kifissia, Athens circa 1909…
“My father lived in Lavrio with five siblings. Two girls and four boys – Annetta, Vassiliki, Kosta, Dimitri, George and Aristidis.
Anetta and her husband, Vassiliki and Kosta.
“My father (Aristidis) was the second last child. He left from Lavrio and went to Kifissia. He was very young, he loved to travel. In Kifissia someone saw him who was a master. His name was Papastratos, he owned the company of the Cigarettes.
“Well this person had rigs and he wanted him and he told him; “Aristides I want you to come and be my superintendent.” He was a person who worked. He worked from the morning till the night. He had speaking abilities to be a superintendent.
“My mother who lived with her father (Anastasios) and her mother (Anthoula) in the Acropolis area (Plaka), they came to Kifissia to see Papastratos for a visit. When they came, my father saw Vassiliki. He saw my mother and he fell in love with her. And as he fell in love with her, every night he would go down to the Acropolis to her house.
“He went down to her house and he had a guitar and as he would sing to her, she would go out. One evening he told her to come out and she went and he told her ‘tomorrow Saturday, I will come and take you out for a ride to Zapeio.’
“She said yes although she was scared of her father who didn’t let her go out. He had placed a huge tall fence around the house. So she went and as soon as she met him, he took her without telling her anything and he placed her on a train and he takes her to Northern Epirus (Himara) 700 kms from Athens.
“Himara or Himarë (from Greek: Χειμάρρα, Himarra) is a bilingual region and municipality in southern Albania, part of Vlorë County. It lies between the Ceraunian Mountains and the Ionian Sea and is part of the Albanian Riviera. The region consists of the town of Himarë and the villages of Dhërmi, Pilur, Kudhës, Qeparo, Vuno, Ilias, and Palasë.” The region of Himara is predominantly populated by an ethnic Greek community.[4 Wikipedia
“In Northern Epirus, his father lived there, his father who was (tsiflikas) a big land owner, those people then were big land owners and were wealthy and all the people from the village worked for them. They were big landowners also called squires. They were called notables (squirearchy) and Kontidis.
“Your grandfather was called Konti, not his name, he was a K O N T H Σ. It means the man who is wealthy and he is a master of a land. He had workers (men and women working for him, in his home) like in the movies and he took her there.
“He told his father, (my grandfather), what will I do now? He will kill me (her father) and his father said, you will marry her and you will take her there married. And he married her and all the people from the village came and the music played, and the drums were beating, and they sang and she laughed. She was only 17 and couldn’t realise what was going to happen.
“And as they searched for her in Athens where she lived in Plaka, her house is still there, and because they couldn’t find her and so they went to the police. She was gone days. The police searched around and because her father was then a ship inspector, they told him that she is in that area; Epirus and we can’t take her back cause his father is a Kontis, very well known (great) person.
Eventually they found her and brought her back and her parents told my grandfather to go away as they thought he was rough and uncouth. Vassiliki cried for days so her parents let her go with him to Lávrion where they lived for a while and later kifissia. She takes all her nice things with her. They have eight children. She inherits her mothers furniture now in my aunties house.” Aunt Theodosia.
Grandma loved grandpa so much that in 1967 when he died, she was so distraught she wanted to jump out the window in a high rise apartment in Athens to be with him in heaven.
My dad immigrated to Brasil in 1953 where he met my mum and then South Africa and then Australia where I was born.
Grandpa and dad.
The Kontoukas family home
Dad in Brasil
Dads immigration paper to Brasil found at the national archives in Rio de Janeiro.
My dad in the Greek army.
My parents immigration to South Africa