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'We want children to feel proud of their ancestors'

Two Greek Australians launch the first series of Greek-themed stories

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27 January 2017

Little Andonis is a merciful and adventurous young boy who lives in his beloved Megisti (Kastellorizo), a magical Greek island of the south Aegean (Dodecanese group of islands) located in the eastern part of Greece. One day, as he wanders the streets of the island, he meets his beloved Muse Melpomeni, the Muse of Tragedy and Song, who is sad and inspires the young Kastellorizian boy to perform a great deed on her behalf.

These are the main characters in the first book in a series of children's stories that Greek Australian barrister Michele Kiosoglous and academic Phillippa Adgemis have created together with young Queensland illustrator James Blake, who through his drawings has managed to perfectly capture the essence of the stories, the characters and Kastellorizo.

All three creators share a heritage and a love of the tiny island, and their love for the island is strongly linked with their love of Greek mythology and classical poetry.

"The idea of creating a series of inspirational stories was born from a mix of stories told by our grandparents, and is combined with years of study and our love of history and the classics," says Kiosoglous, who has been working on the project together with her cousin Phillippa since 2013 and has visited France, Italy, Cyprus and Greece in order to collect all the information she required for the books.
"This is a project that truly spans the breadth of the Kastellorizian diaspora and in writing these stories we are combining myth and legend in a didactic format, depicting how the muses grace the children of the island," explains the author in an interview with Neos Kosmos.

Co-author Phillippa Adgemis.

Their first book, Melpomene and Andonis, brings together the natural beauty, nature, history and mythology of Kastellorizo.

"This story adds to the island's folklore and preserves its rich cultural heritage, and we hope it will introduce a new generation of children to classical literature and mythology. For a child of the diaspora, Kastellorizo is a magical mystical place that we so dearly love; it is the stuff of dreams and fantasy," says Michele, who moved to Europe in 2001 and started travelling to and from Greece, and in particular to Kastellorizo, to explore her roots and ancestors' history.

The stories all combine mythology with local Kastellorizian landmarks and personalities. At the same time, Phillippa's background in education and drama has enabled the writers to put the stories together in a way that's appealing to both adults and children.

"Each story depicts the heroic feats that nine children of the island are able to perform with their muse's inspiration, and they somehow appeal to children of all ages on so many levels, while having a timelessness that defies categorisation.
"Our team has worked across continents to put this project together and our aim is for the children of the diaspora from all over the world to open the book, read the story, learn about their history and their culture and through understanding where they have come from, feel happy and proud of their ancestors' country," adds Kiosoglous.

While all the stories have been written, Melpomene and Andonis is the first of the series to be published and the authors will introduce their work at the official launch, which will be held on Friday 3 February at the Kastellorizian Clubrooms, South Melbourne, with the help of George Papadopoulos, founding member of the Ethnic Communities Council of Australia and heavily involved with the ethnic advisory and the Greek Community.

The European launch of the first book will be also held later this year on Monday 10 July at the Drasi Office at the Port of Kastellorizo.

Kastellorizo is an ancient place that has been inhabited since Neolithic times. It had its own civilisation, which can be seen in the scattered inscriptions on the ruins of countless tombs and walls across the island. The Romans and Byzantines occupied the island, and in 1306 the Knights of the Order of St John built a castle fortress overlooking the Aegean Sea. At this time, Megisti became known by its Venetian-Italian name of Kastellorizo, which derives from the words Castello Rosso, or Red Castle.

Today, Kastellorizo is a magical and isolated place, with the permanent population of 250 swelling to over 1,000 during the European summer. The Kastellorizian diaspora and other lovers of the island return year after year, bringing new life and colour to this ancient place.

* This series of children's picture books will also be available for purchase via the official website www.storiesofmegistikastellorizo.com

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