Everlasting love: Gianneli couple were together in life – and death

A rare romance began 65 years ago for George and Chrysa Gianneli.

George, left Patra, to come to Australia seeking a better life filled with opportunities. He arrived in Melbourne in 1956, where he met Panagiotis, also from Patra. The two of them became good friends and decided to move in together.

A few months later, George felt an immediate spark when Panagiotis’ sister, Chrysa, came to Australia to live with them. The couple fell in love at first sight, or so says their son Kostas. Despite the immediate passion, they married a few years later in 1958 and stayed together forever.

The couple had two sons, Kostas, the director of the intensive care unit of Box Hill hospital, and Dimitri-Romeo, a dentist. Their sons gave them four grandchildren, Chrysa and George, from Kostas and his wife Mina, and Adam and Mathew, from Dimitri and Elisa.

Life was good to them and no harm ever came upon their family. But time went on and, with age, came challenges. Aged just 59 years, Chrysa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Her illness got worse, and she eventually developed dementia. Despite the difficulties, her husband stood strong beside her and was her guardian angel, never leaving her side. He kept her home with him and took care of her despite his age until it was necessary for her to get constant medical support.

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So, for the first time in 58 years the loving couple had to be separated. Chrysa was transferred to an elderly care unit, but even then, George never left her.
Every morning, when he woke up, he would go visit her and stay with her until late at night. It didn’t matter that she would be silent and not respond. For George it was enough knowing that deep down she was aware that he was there. She could feel his presence and listen to him. He even told his sons that if anything was to happen to him, they should take care of their mother and do everything they can to keep her alive.

Kostas shared with us that, seven years ago his father was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery. At first, he refused, but then the doctor asked him, “Who is going to take care of Chrysa then?” It was only then that he underwent the procedure.

The doctors said that Chrysa had a few months of life left, but surprisingly she lived longer – quite possibly because of George’s persistence.

The couple lived their final years using their own communication code until last October when George had a fall in the nursing home and bumped his head. Unfortunately, the fall caused a stroke and he fell into a coma.

A few weeks ago the doctors advised the family to turn off life support. It was a hard decision, and ironic too, as his granddaughter Chrysa was due to be married two days following the announcement that death was imminent for George. Distraught, the family put off the decision until after the wedding.

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It was a hard decision to make, and they knew that George would want to live longer to take care of the love of his life, Chrysa. But, as life would have it, Chrysa passed away. It was only then that they decided that George would want to be with her and they turned off the life support, the day after the wedding. Now they will be together for eternity smiling and holding hands, as they always have.

* Adapted by Melina Haritopoulou-Sinanidou