A genteel young man in high starched collars looks out of an inky photo with an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile across his face.
It is incredible to think that these men in an alien land, took the time to write a book which would assist new settlers from Greece to adjust to the Australian way of life.
– George Poulos –
This is 1916 and people rarely smiled for the camera, but this young Kytherian, Kosmas Andronikou, or Andronicus, the successful coffee merchant, has established himself along with his brother Emmanouil in Sydney as flourishing businessmen.
Life in Australia, the first ever book to be published in Greek in Australia is now available in English for the first time, due to the Kytherian community and Sydney businessman John Comino.
The Andronicus brothers along with fellow community member Georgios Kentavros are the co-authors of Life in Australia.
If nothing else is a compelling first chronicle of Hellenic involvement in Australia and an important snapshot of life in Australia in 1916.
While the mass of Greek immigrants arrived in Australia between 1949 – 1971, Kytherians began settling in NSW at the end of the 1800s.
A keen entrepreneurial spirit founded on mercantile traditions assured many of them economic success and a leadership role in Australia’s nascent Greek community.
The Andronicus’ “trading house” is described in the book as, “the centre of Hellenism, particularly for Kytherians.”
“It is incredible to think that these men in an alien land, took the time to write a book which would assist new settlers from Greece to adjust to the Australian way of life, “ said George Poulos, Co-Chairman of the book’s Launch Committee, to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE).
Only one original copy of the the book existed prior to the Kytherian community along with sponsors taking on the task of reproducing Life in Australia
It was held in a library and was valued at over $80,000.
The book is a fascinating mix of almanac facts ranging from the demographic population of “white Australians”, facts on husbandry, legal information as well as biographical entries on Greek settlers.
Given who wrote the book there is no surprise that there are entries which sing the praises of the Andronicus brothers.
As the book writes; “They, [Andronicus Bros.], possess considerable property in the form of shops, whilst their trading house might be better described as a house of trust and hospitality.”
Throughout the book there are references to the “patriotism and generosity” of prominent Greeks”, something Mr Poulos explains as being as a reaction to the racism and jingoism of Australians and their concern about the loyalty of the early Greeks.
Greece had yet to declare its hand during the Great War. The Greek Royals, being related to the German monarchy, and Greece’s ‘neutrality’ were making things quite “tense for Greeks in Australia, until Greece sided with the Allies and Turkey with Germany” Mr Poulos said to NKEE.
Life in Australia, with its emphasis on “virtues such as hard work, honesty, diligence and civic duty,” was critical in assisting new arrivals from Greece to assimilate, according to Mr Poulos. “It helped to convince prospective Greek immigrants that they would quickly enjoy a very good life in Australia” Mr Poulos.
Clearly a healthy level of self aggrandisement is evident in the book, “Just as their trading house should be named The House of Confidence, so should the General Manager, Mr Kosmas Andronicus, be named the guiding intelligence of most Greeks in New South Wales.”
The 368 page book details the state of the Greek communities in 1916 and provides about 150 pages of biographies and photographs of Greek immigrants.
Many Australian families will recognise great grandparents, grandparents and other relatives in these pages.
“An extensive 2009 Epilogue has been added in order to outline events surrounding the period of its creation” said Mr Poulos.
Life in Australia does ensure that the descendants of a pioneering generation of Greek immigrants are aware of their achievements while gaining primary insight into this historical period.
These two impressive volumes are available for sale in Greek and in English.
To get yourself a copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02 9388 8320.