I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and future. Such greeting is especially significant at this gathering of Arcadians. After all, one of our claims either rightly or wrongly is that we Arcadians are the Aboriginal people of Greece.
I also offer my greetings and respect to all special guests and to all Arcadians assembled here today on this auspicious and historic occasion and am honoured taking part at this book Launch.
At the very beginning I must offer a confession. I was provided with a copy of this book 10 days ago, the intention being that I would read it cover to cover and offer some commentary of its contents. I confess that I have failed to do so having read only part of the book.
The reason for not doing so is not laziness or not enough reading each day. I can assure you that I have spent 2-3 hours each day reading this book.
The reason is that I have been astonished, indeed flabbergasted, by the richness of the text and the extraordinary detail of the narrative.
As we are aware the author Professor Anastasios Tamis has written many publications and is considered one of the world authorities when it comes to writing about Hellenism in the Diaspora. His renowned and go to reference book ‘The Greeks in Australia’ in 1997 has been followed by numerous publications that are considered treasures by all those that love knowledge and are craving to learn of Hellenism and Greeks.
This publication about the Arcadians has in my view surpassed all those and provides the most comprehensive and detailed account of Arcadians in Australia. It interweaves the narrative with very detailed cases and references to individuals in a very real and sometimes brutal manner. It conveys very graphically the early struggle in Australia by new arrivals.
Memorable is the story of Jim Kalodimos and his brothers in outback Australia. I had a smile on my face as I read about Tassos Kalodimos upon his arrival in Australia at the outback town of Kununurra, saying that if it was not for the Indian Ocean in front of him, he would have walked all the way back to his village of Silimina.
The book also covers extremely well the lives and challenges of those of us that came as children or are the Australia born children of those early migrants. I was particularly moved and shed a tear by the honesty and bravery conveyed by Dr Vickie Kotsirilos with her story. Her early struggle with living two lives, one at home and another outside is the story of every child of Greek migrants in the ’60s and ’70s
These are only two examples. The book documents many hundreds and refers to thousands of individual’s history of origin as well as their lives in Australia.
The stories of high achievers such as scientists, captains of Industry and Business, ultra-marathoners etc sit very comfortably alongside those of labourers and machinists in factories and farms.
We are provided with a very rich examination of who we were and what we became after settling in Australia. Particularly important is the documentation of the socio-economic development and change that has occurred, of not only the migrants but also the subsequent generations – their children and grand-children.
I found it encapsulates the essence of the struggle over the last 60 years of Arcadians manic desire to preserve family, culture and our identity.
As well as paying homage and recognising the individual the book documents the very colourful history of not only the Pan Arcadian Association of Melbourne & Victoria but nearly all Arcadian groups in Victoria and Australia.
It captures both the early years for the establishment of Arcadian Groups as well as the struggles for their survival and continuance over the last 60 years.
Momentous events have been examined and documented. The book pays homage to all those that took part and have contributed towards the success and achievements which we see today.
I will not attempt to name those here, except for perhaps the undisputed greatest financial benefactor to the Arcadian cause – Andreas Andrianopoulos. A man whose surname I share but am not related to, who more than anyone else has stepped in at crucial moments to provide leadership not only through words but also through direct financial rescue packages to the Arcadian cause.
READ MORE: The poet of Arcadia: John Poulos
I guess some of the conclusions reached and the observations made in the book are certain to cause debate and perhaps even some more argument. This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all that is what we Arcadians are reputed to do well.
Nevertheless, the conclusions reached by the author follows three years work and the detailed examination of some 2,800 documents and interviews with over 500 people and therefore must be respected.
I believe that every reader will find something interesting and informative in this book. I just caution you don’t try to read it cover to cover on one sitting.
I am also of the view that every Arcadian household should obtain and keep a copy. Not only to read and enjoy but to pass on to future generations as an heirloom.
I am sure that future generations will look back with nostalgia to read and marvel who their ancestors were.
I offer my congratulations to Professor Tamis for his time, patience and persistence to bring this project to fruition. It could not have been easy.
Also, my congratulations to the Pan-Arcadian Association of Melbourne & Victoria, through its current President Chrissa Kanatas for the bold and brave decision to commission this book. I also acknowledge the Herculean efforts of Demetris Alexopoulos for his untiring efforts and for his vision that the time had come to hand the reins of the Association on to the new generation of Arcadians.
Finally, I pay tribute and offer gratitude to the founding fathers of the Association and to all those that have volunteered their time and efforts and have served on committees of all kinds, over the last 60 years.
You have ensured that Arcadian presence in Australia is to be respected, noticed and indeed one to be envied.
To all those, I borrow the words of one of our greatest poets and say:
“Eseis Pernate Protoi kai akolouthoume emeis.”