With the opening words “καλημέρα Βασίλη, συγνώμη για την ενόχληση, ξέρω πόση δουλειά έχεις, αλλά έχω ένα θέμα που θέλω να συζητήσω ..», Rekaris would call me most weeks.

Rekaris was well into his 80s when we first met. He had a strong interest in our community. His style of conversation was foundered on kindness and achieving a better outcome for all.

For our first meeting which was on a cold wintry Sunday, Kosmas asked to meet me at a Greek café in the northern suburbs. I had just finished in the city with the Justice for Cyprus Rally and given I had only spoken briefly with him on the phone before this and barely knew the man, the drive there seemed endless.

Kosmas was late. The café was deserted and I ordered a baklava and a Greek coffee. I began to think “it’s a quick meeting and I’m off to see my kids”. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a long and deep friendship.

Kosmas soon after entered the café. A small man dressed in a suit, with a big smile and a warm handshake. He tells me about his life and journey in Australia. A prolific writer who like so many of the first generation, it was clear that much of him had never left his birthplace of Kastoria. He spoke that afternoon endlessly about his birthplace and of those from Kastoria that migrated and prospered around the world.

Part of his need for connection with me seemed to initially relate to the fact that Kastoria was also my mother Eleni’s birthplace .

Although his first connection to me was our joint relationship with Kastoria, he had an overarching view that was also global in its reach. Culture, history and migration soon became the backbone of our conversations. He would ring me to make suggestions for speakers at our seminars, he would call to read out his articles that he wanted to write, and he would come past my law office for a coffee and a chat. All of these contacts were prefaced with a desire to make a difference in a respectful way.

I still recall the pride he demonstrated when I would attend the Kastorian functions in Coburg. Alongside Effie Lalopoulos (the president) he would shuffle me through the room to introduce to almost everyone present. Each person mattered to him and each person had a story. At the last function I was at, with a big cheeky grin he pointed to his brother and said to me “ποιας είναι πιο μεγάλος από τους δυο μας;;». He loved his brother.

Kosmas was proud of our Organisation, the Greek Community of Melbourne. He would tell everyone about our achievements – big and small. He was satisfied with the Unity he saw and he believed we were moving forward. He may have not understood this but, his support gave us strength.

Kosmas may have also not realised it, but his gentle conversations were his persuasive weapon. Endearing and generous, i always wanted to give him the outcome he deserved.

I will miss Kosmas. Kastoria and Australia are the better for his contributions.