My mother was born in Famagusta, Cyprus, and my father’s parents in the Marche region of Italy. I was born and raised in Adelaide and try to embrace all three cultures and an Anglo-Australian mentality with a mixed Mediterranean heritage.
My childhood memories are replete with house parties that my yiayia and pappou held for friends and family. Pappou would light the fourno, and their parea sung and danced late into the night.
In primary school I was bullied. The Italian kids went for me for being ‘half Greek’, the Greek for being ‘half Italian’, and I found it hard to relate to the Anglo kids.
My household was a loving environment. My father respected my mum’s cultural background and she my dad’s. Primary school was a toxic environment and I didn’t fit in anywhere.
I didn’t to fit into the Italian box, the Greek box, and I am not Anglo. When I had a bad day at school I’d come home and my dad would take me to the park to play soccer. Memories I cherish.
My dad raised his three daughters to be independent and educated and he understood patriarchal aspects of the Mediterranean culture and their impact on women.
My mum is a strong and educated woman. My maternal grandparents are from Cyprus. They were teachers and mum followed in their footsteps to became one.
Education in history, classical studies and the arts was common in my family. Through my own historical study, I have come to understand that the Mediterranean was a multicultural space.
Greko – a Greek dialect – is still spoken in parts of Southern Italy. Our ancient Mediterranean ancestors were diverse.
High school can be a stressful place as you search for identity, try to fit in and make friends. In early high school I tried to fit into both the Greek and Italian box. I felt inadequate.
By mid-high school it all changed for the better.
I realised that I wasn’t supposed to fit into a box. I began embracing all of me. I had many friends that were from different backgrounds.
My Greek Australian friends and I were able to relate to one another on a deep level. We understood Greek cultural norms.
For example, sometimes our parents were strict and didn’t let us go to parties.
We’d all fast leading up to Easter, we’d use Greek words to make jokes that only we understood and so much more.
I was also encouraged to learn many traditions from my Italian side.
Every school holidays my sisters and I would learn to make homemade pasta with our Italian grandma (Nonna). Once a year my family also made a big batch of homemade tomato sauce.
As an adolescent, accepting myself was liberating and this included embracing the Aussie side in me.
I was born and raised in Australia and although my culture is part Mediterranean, I am Australian.
At the end of the day, it’s not about choosing a heritage.
Identity is multi-layered and differs from person to person.
I am a confident and strong, multicultural woman.
Multiculturalism means choosing the best of all worlds.