This year’s Greek-Australian Writers’ Festival promises to deliver on a variety of levels as it continues to build on its growing impact as a promotion of the great works being produced on Hellenic topics by Greek, Greek-Australian, and Australian writers alike.

The event, which is being presented by the Greek Festival of Sydney and UTS Journalism and Writing, will boast numerous developments such as the launch of a new book by the Greek Orthodox Community, edited by Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos, titled ‘Hellenic Dreaming’.

Dr Vatsikopoulos, who is also the Director of the Writers’ Festival, also played a crucial role in organising the visit of Costas Politis, the President of the Greek Cultural Centre of Tashkent, who will discuss the tales of the Hellenic political exiles in the Uzbex capital.

This topic is part of the visual storytelling component for this year’s event, which will be held on Sunday 19 May from 10am-7pm at the UTS Business School Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, with archival photographs being shown that are also on display now at the Luna Studio in Newtown.

Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos. Photo: Helen Vatsikopoulos/X

The main session for this year’s event centres on the late Antigone Kefala, a legendary Greek-Australian writer who, among many accolades, won the Patrick White Award in 2022 (a week before her death at age 91).

Dr Vatsikopoulos expressed great enthusiasm for the Festival program that has been organised for this edition.

“This year is special because we feature four books by Greek-Australians and that is what I have always wanted to promote – our stories, by us,” the Festival Director told Neos Kosmos.

“It is wonderful to have non-Greek writers writing Greek stories as this promotes engagement and exchange of ideas and gives a greater relevance to events like this, but to have our own writing and stories out there is particularly exciting.”

Hellenic Dreaming book cover. Photo: Supplied

She elaborated on the decision behind focusing on Antigone Kefala this year as part of a goal to keep her writing alive.

“I wanted to make sure that Antigone’s creative work lived on after her death and that we could introduce her writing to new audiences,” the Professional Fellow at UTS said.

She noted that the Kefala session will feature readings of her work as well as discussions about her writing from people whom she inspired and who also knew her personally, including her publisher Ivor Indyk from Giramondo Press.

The Director of the initiative stated that her being awarded the Patrick White Literary Prize alone highlights the significant role she holds in Australian literature, admitting that she is a huge fan of her work.

“I wish my teachers had given me ‘Alexia’ to read when I was young as it speaks of the dislocation experienced by migrant children. I also admire her writing on the inner life of women. Her later diaries also show the enquiring mind of an intellectual,” she said.

Copies of Kefala’s works will be on sale throughout the day along with the many other books that will be part of the all-day event (authors will also be available for signings).

The event will feature eight sessions in total with the program consisting of the following:

1.     Name the song – Exploring Balkan cultures and nationalism (10-10.45am)

2.     War stories: Greeks and diggers (11-11.45am)

3.     Visual storytelling: The Greeks of Tashkent (12-12.45pm)

4.     Hellenic Dreaming – Book Launch (2-2.45pm)

5.     Who are you? Greek Actually (3-3:45pm)

6.     Mythology and the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks (4-4:45pm)

7.     Antigone Kefala (5-5:45pm)

8.     Visual storytelling: Epistrofi (6-6.45pm)

Australian writer Antigone Kefala died on 3 December 2022, at age 91. Photo: Supplied

The Professional Fellow at UTS also touched on the Greeks of Tashkent session, which holds personal significance to her as her aunt was among the Hellenes that lived in the Uzbek city.

Dr Vatsikopoulos explained she met Costas Politis, the President of the Greek Cultural Centre of Tashkent last year when visiting the city to find information on her aunt, which lit the spark for his visit to Australia to speak further on the subject.

She explained that this unfamiliar area of Greek history is a topic that affected a lot more people than just the 12,000 political exiles, and that it holds great significance and interest even today.

“Scratch below the surface and you will find that most Greek families were touched by the Greek Civil War and that the wounds have not completely healed,” she said.

Whose is this Song. Photo: Supplied

The Festival’s Director remarked that the exiles fled to Tashkent following the Greek Civil War and managed to thrive in their own way, preserving their culture and even giving their children a far greater education than what they could have in their villages.

“They became doctors, choreographers, engineers but all yearned for home. After the Junta fell in Greece they were allowed to return, and the hardliners got an amnesty in 1981,” she said.

“The community there is small now but the story continues to fascinate.”

Dr Vatsikopoulos concluded by stressing that her goal with the Festival is to draw attention to the great literary work being created, with the overall dream of drawing more young people to reading instead of their screens.

“There are lots of writers’ festivals around and I notice that they attract lots of older people,” she said.

“I do hope to see more young people this year, especially Greek Australian university students. Come and engage with your culture, put away your mobile phones!”