I didn’t know that my most recent exchange with Peter, which ended with “I love you,” would be our last. If I were to script an ending, I wouldn’t change a thing. As always, our text messages and last lengthy conversation on a government grant sought by Pontiaki Estia made me feel respected and loved.

It’s strange how a man troubled by poor health in the last few years was always cheerful in our conversations. I’d leave the hospital visits feeling loved. Yet, it was Peter who was facing death.

Peter was a tower of strength to me and many people in Australia and worldwide. His laughter roared during our conversations. During my last visit at the Box Hill hospital, I asked, as he lay in bed: “Is it my imagination, or are you just incredibly strong-willed?”

Peter, a smile cut across his face, beaming with pride, said, “Oh, I recently took a psych test, and I aced it. My mental resilience was off the charts. The doctors were amazed.”

That was Peter. Even when he was confined to a hospital bed for a year, he still made us all feel strong.

Peter’s input and impact on our daily lives were immense. He was a big part of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), and his language school leased three levels of our Greek Centre.

When we were building our centre, Nick Koukouvitakis called him to implore him to relocate his company to our building. Peter said, “I’ve already thought about supporting your organisation, and I made the decision myself some time ago to lease floors in the Greek Centre”.

He was a patriot in every sense of the word. Peter’s assistance to our organisation was not only financial. Each weekend, his company donated one floor of his leased area to the GCM so that he could use it as part of our Greek School program.

Peter and his wife Helen helped us selflessly. He helped countless people who migrated from Greece by either reducing their schooling fees or waiving them altogether. He simply helped.

I could write a book on our relationship. I always listened to him carefully. Peter was a polymath and an intellectual giant. His knowledge of the history of our Diaspora in Australia and Greece was tremendous.

He excelled in the historical and cultural knowledge of Pontus and his Pontian people. Over the phone, my brother and I recently spent two hours talking about the role of Pontians in Greek politics and their contribution to world civilisation.

Nikos mentioned the figure of Cardinal Bessarion, who played a key role in the Italian Renaissance. Peter spoke at length about Bessarion’s upbringing in Trabzon.

I just listened. I was in the presence of giants who carried their people’s history, and its associated trauma of Genocide, in their souls. My only contribution to the discussion was at the end when I said, “Peter, please make sure you document your and your relatives’ history. This knowledge can’t be lost.”

My fear of losing this knowledge was misplaced.

Peter will continue to live inside us all. In memoriam, he will be a part of our Diaspora’s intangible and ancient weave.

Vale, my friend.

Bill Papastergiadis OAM​​​​ is the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, Victoria.