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Kytherian Newsletter Sydney

Andrew Peter Sourry.

From The Kytherian,
Newletter of the Kytherian Association of Australia,
March 2001.
pp. 8-9.

On Australia Day, 2001, Andrew Sourry was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, for his services to the environment.

Both of Andrew’s parents were born in Kythera. His father, Panayioti Souris, was from Agia Anastasia and his mother, Marika Coroneo, was from Potamos.

Panayioti came to Australia in 1897 as a 12 yr old boy and went to Inverell. He later returned to Greece to visit his family and to marry, but was caught up in the Balkan Wars, and served in Epirus. In 1914 Panayioti returned to Australia, accompanied by his bride, and partnered his brother-in-law, Emanuel Megaloconomos, in a cafe in Walcha. From 1918-1922 they were in Glen Innes, where Andrew was born. The next move was to Armidale, where Panayioti entered into a partnership in the theatre business with his brother-in-law, Alex Coroneo. They had two theatres in Armidale, the Capitol and the Arcadia.

Alex eventually moved on to Scone, while Panayioti went to Tenterfield, where he ran another theatre.

Five children were born to Panayioti and Marika:
Effie Sourris, Charles, Andrew, Eleni Venardos and Katina (‘Betty’) Pascall.

Andrew chose to study pharmacy and attended the University of Sydney. After registration he went to Lismore and enlisted in the Army Medical Corps in the AIF, serving in Rutherford and Tamworth, between December 1941 and early 1944. During this time he married Lois, who was an army nurse.

He had only been out of the army for about 12 months when Lois encouraged him to join the Red Cross, early in 1945, where he served as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner. Along with 23 other Australians (including 2 other Greek-Australians) Andrew was posted to northern Greece in what was then the provincial capital of Macedonia, Kozani.

During this period (1945-46) Andrew’s Greek skills, which were “middling” when he left Australia, improved out of sight, and he often had to serve as a translator.

Postwar work in Kozani and surrounding areas involved the establishment of hospitals, including a small 4-bed hospital in a prison. Although a pharmacist, all members of this Australian contingent had to help out in any way they could. Their work consisted of administering to returning POW’s, but mostly to hostages from Linz (Austria) and several from Matthausen. As well as making sure these people were clothed and any immediate medical problems were seen to, the group was also responsible for distributing supplies and equipment to hospitals, and distributing United Nations (UNRRA) medical drugs from Salonika. This was extremely difficult as there were no bridges, or only makeshift ones.

They also conducted village medical relief, sometimes reaching their destinations by mule, and through the snow and slush in winter. The group worked in close co-operation with the 4th British and 4th Indian divisions, as well as liaise with the Greek army.

In Athens there existed the Greek-Australia League, and through this Andrew Sourry met General Papados, the Field Marshall who later became Prime Minister of Greece. He also met several times with Archbishop Damaskinos, who was Regent of Greece at the time, as there was no government. Whilst in Athens the Australian group also attended performances, and on one evening after seeing The Barber of Seville, Andrew, (who with his late wife Lois, has always had a passion for opera) went backstage and met Maria Callas, in 1945.

For their services to Greece, all 24 Australian Red Cross workers were awarded the Greek Red Cross Medallion for Meritorious and Distinguished Service, and all were made honorary citizens of Kozani. Andrew has since revisited Kozani on two occasions, the first in 1977 with his wife and their daughter, Marika, and then again in 1995 with his daughter, son-in-law and 2 grandsons. Each time Andrew was welcomed by the mayor of Kozani, and during the last visit was presented with a brass plate marking the 50th anniversary of Kozani becoming a city.

When he returned to Australia, Andrew and Lois went to Stanthorpe in Queensland, from 1946-49. They then moved to Katoomba, and then to Gosford where he worked from 1952-70. Lois encouraged Andrew to work as a locum, giving him more time to enjoy his surroundings. Through his wife, and the friendships they formed with other people, their interest in establishing larger areas of bushland under the protection of the National Parks grew, as did their commitment.

After 50 years as a practising pharmacist, Andrew retired in 1991. This allowed him to devote more time to local groups, especially the National Parks Association of NSW and the Gosford Wildlife Conservation Society. He worked in close liaison with the National Parks and Wildlife Services and the Gosford City Council Coastal Open Space System Committee, and in 1997 became one of only 10 people in NSW to be made an honorary life member of the National Parks Association of NSW.

When Andrew and Lois first moved to Gosford there was oniy one natural park, which represented 1% of the whole of Gosford city. Through their efforts, and those with whom they strived, 32% of the area is now national parks and reserves, and 3% in the Gosford city is reserved.

To have an area declared a national park or a nature reserve there needs to be an act of parliament, supported by both major political parties. The area so declared is then never to be built on, but is to be open for passive recreation. Reserves are less common than parks, and these are preserved for special reasons, such as rainforest or habitat of threatened species.

While Andrew’s OAM, awarded this year, (2001) was ostensibly for his environmental work, it recognises a life-long commitment to service. Andrew regards his award as firstly a “family award” and then as an encouragement for others to continue with this important work. Although no longer actively involved, Andrew still encourages others, and believes there is a great need in the western part of NSW for the establishment of parks.

- Ann Coward.

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