kythera family kythera family
  

Life Stories

People > Life Stories > Joanne (Megaloikonomo) Petropoulos

27169: People > Life Stories

submitted by Joshua Kepreotis on 26.01.2021

Joanne (Megaloikonomo) Petropoulos

Joanne (Megaloikonomo) Petropoulos
Copyright

Interviewed by Joshua Kepreotis

 

After being fed spanakopita and tiropitakia, dipping Karavas’ famous paximathia into Greek coffee and then having a shot glass of tsipouro, we started Joanne’s interview from her house overlooking Peloponnisos. A warmer welcoming and kinder smile I could not have imagined.

 

JK: Tell me about yourself.

Joanne Petropoulos: Well, I’m a young chook, I was born in 1945. I went to primary and high school in Athens. At the age of 17, I left Greece and went to live in Australia. I stayed there for 8 years and lived in Canberra with my aunt Katina – my mother’s sister. My first job in Australia was working with the Department of Customs and Excise. I then worked for a few years with the Greek Embassy. When I first arrived in Australia, my English was okay as I had gone to school at the British Council in Greece. I went to the Metropolitan Business College in Canberra and studied typing. The Greek Embassy wanted someone who knew English and Greek, so I got a job there and stayed for 3 years.

JK: So, you were born in Athens?

Joanne: Yes. We lived in Kypseli and I went to a primary school nearby our house. Then I went to a high school which was only for females.

JK: And where were your parents born?

Joanne: Both were born in Kythira. My mother in Friligianika and my father in Potamos. My mother was a Notaras. I used to come to Kythira every summer. My father had a big shop in the centre of Athens and my mother used to help him, so they would send me to stay with my grandparents here in Kythira. My mother would pick me up a day before school started in September and take me back to Athens.

JK: Do you remember the first time you came to Kythira?

Joanne: Of course. The first time I was accompanied by a cousin of my mother’s from Pitsinianika. I was on the boat with her all day, but I was crying as I left my mother. Then I got used to her on the boat and when she brought me to visit my grandmother, I was upset leaving the aunt. The first time was hard as I was young and it was so different. For example, I was introduced to goat’s milk, whereas in Athens we drank cow’s milk. I complained about the milk to my grandmother. In the following years I couldn’t wait for the day to come to leave Athens and visit my grandmother in Kythira. I got so used to the village lifestyle, I really loved it.

JK: What was life like in Kypseli?

Joanne: It was wonderful. At the time it was one of the best areas in Athens, as they had built the first two apartment buildings there. The apartments had all the facilities we had never seen, like an elevator which we used to go and look at in awe. My uncle Leonidas, who was the founder of the Girokomeio on Kythira and donated money to have the first section built, had an apartment in Athens and we visited him. We liked it very much, trying the hot water from the tap. He did a great thing having the idea to build the nursing home as many of the young people at the time left Kythira and to seek a better life elsewhere. The elderly were living at home alone.

JK: Why did your parents leave Kythira?

Joanne: My father finished primary school in Kythira and then went to trade school (σχολαρχείο) in Athens. He was born in 1908. He was very studious, so he went to Athens to study night school at σχολαρχείο – which they didn’t have in Kythira – and worked during the day. He liked this lifestyle and when he finished σχολαρχείο, which was like a university for him as many people didn’t go to school at all, he opened a shop. He married my mother and as she had a good dowry from her parents, he was able to open a hardware shop in the centre of Athens.

 He came to Athens at 12 years of age. When he married my mother he was 32 and she was 16. It was a proxy. They were married in Kythira on a Sunday morning with a nice lunch and then that night they got the boat to Athens. It was difficult for my mother. She was the youngest child of 8 children – 6 of whom went to Australia. Only one brother stayed in Greece and he was older than my mother. He got a high position as a bank manager which meant he had to travel around the country for work. In fact, my grandfather had been in Australia for 8 years, from when my mother was 1 until she turned 9. He brought money from Australia and bought property in Paliopoli. And a donkey, which back then was like a Mercedes.

 My mother had a good childhood though. My grandfather brought with him silk socks from Australia and stockings. She was the first young girl in Kythira to wear this. She didn’t go out to work in the farm. She did chores in the home. In those days they said girls had to get married when they were young. She wasn’t asked. It was arranged.

 My uncle Theodore Notaras, my mother’s brother, left Kythira for Australia 3 days after my mother was born. And he returned when my mother was 14 years old. He loved her and brought her many things. He told her that when she finished school she would come to Australia, but my grandparents said no as they needed someone in Kythira. My grandparents lived in Kythira and 8 children had left. When my grandmother got sick at 65, we brought them to live with us and we moved to Marousi – my Aunty Katina in Australia had a nice new place in Marousi and we stayed there. My grandmother died 6-8 months later and my grandfather lived to the age of 98. He died two years after I came back from Australia.

JK: Why did you leave to go to Australia?

Joanne: I left for economic reasons. My goal was to come to Australia and work to help my parents pay off their house so they wouldn’t lose it. My parents had another three children. We are five and I am the second. Teta, my sister, who lives across the road here in Karavas, was in kindergarten when I left. I was 17 years old and had just finished school. Teta is 12 years younger than me. My other sister lived in Bombala and got married there. She worked in the Greek Embassy.

 I then met my husband Lakis in Canberra. He had left Greece when he was 28, but he went first to The Bahamas where his brother was working. He stayed there for 2 years and then visited his sister in Canberra. He decided to stay and I met him, and we got married. I was working at the Greek Embassy and he worked nearby in Manuka. We used to go out with the colleagues for coffee and that’s where we met.

JK: Do you remember the first time you saw Lakis?

Joanne: Of course. It was at the Mogambo Coffee Bar and he wanted a long black coffee. Although he was a new Australian, he asked for something we didn’t have in Greece. I was surprised and that’s when he told me he had come from The Bahamas. We used to meet there and had a relationship in secrecy, because I was from Kythira and a Notaras niece. It was a big family in Canberra. We got engaged at a Lesley Uggams concert. We had a lovely time and when we got back to the hotel Lakis gave me the ring. When people found out they would ask him from which village in Kythira he was from. He told them he wasn’t, that he was from Amaliada in Peloponnisos and they’d reply, oh, you’re a foreigner.

 Laughing, Joanne pointed outside her window and said, ‘just across there.’

 He was living with his sister in Canberra and I was staying with my Aunty Katina. I was the Greek secretary to the Ambassador. It was a good job.

JK: What did you think of Australia? You had gone there by boat?

Joanne: Yes, with the Patris in 1962. It took 25 days. We stopped in Cairo. I was accompanied by someone, as I couldn’t have gone by myself. I wasn’t interested in being chaperoned at that age. I was more interested in nice-looking fellows. It was a lovely time on the boat. Again, I was careful as I was accompanied by a family-friend. We came to Sydney and Uncle Frank and Aunty Metty, my mother’s brother and wife, picked me up. I had a nice time in Sydney. We stayed there for about a week. They took me around to see all the relatives. When we got to Canberra, I had to ask my uncle if we were indeed in the capital, because Canberra was so small compared to Sydney. Athens was bigger than Canberra.

 In the beginning it was difficult for me. I then went to Bombala with my sister who was pregnant. When I got back to Canberra I got a job and it was quite okay. I thought to myself, if not back to Athens then I wanted to at least go to Sydney. After that I got married and it became much better. When I had my first baby, Nikos, Canberra was ideal. It was like a big beautiful garden. A big lake. I had been upset when I got to Canberra and then was upset when I left. I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter when we left Canberra for Athens, and I had Peggy when we got back to Greece.

JK: Why did you leave?

Joanne: Lakis wanted to, he didn’t want to stay. He wanted to go back to Greece and try to have our life here. He was a clothes designer and tailor. His father was a big tailor in Greece, he was the first tailor in Amaliada. Lakis had a coffee shop in Canberra, but also worked as a tailor. Then we had a small supermarket. He used to sew outfits for Greeks there. That was his passion. Designing ladieswear. His younger brother studied in Paris for 2 years to be a costume designer and worked in Athens. From young, they were helping sew things with their father. Lakis had it in his mind to build a business of clothes design in Athens. So Lakis, George and Fotis opened a ladieswear factory. They made all the clothes on site and cooperated with their other brother in Paris. It was what Lakis wanted. He was able to be creative and artistic. He was happy.

JK: How was it becoming a mother?

Joanne: Ah, very nice. Especially when I had Nikos, as I’d had a miscarriage before him with another baby at 6 and a half months pregnant. The baby was born. Can you imagine the feeling of then being able to have a baby after losing one? How much I wanted to have a baby. It was fortunate I had Lakis’ sister in Canberra. She was much older, so in many ways she was like a mother to me – as my parents were in Athens and I was in Canberra. She also taught me how to cook. She was very good to me. When I came back to Greece, I had my mother which was great. My mother visited Australia and lived there for 2 years with my brothers, who went after me. She came back and she helped me a lot looking after the children while Lakis and I worked.

JK: What did you do when you returned to Greece?

Joanne: Well, Lakis started the business with his brother. The factory was in the centre of Athens, one street away from Kolokotroni, called Leocharous. They had two floors because it was a wholesale business, not a ground shop. They made the clothes and created the designs. Most people now buy ready-made patterns. My brother-in-law designed the patterns himself.

 I was pregnant with Peggy when we left Australia in 1970. We came back by plane and arrived during the military dictatorship in Greece, the Junta. I saw the tanks around the airport and I said to Lakis I want to go back to Australia now. I wouldn’t get out of the plane. I wanted to live free. That moment was when I realised how bad the Junta was. I had read reports at the Greek Embassy in Canberra. We received news that it was bad and people suffered. That their freedom of speech was limited and they were being followed. For example, the kiosks in Athens were selling newspapers and if anyone purchased a communist paper the proprietor of the kiosk would put their name down and that person could end up in jail. I knew this because we had the Greek press sent to the Embassy and we had to read it. The Junta were forcing us to select the articles that were positive as they wanted foreign countries to have a good impression of them. It was really hard for me at the Embassy during the Junta.

 It is different to read it and different to see it and live it. It was much worse in Athens. It wasn’t the Greece I had left. We had been free to vote. The governments while I was there had always been right-wing, unfortunately, but at least we had the freedom to vote for that. The Junta was different. Policemen were stationed in the streets outside houses of suspected communists. I was ready to stay at the airport and go back on the next flight to Australia. It was so shocking for me to see the tanks and soldiers and policemen at the airport. During the Polytechnio incident, for example, we heard gunfire and saw students running in the streets. Police were chasing them and shooting to kill them. From our balconies we called out to them to come into the apartment building. They stayed with us all night. It’s still a hard time to remember, and not a night I like talking about. It was very scary.

 I remember another time when I was pregnant with Peggy and we went to a concert at Kallimarmaro – the Panathenaic Stadium – which is an all-marble stadium. I was really close to labour as it was August and I had Peggy on the 12th of September. I’ve always been quite small and thin, so if I wore a coat it was hard to realise I was pregnant. The people checking the tickets to enter the concert were policemen. When I saw that, I nearly fainted. I was always angry with Lakis because he wanted to be in Greece – if I knew there were policemen checking our tickets I wouldn’t have come. Everywhere I went I made a big scene for him that I wanted to go back, like a child. I was very angry with the situation. Lakis was a democrat as well, but he said we will put up with it. That the Junta wouldn’t last long. Poor Lakis, we joked that when we first came back to Greece, wherever we went, even to the supermarket, I wanted to go back to Australia.

 At this concert, the police were searching the people going in and checking the tickets. I was near the front of the queue. They were very rude to people, asking many questions. I didn’t like it, so I went up and asked why they behaved that way? They were bullying a boy. I asked, what has he done? The policeman went crook on me and asked who I was. I answered, I am a citizen of this planet. Not Greek or Australian. And he grabbed me. Lakis rushed to me and told the policeman I was pregnant, and an Australian citizen. The policeman apologised because they wanted big Western countries to have a good impression of them. He then sat me in a comfortable seat. Lakis saved me, if he hadn’t done that I may have ended up in jail. I would have had Peggy in jail.

JK: Where did you learn to be so open-minded and outspoken?

Joanne: My mother was very progressive, and my father as well, but my mother even more. She had finished primary school in Kythira, which was good for her generation. Very intelligent. She was a very good person. She wasn’t stuck in conservative views. My sisters are also like that. I think it’s mostly because of my mother. My father was busy in the shop, working 6 days a week. Oh, and also my uncle Dimitris Notaras was forward thinking. They had a house near us in Marousi and in the last years of his life, after he retired, we used to have lovely discussions about life and politics. He was such a democrat. They also had a summer house near the Ionian Sea. I used to go with my mother as it was only an hour drive from Athens. My mother would see people there and tell them that Dimitris was her brother, and they would reply he was the best man in the world. He had a high position in the agricultural bank and was very fair to the farmers. He was honest and forward thinking. I loved learning from him.

JK: A family who care about human rights.

Joanne: If you are fair, you are human. So, you believe in human rights, correct? If you are human, you believe in the rights of everyone and respect people. If you respect yourself first, Freud said, you respect others. It is all one package to care about people. That is how I feel.

JK: You got work in Athens after you had Peggy?

Joanne: At first, I taught English, as I went back to the British Council and completed my proficiency. I did the Michigan proficiency at the American College for one year and I passed the exam. Then finished the Cambridge proficiency at the British Council. For a few years I taught children in the neighbourhood English.

After that I got a good job at the Ministry of Aegean. We had a lot of people from all over the world and my knowledge of English was a big positive for them. The minister was my friend’s husband and asked if I would like to go to Mytilene where the department was. I lived there for 2 years. The first year I was alone, however during the second year Peggy studied Environmentalism at the university there and we lived together in the centre.

 When I finished from the ministry after 2 and a half years, I came to Athens and got a job for a foundation for human rights. It is an NGO, self-funded organisation, called The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights. We had 100 affiliates globally and we mainly communicated in English. I was the manager of all the staff and responsible for English correspondence all over the world – countries like Bangladesh and India. Places where 2-year-old children work on making handmade carpets as their small hands are dexterous and can pass their fingers through the looms easier. Their parents need them to work so they can have food to eat and not die of starvation.

 Brazil was also bad after the Americans and rich Brazilians destroyed the Amazonia. The native people had lived very well there with all the wealth of the earth. The rich Americans and Brazilians paid them small amounts of money to sell so the big companies could set up there. The native people left and went to the cities and had many children, never quite able to adapt. This humanitarian work was very painful for me. We received videos from these situations and had large press conferences with many journalists to show them what was happening, so they would write about it and people would understand.

The president, Mrs Marangopoulos was a terrific person and leader for human rights. And her husband, who was the founder, was a high court judge and resigned when the Junta took power, rather than serving what they wanted (he received death threats as a result). He became a hero. I loved working for these people. Mrs Marangopoulos was very generous with her staff as well. When questioned about the high wages they gave she would reply, ‘this is a foundation for human rights, we have to exercise human rights to our staff first so that we can do that for the people in need.’ She was a great teacher for me. She could be tough too, but always fair. She implored us to take everything seriously as we worked to increase human rights for everyone.

 We would have impoverished people come into the foundation and tell us their situation. We would find jobs for them and help any way we could. She often told me to give them cash from the foundation. It was a painful but interesting job. It was my best university, working there for 20 years. I learnt so much. I worked until I was 67 and it was hard for me to retire.

 There was a lot of racism to the new migrants in Greece and we had to deal with that also. People would come and say to us that we should help Greek people first. We did both. I would say, I am working at a foundation for human rights, we help all those in need. They used racists slurs and I hated hearing this. Even some of the employees at the foundation had racist views. Racism is everywhere. Mrs Marangopoulos said to me once, I’ll never forget this, that I didn’t have to go to university to study human rights and fairness, I had it inside me.

JK: That’s a beautiful sentiment. After you left The Marangopoulos Foundation, what did you do?

Joanne: I took a pension. We would come to Kythira most summers. We did go to other islands as well when I would get holidays from work. But it was hard to get time off. Many times, we held conferences and seminars. We invited people form all over the world with other NGO’s for human rights to have an exchange of ideas. We invited people involved with justice – lawyers, teachers, journalists. Every year we had 2 seminars lasting 6 weeks. They came in groups and Mrs Marangopoulos and the governing body would teach them. I had a lot of work. 2 seminars and sometimes 2 conferences. I went 3 times abroad with Mrs Marangopoulos to Brussels and also to Italy. It meant I had a lot of work during summer. We were 10 people at the foundation. My time in Kythira was limited.

 Once I retired, we got to travel a lot. Lakis had retired 10 years before me as he was sick in the lungs and had an operation, but he improved. We loved travelling and learning the different mentalities of people. We went to Syria which was lovely, and France (as his brother lived there). His other sister married a diplomat and lived in Hungry for 12 years, so we visited Hungry a few times. We always drove. To Hungry we would drive and stay in Slovenia on the way. And to Vienna and Germany and Paris to see my brother-in-law. Now, I like being in Kythira. One thing I want to do is to go back to Australia because my sister is there. I even renewed my passport three years ago. The last time I was in Australia was in 1986. After I left, I went back 3 times.

JK: What hobbies have you undertaken since retiring?

Joanne: Well, I always loved trekking and then I got more time to do it. When we were younger, we would walk a lot carrying our two kids. Nothing was too much for us. When the children got older and I had more time, I went to the municipality of Marousi and joined a trekking club. Every second weekend on Sunday we went trekking in Greece. Every fourth weekend we would go away; to Macedonia, for example, Olympus and many parts of Greece. I never missed one. Every summer we went to other European countries – Alps of Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Andorra, The Pyrenees.

 My sister Teta and her husband Dinos also came trekking. The three of us, Teta, Dino and myself did the trip of our lives in 2010 to Patagonia in South America.

JK: What was that like?

Joanne: Well, 65% of Patagonia belongs to Argentina and 35% to Chile. We went to Buenos Aires and stayed a few days. I remember a flea market we went to which was 4km long. All the stalls were playing Argentinian tango. Me and my friend liked dancing and started dancing tango from table to table. It was amazing.

We then flew to the capital of Patagonia, El Calafate, from Buenos Aires. It was a small plane and we flew over The Andes. We got on a tour bus to see the glaciers. Wow. We drove through lakes. It was cold, even though it was summer. We walked for 5 hours up to see the Fitz Roy glacier and stayed 2 days there, and then came back to El Calafate to see the biggest glacier, Perito Moreno. It was the only glacier that hadn’t melted. Recently I saw that it has started melting.

 It was such a beautiful experience. Argentina had gone through a big economic crisis. It finished a few months before we got there. The owner of the hotel we stayed in had been feeding his family with food coupons. Our hotel was located on the widest avenue in the world, 7 lanes each side. It had huge footpaths. The entire footpaths were occupied by homeless people sleeping in boxes, which was very painful to see. And of course ,there was a lot of robbery; because as you know, if you don’t eat you resort to doing what is necessary for you and your family. We were there for 2 days and had 3 victims of robberies. The driver had warned us not to wear jewellery. One lady was wearing a gold necklace and had it taken from her. It was Christmas Eve, and we had a beautiful dinner at a restaurant. The other lady had her bag taken as she was getting on the bus. The driver took us to the police station to declare it. She had her passports and important documents in it. The next day the police came to our hotel as the bag had been returned to them. She’d had a lot of cash inside which was missing, but they left her passport and documents. She was happy. She didn’t worry about the money, her son would send her more. But that they returned her important documents she saw that as kindness. And, also, that during Christmas they will have money to eat. They are nice kind people, she said, they don’t have food so of course they need money. They were kind, everything was left in it. They are hungry people. It was a beautiful moment. It’s a story to cry. My sister Teta and I cried and hugged her. We hoped we would react like Litsa did.

Then we went to Chile with the same bus. Our guide was telling us about the places and the politics of Chile. Pinochet and the martyr of Allende – I have read his niece Isabel Allende’s books. I loved it. I think me and Teta were the only ones responding and interested. We arrived in Puerto Montt in Chile. It was a nice place. The next day we went to the grey glacier. The capital of Chile’s Patagonia is Punta Arena. From the port of Punta Arena, we could see the Strait of Magellan and on the other side of the narrow sea you see Antarctica.

 There is a piece of earth called the land of fire, because the people opposite were Native Indians in Antarctica and needed fire to live. The people in Chile saw them and didn’t know they were people and called it the earth of fire – Η Γη του Πυρός. We went out on a boat there, which we felt was a big achievement to get so close to the South Pole. We went to Magdalena Island. There lived the dark small penguins. In March, they swim to the top of Chile and Uruguay as it is warmer. The island had an overwhelming smell of sardines. Penguins are fascinating, they are families. The females and males both work. The females go and bring fish and the males sits on the eggs, and they exchange – real feminists! It was cold there, but it was so beautiful we didn’t want to leave. The next day we went to Santiago for two days. It was such an alive city, we went out until 3am. It was an adventure.

JK: Sounds like an adventure.

Joanne: It was, and that I got to go with Teta and Dinos was great. I live near them now in Kythira and we are very close. I don’t live so alone since Lakis passed away.

JK: Was Lakis his birthname?

Joanne: No, it was Napoleon Petropoulos. His godfather gave him that name. Lakis is a name his younger brother gave him because he couldn’t say Napoleon when he was a child. He called him Lakis and it stayed. No one called him Napoleon. When we first started dating in Australia, I wanted to call him Napoleon. It only lasted a few months because his family were laughing whenever I said it. So, I stopped and called him Lakis.

JK: Very nice. Okay, what advice do you have for the next generation?

Joanne: Because of this electronic world we now live in, I would want for the younger generations to have big breaks from technology. Otherwise, they miss out on life. I saw young people on our tours looking at their phones. The world was outside the window, but they weren’t watching or listening. I wanted to see nature. In the train, I adore seeing the young people in love hugging each other. I remember getting the train to work with Lakis and feeling like we had at least that train ride together, away from the kids and work to talk. I see couples now holding each other but each looking at their phones. It’s a contradiction. They miss out on life. To me they are deprived of real values.

 Things can be very simple and we can have a good life. Most human beings make life difficult; it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Being attached to our phones or computers means we are connected and unable to switch off the news and social media, making life more complicated. And it makes me sad that people say this problem of technology with children has no solution. Problems don’t belong to nature, we create problems. Our face and body belongs to nature, but the problems we create. And when you create something you can find the solution for it. We create nice things as well and since we enjoy the lovely things we create, we can find the solutions to even the most complex problems.

 Another example of that is the fact Africa is the richest continent and the people are starving. We created that problem and if we wanted to we could find the solution, am I right? But we don’t.

JK: You are very wise.

Joanne: Life makes you wise. I can’t complain, I’ve had a good life and I appreciate it. I talk with my lifelong friends and we agree we have had good lives, reminiscing on the times we danced cha-cha and went the theatre. We have had our problems and we complain now, but we are happy. I’ve had my pains as well; it was very difficult when I lost my baby. But that is life and life goes on. I said to Josephina that when we die, we will die full – χορτάτες. Lakis was like that as well.

We had a great time in Australia. We liked simple things. I remember seeing all the big weddings, the engagements and receptions, and rehearsals the day before with food. To me it was unbelievable. Firstly, I couldn’t afford it. I had a mortgage and was sending money home. I also couldn’t see value in that. I went with Lakis to see Leslie Uggams perform and he gave me the ring in the hotel. So simple, but something I’ll never forget. The way he asked me to marry him was beautiful – because then the men proposed – he said, everybody loves somebody sometime, quoting Frank Sinatra. I’ll never forget it. My brother-in-law Dinos asked Teta if she wanted to buried in my family’s cemetery. That’s how he asked her and it was very funny. They are both very funny. Dinos is a great photographer and met Teta at Lakis’ shop where she worked and he took photos of the clothes models. I love them very much.

 Lakis and I had good jobs, but it wasn’t easy. Lakis worked on Sundays. I never cooked on Sundays, I wanted to take the kids out to a restaurant. He would be doing the accounts of the shop. My mother looked after my children five days a week so we could work. She was a second mother for them and sometimes I would come back from work and Peggy would cry to stay with Yiayia. She would get confused as to where her home was, thinking it was Yiayia’s. It was hard because we worked. So, the weekends were for the kids. Every Sunday we went to a restaurant because if I cooked, I would miss time with them.

 During the week, my mother spoiled me a lot. I would pick the kids up after work and she’d have a saucepan or dish of food ready for me as well. She was great to me. My work hours should have been 9-3, but I don’t remember leaving before 6pm. When there was the invasion by the Americans and English into Yugoslavia, we had a family come to the foundation late one day. They were a family like us who spoke good English and must have had good jobs in Yugoslavia – a young couple with two young children. Well, they walked all the way. They walked down through northern Greece, Thessaloniki, all the way to Athens. One child had lost his eye. It was a wound. I called hospitals all over Athens to take him and the staff asked me what medical funds they had. I said they are people coming from Yugoslavia and there is a war. They would let them die in the street like they were dogs and cats. Finally, I found the Evangelismos General Hospital which took them. Mrs Marangopoulos saw the light on in my office at 9pm and came in to ask me what I was doing. I would get home 10-11 sometimes. How could I leave early?

JK: You inspire me. Is there anything else you would like to say?

Joanne: My life is very good now. I went through a lot when Lakis passed, and the three years leading up to it. He was very sick. In 1997, he was a smoker of 3 packets a day that ruined his lungs and they took some of it out. He died in 2018. I thought it was the end in 1997, taking oxygen every now and then, but he managed to have a good life after. He lived nearly another 20 years and we were lucky for that. But three years before he died, he got leukemia. He had to have chemotherapy.

He had a haemorrhage here in Kythira. But he lived so well in between. He was very fit. It was Friday morning and we were down at Ayia Pelagia with two of my three schoolmates who were visiting us. Lakis wasn’t swimming, as the doctor said not to in case he collapsed. Every morning he had his shower and got ready and then had his tsipouraki down at the coffee bar in Ayia Pelagia. We came home and for dinner he wanted Lapa (boiled rice which is good for the stomach). He was bleeding, though didn’t complain. We were rushed to Sparta by ambulance boat. He died on Tuesday, relatively pain free. Even that was easy, I can’t complain. We had a great life together. He was fit and capable until the end.

 Now I am happy. I have my sister and brother-in-law, my children and grandchildren, who I love very much. I am a hazoyiayia – χαζογιαγιά.

JK: And a lot of other people who love you.

Joanne: Thank you. And I love people too. My brother, who was a taxi driver in Sydney, and also died young in 2011, thought so too. He’d complain about things and I’d tell him it would be okay. He would say to me, Ιωάννα, just because you love all people doesn’t mean I can do the same. It is true. I do really love people.

JK: Perfect place to end. Thank you.

Joanne: And thank you, my boy.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

submitted by
Harry Mitchell
on 14.05.2021

1502:Beautiful, lifted my spirits immensely - thank you Joanna and Joshua - and of course Kythera family net.