Today (in Australia at least) we celebrate diversity with Harmony Day. My daughter has gone to school wearing orange, the official colour of Harmony Day, and with a story to tell of how her family came to be in Australia. Most of us are immigrants, though we have an indigenous population with a very long and rich culture.
Craig and I were both born in Australia, but only one of Ali's four grandparents was born here. The other three came out by ship in the mid 50s. Craig's dad emigrated from England, as a teenager with his family; my parents arrived from Greece all alone.
My parents, Panayiotis and Sophia, met in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, during a period of political unrest. They saw little prospect of a bright future, or any type of advancement there. My mother because her family were on the 'wrong' side, politically; my father because he was orphaned and cast adrift. He decided to move to Melbourne where one of his cousins had recently gone. The plan was to work for a few years, accumulate some money, and return to Greece. Then he met my mother.
They were engaged in Greece and because the fare to Australia was virtually prohibitative, my father emigrated first and saved to pay for my mother's fare.
Dad arrived in 1956. He likes to say that it was the same year as the Melbourne Olympics and the year television began in Australia. A year later Mum arrived, and they were married within a few days. My mother wore a hired gown and did not have a single relative from her side of the family there to celebrate with her. This year will mark 56 years of marriage, three children, three grandchildren and a full and adventurous life. I am in awe of my amazing parents, who risked everything to travel to the other side of the world and start a new life.
Anyone who knows me or has read my fiction, knows how very proud I am of my Greek roots; what they may not realise is how proud I am to be Australian. One generation ago we had virtually nothing, today my siblings and I are an integral part of this country, we are educated, affluent, and our children's lives are full of possibility.
In the picture: Mum and Dad celebrating their first Christmas in Australia. They lived in one room in various inner city Melbourne houses with other immigrant couples. Under the tree a photo of Dad's only living family member (at the time), my Aunty Alexandra, and a photo of Aunty Hariklia, Mum's eldest sister.