Life Stories- Plomari


By Stan Andis (Andonaras)

Dimitra was born in Plomari, Lesvos on the 19th January 1911 to John (a Grocer) and Athina Fergadiotou had 4 sisters and one brother (Zinovia, Zaharo, Irene, Maria and Dimitros).


At an early age she was sent to Athens to learn Dressmaking. Later in life this proved to be a talent that was an essential in a busy home.  The family home in Plomari was merely a stone’s throw from the Andonaras family home and it was no surprise when Jim, her husband to be, returned to Plomari on a visit from NZ in 1935 and approached Dimitra’s parents to ask  for her hand in marriage.


Above: Her parents, Ioannis and Athina. 

Above Right: Dimitra and her husband, Dimitrios (Jim) on a Sunday walk. Notice how smartly dressed they are!

Metaxia Kalafatelis also of Plomari accompanied Dimitra on their passage via Port Said on the voyage to New Zealand.  Wedding bells were soon on the agenda in Wellington. Nick Yiannoutsos from Kastos, a close friend of Jim had already made overtures for Metaxia and a double wedding was arranged.  In keeping with tradition Dimitra asked her bridesmaids to dance around the wedding dress to the tune of “Orea pou eivai n niffi mas” with great joy.


To the Greek Community of the day this wedding was going to be the highlight of the year and in keeping with tradition all were invited. The reception was held at the Panhellenic Hall on the corner of Marion and Ghuznee Streets. One could well imagine how they will have danced the night away as only Greeks can do when celebrating such a joyous occasion.


After living in a rented house at Wallace Street they moved into their own home 8 Glamis Avenue, Strathmore Park in 1939. Nick and Metaxia Yiannoutsos also moved into number 9 of the same Street. Stelios was the first born of Jim and Dimitra in 1938 closely followed by Athena in 1939.

Soon after, news came through from Greece that Jim’s father had passed away suddenly.  Jim arranged for Maria, his mother, to emigrate to NZ and live in the family home. The true character of both women must have been thoroughly tested but in keeping with Greek family respect, beliefs and culture not one cross word between them was ever exchanged.


Dimitra as with most women in the Greek community had difficulty coming to terms with English. As they conversed in their native tongue all day within the confines of the home, it was not difficult to understand that it took many years before she had the confidence to reluctantly express herself in her adopted second language.


Her build was slight but she presented herself with aplomb. Buying shoes though was dramatic. In keeping with her stature, her foot size was small to the extent where it was not uncommon for most shoe shops in the city to be scoured. Shop assistants cringed at the thought of even looking on the rack when faced with the unlikely scenario of finding a size 2 adult shoe!


 Above: With her mother, Athina (in the front) and her sisters Zinovia Varvayanis,Persa Bekrellis, Maria Koukaras, and

Zaharo Almiros. Dimitra is standing first from the left. Above Right: Dimitra in Plomari. c1957

In 1957 she travelled back to Lesvos to see her mother Athina who was unwell. This was an opportunity for an international family reunion as her sisters Zinovia from USA and Zaharo from France were going to meet in Plomari. Wellington Airport did not exist then so the only means of flying was by Flying Boat that took off from Evans Bay. It was certainly an adventure with a difference as it took about 8-9 hours to fly to Sydney.


Dimitra and Maria were excellent cooks so baking for the family was second nature. Pastitsio, Dolmades, Mousaka were always a specialty. The Sunday roast was always timed for midday. Jim laid down a rule that as garlic reeked and lingered it was never to be used in the house. However when Metaxia was baking the Sunday Roast, garlic was added to the meat as a flavour. As soon as Jim picked up the scent it was not uncommon for him to be seen breaking into a sprint with saliva drooling down his cheeks while crossing the road to number 9 for a meze and ouzo!


Preserving ‘Salsa’ was an annual and customary task. Instead of using preserving jars, Dimitra and Maria on this particular occasion decided to make use of some large Beer bottles. The meal of the day required salsa so they placed the bottle on the table and proceeded to take the lid off.

No persuasion was required as the combination of an out of control whoosh and huge spurt of tomato   filled the entire kitchen in seconds! The sight of dripping tomato from the ceiling and the walls was beyond description as we all stood there shocked and stunned in disbelief. The silence was broken with so many repetitive Manayia’s than one had ever heard in a lifetime! Somehow, the Tomato had brewed in the bottle and did not need any persuasion to be relieved of its pressure.


Dressmaking was Dimitra’s talent she spent many hours behind the pedal operated ‘Singer’ sewing machine and took a lot of convincing that the addition of an electric motor would simplify her work.


Crochet, embroidery and knitting were pastimes that also filled in the day.


Dimitra was the very proud grandmother of 5 grandchildren Debbie, Marie, John, Dimitri and Maria