Life Stories- Plomari

Georgios Kalafatellis (1912- 2003) and Mersa Andriotis (1924- 2006)

by Persephone Georgiakakis

George Kalafatelis was born to parents Emanuel and Permuthyia (Persephone) (nee is Mastrogeorge) Kalafatelis on 26 December 1912 in Plomari, Lesvos, Greece.  George was the youngest of three children.  His siblings, two sisters were, Irene who married Peter Haldezos, and Metixia who married Nicos Yiannoutsos.  Irene and Peter lived in South Africa before settling in Berhampore, Wellington, and Metixia and Nicos lived in Wellington, New Zealand.

George arrived in Wellington, New Zealand from Plomari at the tender age of 13.  He was brought over by George Mastrogeorge, his uncle, along with other Mytilenian lads.  He was promptly put to work in the Sunshine Milk Bar in Manners Street, Wellington.

Amerisouda, which was shortened to Mersina and eventually Mersa, Andriotis was born on 13 February 1924 also in Plomari, Lesvos.  Mersa was the second eldest child to parents Efstratios and Marianthe (nee is Tiropoli) Andriotis.  Mersa had two sisters, Eleni and Evangelia, and a brother, Evangelos (Vangeli).  Mersa’s brother, whom she loved and adored, also migrated to Wellington and married Persephone Yiasoumi.   Mersa’s sisters’ stayed in Greece.  One of my mum’s favourite pastimes, when she was a young girl, was to catch crabs in the rock pools and bake them over hot coals for her father to eat as tasty hors douevres with his ouzo.

Our parent’s marriage, as was the normal way in those years, was arranged.  George (Dad) and Mersa (Mum) were married in Wellington on 8 January 1950, in the Greek Orthodox Church, Evangelismos in Lloyd Street (now known as Hania Street), Mount Victoria, Wellington. 

Above: Mersa and Georgios on their wedding day. 

Mersa travelled to New Zealand by ship without knowing a word of English with her future mother-in-law.  She arrived in New Zealand in October 1949 at the age of 25.  Mum didn’t want to leave her beautiful home, Plomari, or her family, as she had great ambitions of going to university to become a school teacher but her mother said, “it was for the best”. 

Not long after they married George started working at a tobacco/cigarette factory, Godfrey Phillips, where he worked for many years.

Mersa worked as a sewing machinist for a short time and then looked after the home.

George and Mersa settled in 11 Glamis Avenue, Strathmore Park, Wellington, (next door to George’s sister, Metixia).  George’s mother would divide her time between her children’s homes. 

George and Mersa had four children.  Marianthe, their first born arrived 11 April 1953.  Not long after that George and Mersa moved to 27 Endeavour Street, Lyall Bay where they remained for the rest of their married life.

Their second child, Emanuel, was born on 30 July 1955.  Efstratios, their third child, arrived on 8 September 1961, and finally, Persephone on 14 July 1968.

Mersa was a strong woman in character who managed the household well.  She adored her children and was always there to love and support them in both the good and the not so good times. 

Mersa was an extremely practical person.  She had had a simple upbringing and did not desire or have a need for luxuries in her life. In fact, her riches came from the care and love she gave her family.

 She taught herself to read and write English alongside of Marianthe.  She encouraged us to do well in school and to be honest, hardworking people.

George worked long hours at National Radiators in Lyall Bay until he retired in his sixties.

Continue to: Part 2