Paleohorites and Australlia

Life Story: Panagiotis Chrisafis and Mersina Mavragani Con't

Unlike Panagiotis, who had known a bit of English before arriving in Australia, I knew none. As Christmas was rapidly approaching, I remember Panagiotis trying to teach me to say “Merry Christmas” to all our customers, and I found the pronunciation so difficult. Constantly being in contact with the public through our business and living so faraway from other Greeks helped me learn English rather quickly. This was the reality of our lives- to survive and succeed in Australia, learning the language was a necessity. While we were in Peak Hill, our son, Grigoris, was born.
Above: Mersina and Panagiotis- with their children, Grigorios and Evangelia, at the counter of their family business in Bondi (Sydney).
In 1949, we left Peak Hill and bought a milk bar business in Bondi (where we stayed for three years, (1950-52). Our daughters, Diamando (Diana) and Evangelia (Angela) were born during this time. We then moved onto a fruit shop in William St, Darlinghurst, which was actually Sotirhos’ fruit shop- Panagiotis’ first job in Australia- and we stayed here for five years. Our two sons, Christos and Nikos were born (in Manly) during this time. Our final stop in this journey was Manly, when we bought a fruit shop/ mixed business in Manly (1957) and we retired in 1978, while our children continued to work the shop until 1991.
Above: Mersina- with all her children.
When we first moved to Manly, there may have been one or two Greek families in the area. Although Manly was part of Sydney, it had this coastal holiday-like atmosphere to it. At the time, I remember we had to partition off the fruit and vegetable section of the shop after 6pm, as it was prohibited to sell them after this time. Things were very different back then.
At the time, there were not too many Paleohorites living in Sydney; whenever someone was passing through Sydney, they would often pass through our home. It was a lovely atmosphere when Paleohorites visited us. There was always a dinner party at our home. While we were in Manly, our home was open to all the Paleohorites who were passing through.
I have lived here for over sixty years and call Australia home. There was lots of work and opportunity here. A good husband, a good family; what else could I ever wanted?
All photographs courtesy of Mersina Chrisafis
I would like to thank Mersina and her family- Greg, Chris, Diamando and Nikos- for all their time (and hospitality) in writing this feature.