Tassie Greeks welcome refugees

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram With Australia about to take the highest number of refugees since the early days of mass migration from southern Europe, two elderly Greek Australians in Tasmania this week reflected on their own experiences and offered advice to the latest wave of migrants.“We should help those people. They should leave their problems behind and start a new life.”Responding to the crisis in Syria which has left over seven million people homeless, in his last days as prime minister Tony Abbott announced an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing the Middle East will be able to call Australia home.The policy shift will see the total number of migrants under Australia’s refugee and humanitarian programs rise to 25,750 in a single year. Tasmania has committed to doubling its usual annual intake of refugees this year to about 1,000. Victoria will take four times that number and NSW is scheduled to receive about 7,000.As the nation reflects on the imminent arrival of the refugees, the ABC sought the advice of a previous generation who migrated Down Under in the years immediately after World War II.With just a few shillings in his pocket when he arrived in Melbourne in March 1950, Nick Anagnostis left his family in Lesvos in search of a new life in the southern hemisphere.“I was 15 years of age, I came on my own, without knowing anyone, and without knowing the language,” he told the ABC.“I wasn’t feeling well at all, I was in tears sometimes, because I was really, really on my own.”His first job was in a family friend’s milk bar in Sydney. At 17 he bought his first business, a restaurant in Port Stephens. Soon after he sold up and moved to Tasmania where he bought a second restaurant which he owned until the mid-sixties.In Hobart, where he later ran a successful corner store, he met his wife Helen, and three children and 10 grandchildren followed.Nick says he feels for those displaced by the Syrian conflict, thousands of whom have sought refuge in his ancestral island on their journey to western Europe.“The island I come from is very close to Turkey, and every day there are hundreds and hundreds arriving there,” he said.“We should help those people. They should leave their problems behind and start a new life. Forget where they came from because this is paradise, in every way. If there is paradise then this is where we’re living,” says Nick, who adds that Australia’s island state has only one down side. “The only thing in Tasmania is, we’ve got beautiful beaches and the water’s a bit too cold.”Fellow Tasmanian John Anagnostoru came to Australia in 1951 when he was 26 with a young wife and child.John left Greece because of the inability to find work in the country shattered by civil war. After working for NSW Railways at Sydney’s Central Station for a number of years, he moved his family to Tasmania to escape the racism and discrimination they experienced in the NSW capital.“We were known as ‘new Australians’,” he says. “Very unfriendly, people were. I mean, you’d go in a street for instance and ask someone for directions and they wouldn’t stop to talk to you.”John says Tasmanians were much friendlier and the family decided to stay. He went on to work for the Post Master General, now Telstra, for 35 years.He and his wife were blessed with two children and now have three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.John’s advice to newly-arrived refugees is to take any job that’s on offer.“Try to assimilate with the Australian people, and abide by the laws of the country,” he said.“People should not be in their own corner, they should mix with the local people.”last_img

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