Look what I found at nanna’s house! Heaps of really, really old photos of my ancestors and relatives from when they were in Greece. I have always been a bit of a family history nerd, so this was exciting. I carefully scanned all of them and pestered my nana to tell me about them.
The photo above is my favourite. It was taken in Greece and I think that it’s the oldest photo. I think that the older boy next to the woman is my great grandfather Vlassios. The man driving the oxen is my great, great grandfather and the woman at the front is my great, great grandmother.
The ones below are my dad’s favourite ones. They are of Vlassios in his Greek military dress uniform. The second one is him with his future wife, Anastasia, my great grandmother. I think it was taken in 1942.
He fought in WWII and was shot in the legs by a Turk. He would always mutter “bloody Turks” when telling my dad war stories. This sentiment is shared by most of my Greek family.
There’s a lot of dark history involving Turkey. I know that my ancestors used to live in Turkey but they were culturally Greek. They spoke Greek and were Greek Orthodox. But Turkey was their home. Then the Pontian genocide started. It took place between 1914 and 1923. Turkey aimed to eliminate the indigenous Greek population of Asia Minor. There were massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, expulsions, executions, and destruction of Greek Orthodox cultural, historical, and religious monuments. This was part of a larger Turkish genocidal project aimed at all Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire.
My ancestors were able to escape from Turkey and flee to Greece. There they started to rebuild a new life.
After the war, my great grandfather Vlassios and his young family migrated to Australia. My nana was born shortly after they arrived.
These are also of my great grandmother Anastasia. I was given her name as a middle name. So, my full name is Gabrielle Anastasia Kotanidis. Talk about a mouthful!
That’s my nanna Paraskevi on the donkey. She went back to Greece with her mother for a wedding.
This is my great-grandmother Anastasia again, visiting her in-laws in Greece. The little girl is my nana.
Here’s my great grandfather Vlassios again. He’s standing in front of the White Tower of Thessaloniki. I would love to go back to Greece and see the tower for myself!