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177 Nations of Tasmania - Episode 40 - A Greek Odyssey

One of the really fascinating things about doing this podcast over the last year or so has been hearing stories that give you a window into a time in history now long past. Such was the case with Nick's story of coming to Australia in 1950, another stitch in the rich tapestry of Tasmania's post-WW2 migration history.

Although the first act of Nick's story begins on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, the reasons and the circumstances behind his journey to Australia is a scene played out across the world over many generations. It can be easy to forget that Europe, now containing many of the most advanced and prosperous nations on earth, in the 1940s and 50s was still a continents beset by conflict, instability and in some cases, violence. Though the island of Lesbos is these days a magnet for droves of holiday-makers from across the world, it was once the setting for violent conflict between opposed political factions and this caused many thousands of young Greeks to flee the country to seek better futures in the USA, Canada, Australia and other countries. Tasmania was a big recipient of Greek migrants in 1950s and 60s in particular, many coming to work on the big hydroelectric projects being built through this time that employed many thousands of migrants.

Nick came to Tasmania to run a business providing a service for these Greek hydro workers - a restaurant/club where they could eat and socialise together. We can see the same process repeating itself today with newer, burgeoning migrant communities such as the Nepalese, Afghans or Vietnamese. Indeed, much can be learnt from older members of the Greek community like Nick, who came to Australia with little many and often even less education, and became successful in business, and raised families that are now into their third or fourth generation.

Of course, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nick's story is that he was sent on his own, at 15 years of age, to a country on the other side of the world when he spoke not a word of English. When I asked him if he was scared or worried put in such a position at that age ( as I would have ! ), and he told me he did but that when you're in the situation you just deal with. It's a very stoic response, which I have found to be pretty common amongst many successful migrants and it's probably a great lesson for us all to reflect on in these times, not just migrants.

I hope that maybe some younger migrants will listen to Nick's story and draw some inspiration or hope from it, and for others it hopefully gives a greater appreciation of the enterprise and can-do attitude many migrants bring.


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