Hariklia Yiannakaros, named after her paternal grandmother, was born towards the end of World War II on July 27, 1945, in the seaside village of Platy, on the Greek island of Lemnos, north of the Aegean Sea, from parents Yianni and Calliope.
In 1949, his father Yianni emigrated to Australia, leaving his daughter and his pregnant wife for what he called the “unknown land” in search of a better life for his family.
The plan was for Yianni to work and save money so that his family could join him in due course. Her second child, a son Yiorgo, named after his father, was born soon after while Yianni was in Australia.
While in the northeastern New South Wales town of Gunnedah, Yianni was injured in a car crash that left him recovering without his family and out of work for 12 months , which delayed the family reunion.
Upon recovery in 1954, he saved enough money to bring his family to Australia. Hariklia was 9 years old and Yiorgo 4 years old.
Hariklia was ecstatic at the idea of seeing her father again after five years and going to live in the land of “milk and honey”.
The family of three sailed to Athens where they boarded the ship KYRINIA to Australia. On board, Hariklia had to care for her mother who was bedridden with seasickness as well as her cheeky brother who was wreaking havoc, including descending the safety ladder which sounded the ship’s alarm.
The 31-day trip ended in Melbourne in December 1954 and the family reunited.
Hariklia, a name that derives from the ancient Greek name “Charíkleia (Χαρίκλεια)” which means “great glory and elegance” was informed by her father that from that day on she would be known as “Shirley”., no one knows why.
“Dad probably just liked the name,” Shirley says.
Yianni was so excited to be with his family again that he took them to lunch to celebrate, a unique event given the havoc once again wreaked by Yiorgos. It was, after all, the first time they had been to a restaurant.
From that day on, Yianni brought breakfast to the family in their room during their 10 day stay in Melbourne.
Soon after, the reunited family made their very first train journey to their new home in Griffith, a regional town in the northwest of the Riverina region of New South Wales.
Yianni, now known as John, had saved up and borrowed enough money to buy the “Broadway” restaurant..
In fact, it was the then bank manager who gave the family their new last name, “Jackson” because “I can’t pronounce your last name John”. So subsequently, Calliope, Hariklia and Yiorgo Yiannakaros became Poppy, Shirley and George Jackson.
Nine months later, another Mihali son (Michael Jackson) was born.
The kids went to school in Griffith which seemed so big with so many people compared to their village of Platy. Shirley could only communicate by pointing at pictures and remembers a wonderful teacher who persevered in teaching her English that she quickly learned.
She has memories of eating oddly newspaper-wrapped fish and chips for the first time and school lunches featuring her favorite corn beef and salad.
Shortly after their aunt Evegenia, Uncle Nicolas and cousins Toula and Stavros joined them from Platy, Lemnos.
The “Jackson Five” moved to Sydney in 1956 where they lived upstairs in their “Arcadia Milkbar” on Parramatta Road Stanmore. During this time, Shirley also became the translator of all the Greeks in the neighborhood and everyone in their village in Greece, accompanying them to their doctor, lawyer and bank appointments.
Shirley worked in the store when she was not at school, standing on Shelley’s beverage crates to serve customers behind the counter. She remembers having to pick up and carry a drunken customer once.
At school, Shirley had the nickname “Jackie” (a play on her new last name). She was a brilliant student who went to Stanmore Girls and excelled in math and comprehension. Her father, however, forced her out of school at age 15 to help run the store and help her ailing mother much to the dismay of the teachers.
A teacher even visited the store and begged John that it was a crime to take this brilliant girl out of school.
“She’s a girl and it’s up to her to take care of her family,” he replied.
Shirley was brought up quite strictly and was only allowed to visit her friend Tina Harrow in Ashfield, whose family was also from Lemnos, as their fathers were friends. Shirley and Tina met on long math divisions and have been best friends ever since.
His brothers George and Michael, on the other hand, had a lot more freedom since they were boys, they weren’t required to follow traditions or speak the Greek language.
Many suitors approached the Jackson’s for Shirley’s hand in marriage, but it was an introduction from her cousin George Bananis that made all the difference.
George introduced Shirley to Sozos (aka Sam) Koutsogiannis, who was also originally from the same Greek island of Lemnos and had emigrated to Australia in 1962. Shirley recalls her little brother Michael accompanying them on dates to prevent the couple not left alone.
In January 1969, Sozo and Shirley were married during the January holiday season at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Marrickville and had their first child, a daughter in 1971, Konstantina (Tina) named after mother of Sozos.
The young Koutsogiannis family visited Lemnos in 1973, it was the first time for Shirley and Sam. The trip was quite restricted with curfews as it coincided with a series of juntas that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974.
After being away for 18 years, Shirley remembers finding the island so small compared to her new home, Sydney.
Shirley’s work has always been influenced by her compassionate, caring and friendly nature and when the family sold the store to Stanmore, she worked as a nurse’s aide and then in retail at the department store. Farmers which later became Myer.
In 1975, Shirley and Sam welcomed their second daughter Kaliopy (Kaily), named after Shirley’s mother, and their family was full. Sam’s sister, Pepina, lived with the family until her marriage in 1982.
In 1980, Shirley and her family moved to Cabarita where the couple lived until recently. In Cabarita, they had a delicatessen followed by a café called “The Junction Café Bar” where they were very popular with the community.
In order to honor their migration stories, in 2015 Shirley and Sam’s daughters, Tina and Kaily, inscribed Shirley and Sam on the Australian National Migration Monument – Australia’s National Maritime Museum. Welcome wall – also recording their deceased grandparents Calliope and John and Aunt Pipina and Uncle George the following year in 2016.
Shirley remembers how special that moment was and how her story of a little girl from the Greek village of Platy who had built a life of “milk and honey” was recognized at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Honor your migratory heritage by adding an inscription on one of the bronze panels of the welcome wall
The national monument is one of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s most important and visible tributes to the country’s migration heritage.
The museum brings together the stories of migrants to Australia, and the National Monument is one of our most important and visible ways to recognize the people behind these stories.
More than 30,000 names already appear on the 84 bronze panels that assemble and run along the museum’s north promenade, facing Pyrmont Bay.
You can pay tribute to a migrant – a loved one, a family member, yourself or a newcomer – at the Australian National Migration Monument at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
In recognition of your tax deductible gift of AUD 500, your name, or the name of a family member, relative, colleague or friend who is a migrant, will be engraved in bronze on the Australian National Migration Monument in recognition of their journey across seas to make Australia their new home.
A donation is an appropriate way to honor loved ones who have emigrated to Australia and to ensure that their personal stories are kept in this important national collection.
Australian National Maritime Museum honors migrants on welcome wall
Australian National Maritime Museum digital publication There are many of us – Australian Migrant Stories which draws attention to one of the pillars of our national history – the creation of modern Australia by its immigrants.
This publication is a showcase of the voices and stories of migrants registered on the Museum’s website. Welcome wall which features nearly 30,000 names of people who traveled across the seas to settle in Australia including 1,532 from Greece.
The publication includes 61 stories of migrants from 32 countries (including a history of Greece, please see page 81) as well as 10 general articles on migration.
Greek community honored at Australia’s new National Migration Monument
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