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Κυριακή, 8 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Eulogy: Letter from the late Adamantios Michail Malavazos to family, relatives, fellow villagers and friends

On the occasion of the 40 day memorial service to be held on Sunday 15 October, 2017 at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in Thebarton, Adelaide, we publish the Eulogy -Letter by the late Adamantios Malavazos to family, relatives, fellow villagers and friends- delivered by Fr. Diogenis Patsouris during the funeral service on Wednesday 13 September 2017.

I was born on 14th November 1924 on the foothills of mount Elatias  in my beloved village Karitsa, Sparta of Laconia. I was one of nine children of barmpa-Michalis and theia-Styliani. Despite being born and raised in poverty, equally I was blessed to be born in a household that lived by the principles of love of god, respect and honour for our eldest and above all each other. The name, reputation and honour of the household name of barba Michali meant everything and we all respected that and lived by that accordingly making myself and my siblings the people we grew up to be and remembered as.

The discipline and guidance in my younger years by my two older brothers, Giannis and Giorgis made me the man I grew up and became. My brother Giorgis, the unfortunate man who left us at an early age, left us with pride from his heroism in Albania in the battles of the Second World War. I remember his last embrace and kiss when I left for the army in August 1946 and his memory always stayed in my heart from that day.

My two elder sisters, Evgenia and Katerina, 18 and 12 years my senior respectively, felt like I had not one, but three mothers. As a child, their love and care unforgettably smothered me.

My relationship with my younger three sisters - Maria, Christina and Polyxeni - given our closer ages, was one of strong love, care and respect where we shared our secrets and listened to each other’s complaints and woes over the years.

My father’s reputation and respect in the village, across Laconia and beyond was justified by his “levendia”, a persona much borne from his heroic and decorated exploits during the Balkan wars in 1912 to 1914 as an “Evzona”. My father, as a result of this close bond to his general, General Constantine (later to become King Constantine) and the blood of his comrades during the famous battles against Turk and Bulgarian foes remained a monarchist until the day he died.
Our mother, however, was the family's pillar of strength. She taught us the love and faith of God and on this basis to live our lives. In her arms, our good mother taught us the essence of a Christian life and how to love each other and the people around us.

Growing up within this proud family was also difficult. Hunger and poverty made us stronger as we made best with what we could, with our livestock and olives as our main source of subsistence living. As with many families our food was limited and nothing was left to waste, my dear mother considered it a sin to leave any food regardless how inedible it was. Our beloved grandfather Giorgis Lampros would make us also swallow the pip when eating olives.

Such was the hunger and poverty, I remember as a young boy, my older brother Giannis telling me that he ate half the sugar from the jar and to avoid mother noticing anytime soon, he replaced the sugar with salt. He also advised that it would be a good thing to go hiding when visitors came because mother would sooner than expected discover the salt in the jar when reaching for it to make coffee.

As a small child in the late 20s and up to the mid 1930s attending school was my passion, I couldn’t satisfy my appetite for reading, particularly about far-away places like Africa, Siberia, Alaska and Australia. I loved reading about the wild animals in these far-away places and dreamt visiting them one day. I was also very diligent in maths and my school teacher, Petros Rogkakos, who recognised my academic abilities encouraged my appetite for learning by challenging me with maths and reading at levels beyond my years and maturity. I can vividly remember him at the beginning of 1938 pleading with my father to allow me to go to high school to progress my education and make the family proud in what he genuinely believed I could achieve. Unfortunately, my father’s understandable ignorance to the need for a good education and its value delivered the expected response to the teacher that there wouldn’t be anyone to look after the goats and pick the olives so what good would an education do given these realities. Whatever slight chance Mr Rogkakos and I had to convince my father otherwise became even more remote a year later when along with my father’s “no” to progressing my education, Ioannis Metaxas’ “NO” (ΟΧΙ) to the axis forces in 1939 to enter Greece put an end to any dreams I had for an education.

Army Days
Along with World War 2 came more hardship for everyone in Greece and as a teenager during this time I prayed for my country to survive the Nazi onslaught and all the uncertainty that was created in Greece between various political factions. At the end of the war, what came next was a nightmare for all of Greece, as a 21 year old, with no choice, on the 12th August 1946 along with my good friends Thanasis Antonis, Giannis Malavazos (Pashakos), Thanasis Chagias and my cousin Manolis Malavazos and another ten lads we left our village at night to present ourselves to the Greek Army in Sparta to be sent to Northern Greece to fight the unimaginable civil war, where Greek fought Greek. Two at a time we marched off down the road at night towards Geraki to avoid any suspicion from surrounding guerrillas (andartes). As we walked with tears in our eyes and fear in our stomachs we could hear the prayers and screams of our mothers wishing us God’s care and a safe return. As I walked towards Geraki with my good friend Thanasis Antonis, I remember reaching Agios Nikolas when I turned back to look at the flickering lanterns of Karitsa for one more time and praying to Panagia to bless us with a safe return so we could all set our eyes again on our beloved village.
After nearly three and half years fighting in northern Greece, I returned home to Karitsa on the 18th November 1949 along with twelve of the other 15 lads that left on the night of the 12th August 1946. The aftermath of two successive wars left Greece in poverty, and hard times ensued and we all had to do what we could to help our families survive. The post-war re-build created demand for timber to rebuild homes and with this came opportunities for us living near forests such as those found on the surrounding mountains of our village, Mazaraki, Sourmpanou, Diaselo, Tsouka and Elatias. With my much loved cousins Kostas and Manolis Malavazos, we ventured daily into these abundant sources of timber to cut and saw all day and at night load our mules, in my case my pride black mule, “Chobra”, with loads of sawn timber and by midnight arrive at the villages and towns of Gouves, Agios Andreas, Skala and Vrontamas where we sold this much in demand material.

Early days in Adelaide
Even with this hard earned extra income, life was still difficult and there seemed no end to the poverty that had shrouded Greece particularly in the villages during this post-war period. With the blessing of God, countries such as the United States of America, Canada and Australia opened their doors for migration, rescuing us from this poverty. Many of my fellow Karitsiotes took this opportunity, some including my sister Christina with her husband Giannis Katsambis and their young son Dimitris setting off in late 1952 and arriving as the first Karitsiotes here in Adelaide and following them in 1954 I arrived in Adelaide where I worked for a short time in Mount Gambier as a fire fighter in the Mioura Forest with my very good friend Diamantis Chagias before moving to Adelaide to live close to my sister and her Family.

In 1957 my lifelong partner Vasiliki arrived and we married that year having our first child Stella in 1958 followed by our son Michael in 1962. With Vasiliki we raised our children to be respectable and loving people and to bestow those same values on their children. I can say that we succeeded and my love and pride for my children and my grandchildren is immeasurable and eternal.
My love for Greece, particularly Sparti and Karitsa, and the need to maintain a link with the homeland was strong and when given the opportunity I was honoured to become the President of the Pan-Laconian Society of South Australia during 1974 and 1975 and then secretary in 1976 to 1978. Also it was my great honour to serve as the first president of the Karitsa Brotherhood of South Australia in 1986. I am even prouder of the fact that my son followed my footsteps serving in the Pan-Laconian Society and as the current president of the Karitsa Brotherhood and my nephews Vangelis Malavazos and Dimitriσ Katsambis and my sister Katerina’s granddaughter Katerina Rozaklis who all served the Pan-Laconian Society.

Wedding Day 1957
My love for my relatives was always strong, I gave my oath to my sister and brother that I would always be there as a father for my nephews and nieces in Australia and was there for them through happiness, sickness and sadness. It was my honour to be there for them, including my wife’s nephews and nieces. From the depth of my heart I thank them all for the respect and company they gave me over the many years; they were truly like my very own children.

To my beloved wife Vasiliki, who left me only months before our 50th wedding anniversary in 2007. Her passing left me in emptiness and helplessness for over 10 years, when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years after her death my health deteriorated and her comfort and support that she always provided me was missing in this trying time, not only for me but also for my children. I missed her caring love and I now look forward to finding myself in her embrace once more for eternity.

Young couple
To both my children Stella and Michael, I can’t be anymore prouder for what you were as young children, as adults and parents and for everything you did for me in the last 10 or so years after your mother’s passing. During my darkest time as I became a prisoner in my own body you both stood by me and comforted me as best you could.

To my daughter Stella thank you for the endless journeys from the nursing home to the pensioners lunches and visits to my beloved relatives’ homes, as was my beloved mother the pillar of strength and support for me when I was growing up, you had become that very same pillar for me during my trying years after your mother’s death.

Saturday lunch with son Michael
To my son Michael, all I can say is thank you and more importantly thank god for being my son. Your company was always comforting and I looked forward to our Saturday lunches where we chatted and you sat and listened intently to the stories of my life, much of which is detailed in this letter.

To my grandchildren, my and your grandmother’s love and joy, where we watched you grow from babies to the adults you are today, my blessing and love will always be with you. I only ask one thing, remember me and your yia yia for what we were and the values and virtues we stood for, love and respect yourselves and everything else will take care of itself.

To my son-law Dimitri and my daughter-in law Aspasia, in my daily prayers I always thanked god for blessed the lives of my children with two fine people like you.

To all the staff at the nursing home, I thank you all for your respectful care and support that you gave me over the last 2 years, god bless you all.

Fellow villagers after a  Brother hood of Karitsa meeting,
now all deceased:
Giannis Katsampis (1925-2006)
Vangelis Katsampis (1917-2002)
Adamantios Malavazos (1924 -2017)
Diamantis Chagias (1924-2017)
Today, god has released me from my pain and before I find everlasting peace in the arms of my beloved wife Vasiliki and my parents and brothers and sisters once again. I trust that god will allow my sole for one last time to visit my birth place Karitsa where I can see my old stomping grounds in the mountains of Mazaraki, Tsouka and Elatia where I can listen to the wind whistling through the pine trees, my lips can touch the cold water from the natural spring at Kanalakia, I can run as I did as a child bare foot and hungry through the trees in Diaselo, to light one more candle at Agios Giannis and hear the church bell of Evangelistra before setting my eyes on my home for the last time, the place which my mother’s hug greeted me as a young boy running from school to tell her of the places far away that I read about that day and the hug and tears that greeted me when I returned from the army and after I returned to visit them for the first time with my family in 1972.

With these words, I say goodbye.

Your father, 
your grandfather, 
your uncle, 
your relative, 
your godfather, 
and your friend.
Adamantios Malavazos

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