Aphrodity Cretan (nee Kandilierakis)
|Last name||Cretan (nee Kandilierakis)|
|Country of Origin||Greece|
|Date of Birth||1/7/2020|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1947|
|Submitted by||Helen Cretan|
Migrating to Australia in 1947 to marry led to a good and fulfilling life for Aphrodity Cretan.
Aphrodity was born in the rural hillside village of Argastiri, in south-west Crete, the youngest of four children for Yeoryos and Eleni Kandilierakis.
Her father was a farmer who supplemented the family income as a builder. Farming activities included a large flock of goats (for milk and cheese), sheep (for meat, wool and cheese), harvesting and selling almonds and olive oil, growing wheat, olives, lentils, vegetables, herbs, grapes for wine, grappa and eating; and mulberries for raki – the first bottle was for medicinal use. Fruit and wild greens supplemented the family\’s food supply and the greens were vital during the war years. The women of the household spun and wove wool and silk (from home-kept silkworms). making clothes, blankets and wall hangings. Aphrodity did exquisite crocheting Ð even by lamplight.
The church and religious festivals played a big part in family life. Trekking cross-country for some distance, along stony mountain paths, in village-made sandals/shoes, was no problem: to take the goats to mountain pastures, or to visit relatives and friends to help with olive harvest, to attend the many church festivals to celebrate the saint\’s day or to attend weddings, christenings or funerals.
In 1941 when mainland Greece was invaded by Italians and Germans, many Allied soldiers escaped to Crete. The Greek campaigns were important for Australia as its soldiers constituted the largest number of front line or fighting troops.
On 20 May 1941, Hitler\’s paratroopers invaded Crete in one of the biggest airborne invasions in history. Thousands of Allied troops were captured and taken to German prisoner of war camps. Others made their way south to catch submarines to safety in Egypt. Some were left behind and were helped by the Cretan resistance and villagers.
Aphrodity\’s village was on one of the routes used by escaping Allied soldiers and Souya, one of the evacuation ports was within 20 kilometers of Argastiri. The villagers offered the soldiers food, did their laundry and hid them in caves.
No-one in Aphrodity\’s village was killed by the Nazis, though they did set fire to a village and kill women and children on the opposite side of the valley. The Nazis demanded her family to supply them with chickens, pigs and other food Ð sometimes to be cooked immediately, often accompanied with wine and nuts. The catch-cry to warn about approaching Germans was ‘the goats are in the vineyards’. The Australian and New Zealand soldiers spoke very highly of the Cretan villagers. ‘[They] literally saved their lives;’ a son of an Albury solider told Aphrodity\’s daughter Helen Ð his father saying ‘The British left us stranded’.
Aphrodity\’s wartime experiences in helping Allied soldiers flee the Nazi occupation forces in 1941 have seen her being awarded a Greek medal and two certificates in 1996, for being part of the ‘ethnic resistance in Crete:. She has also received recognition by the Cretan Association of Sydney and NSW and since 2005 has been a regular attendee at anniversary ceremonies for the Battle of Crete, in Sydney.
In 1946, Crete was at peace and Nick Cretan was looking for a wife and wanted to marry a girl from Crete. Aphrodity\’s name as a possible bride was put forward. Their families lived reasonably close, in the region of Selino, in south-west Crete, so there was an opportunity to meet Nick\’s family. Two of Nick\’s brothers acted as intermediaries. Once Aphrodity was accepted, Nick forwarded money to purchase the engagement ring and provide for engagement celebrations in her village, as well as for other expenses in migrating to Australia.
Aphrodity spent six months staying with one of Nick\’s brothers in Athens while migration and transport formalities were undertaken.
She remembers ‘My father did not say ‘yes\’ and he did not say ‘no\’. He left the decision up to me. So I asked our local priest for advice, and he said ‘go\’.
The priest told her that life in Australia would be far better than living in the backblocks of Crete and leading a rural existence. The family always had plenty of food, and with clear mountain streams villagers enjoyed a pleasant and fulfilling but rigorous life while amenities were basic. Running water and electricity did not come to Argastiri until the 1960s, a good plumbing and septic system came much later, while the 5 km road to the highway, was sealed in 1997.
The journey to Australia is Part 2 of this story.