Nikos Yiannou (Nick) Stavroulakis (Cretan)
|First name||Nikos Yiannou (Nick)|
|Last name||Stavroulakis (Cretan)|
|Country of Origin||Crete, Greece|
|Date of Birth||12Mar1900|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||9/2/2026|
|Submitted by||Helen Cretan|
The story of Nick Cretan Part 1
Nick migrated to Australia for a better life. He was a loving and generous man and grateful to his new homeland Ð many of the cafŽs he worked in are gone.
Born (12 March 1900), in the rural hillside village of Kaniskatho, in south west Crete: between Kandanos and the seaside resort of Paleohora, Nick was the fourth of seven children, for Yiannis and Aphrodity Stavroulakis.
The Greco-Turkish War saw Nick fight in Turkey from 1919 to 1923. He served in the artillery in the Greek 30th Battalion until war\’s end in August, 1923. After being conscripted he was sent to Macedonia and Adrianopolis, west of Istanbul. Several months later he was fighting near Smyrni, later a major evacuation port. Then his battalion fought for three years along the eastern front, at Eskisehir, near Ankara.
Life on the battlefront was relentless and difficult. Walking from one post to another took its toll on many. ‘You did not have time to sleep Ð you would only get shot,’ he said, though there were some days for soldiers to stop and rebuild their strength and health. He was shot through the hip in 1921, after shooting Turks while defending a hill. After nearby first aid, hospitalisation was required at the Bursa Army Hospital Ð about 150 kms away. Nick had to get there on his own, arriving 14 days later: mainly walking, hitching a ride in a cattle cart for two days, train to Eskisehir then Bursa. Due to overcrowding, Nick was moved to the Greek mainland for recuperation, followed by welcomed leave Ð returning to the western front at Adrianopolis. Many men in his battalion tried to get out of the battle by shooting themselves in the foot and there was high hospital security to prevent escapes. Long lasting memories included; wading through rivers, sitting at campfires, lengthy walking at night, bitterly cold winters, and being chased and fired on at night, and the stolen roadside grapes – “Oh how sweet they were”. Nick felt this war was pointless Ð ‘Greece had lost a lot’ with no major battles won on the Turkish mainland.
After the war he became a postman in Athens. During this time the troubled monarchy Ð after the 1912 assassination of King Constantine, compounded by an unstable government, unrest and revolution, the people wanted a democratic government and economic solutions. There were also continual problems with Turkey Ð long after 400 years of occupation. Nick knew if war broke out again he would be called up Ð his solution was to migrate.
Canada and USA had quotas. Argentina did not offer paid return passage if work unavailable. Australia beckoned as he had a sponsor. It was his distant cousin, Vardi Stavroulakis (aka Vic Ramon), who had migrated in 1924. His passage cost £50 sterling and he departed Piraeus on 28 July, 1926, on the British ship, Orama Ð (2), arriving in Sydney on 2 September. Only nine Greeks were on board the 1,700 passenger ship.
During the first eight years Nick worked in NSW cafŽs for Greek proprietors. Many cafes stocked groceries and fruit and were socialising places. He worked in West Maitland, Ardlethan, Lake Cargelligo; Singleton at the Astoria CafŽ with Vic Ramon in 1928; Jerilderie where in 1930 he bought his first business with Vic, and ‘lucky\’ to sell after 3 months; West Wyalong, and at the Garden of Roses CafŽ, Cowra. His wage varied from £2 10s 4d, falling to £1 10s 0d in 1931. In 1932, when at the Cowra Fruit Market, his employer Jim Pavlakis, Snr, offered him ‘tucker and a bed\’ in lieu of wages for a while. During the Depression Nick was rarely out of work. Between jobs Nick returned to his favourite boarding house, in Darlinghurst (Sydney).
After working in two Cowra cafŽs, Nick had sufficient funds to lease businesses. In 1934, a shoe repair shop was soon converted into the Cowra Central Fruit Shop, keeping shoe repairs as a sideline, and going into partnership with Jim and Con Pavlakis (nephews of Jim Pavlakis Snr) until 1936, when Nick sold his share. The threesome also leased the Cowra Fruit Market. During this time Nick took weekly market trips to Sydney by train: buying, barber visits, movie sessions and dining at the Athens Club, then at 216 Castlereagh Street, which gave him social and work contacts.
Nick enjoyed his six years in Cowra. Greeks living in Forbes, Orange, Cootamundra, Cowra and West Wyalong travelled long distances to be together for special occasions, like weddings and New Year\’s Eve.
Please go on to Part 2 which is published separately.