Manoli’s story

Manolis’s Story.

I was born in 1938 in Alexandria Egypt to Greek parents, the eldest of four brothers. At the age of 5, during the second world war, our family migrated back to Iraklion on the island of Crete. Even though Crete was a safer place for our family, there was no work during the war, and my father returned to Alexandria to continue working and support the family. Through these means, we could afford a good life in Crete. We not only had food and shelter, but could even afford a private education.

In 1959, during the post war recession, the family migrated to Australia for a better life. We travelled to Australia on the Spanish ship ‘the Bigona’. I had learned a little english in Greece prior to this, and thus was employed as a translator on this ship. I enjoyed my time on the ship, especially when I was invited to the captain’s private dinners. He is one man i’ll never forget.

In Melbourne, following some shared accommodation upon arrival, the family settled in Balaclava. A year later, my brother and I jointly purchased our own house. I worked two jobs, in the bank during the day, and in the evening as a cashier in a city restaurant. The restaurant job was only part time, but it paid off, for it was here that I met James. We have been together now for over 50 years.

My mother was busy at the time trying to arrange my marriage. She had found a beautiful greek girl, from a good family, and was suggesting it was time for me to start my own family. My parents had met James, who was my ‘best friend’ and thought he was a very nice young afstralo. I came to a decision that I didn’t want to lie to my parents any more. So one day, when I was alone with my mother and she started talking about myself getting married again, I built up the courage and told her that I would never get married, because James was going to be my partner in life. We both cried and hugged, and marriage was never mentioned again.

I do believe that I may have been the first Greek man to have come out of the closet in Melbourne during the 50s. James always accompanied me to family get togethers, christenings, weddings, etc. We have had and continue to have a great life together, and our presence as a couple was never an issue with family or friends.

It was never difficult for me to accept who I was, and to live my life accordingly. I could never had had it any other way.