Greek Revolutionary Women 

May 20, 2021


As part of the annual Paniyiri Festival which will be celebrated this weekend from May 22 -23, SheSociety headed to one of our favourite places in West End, The Greek Club. Here we enjoyed a delightful dinner before listening to a lecture on Women of the Revolution and Revolutionary Women. It’s the 200 – year anniversary of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire so what better subject to deep dive into but the revolutionary role of Greek women.

Tonight was a memorial to Alex Kondos so first we heard about his life. Alex Kondos was born in Alexandropoulis in 1929. Moving to Australia in 1956 he worked hard gaining both a Master’s Degree and PhD in Animal Nutrition and Biochemistry. He moved to Gatton where he was appointed Head of the Department of Animal Industries. In 1990 he moved to Brisbane where he engaged with the Greek community and was on a range of committees. He worked tirelessly to keep the language and culture of Greece alive, whilst also sharing the love with the adopted country which had been so good to him. 

Melbourne lawyer, writer, journalist and poet Dean Kaliminou spoke about the role Greek women played in the War of Independence and how these brave heroines shaped Greece’s fight for freedom in 1821. Dean said, “ We often hear about women like Bouboulina but there are many unsung Greek women who were freedom fighters, who were skilful in espionage and who provided funds for the cause.” 

He told us that many women were victims of abuse and slavery at this time and history only tells of the Revolution from a man’s perspective. If women are spoken of it is because they are young, pretty and rich. Many women and children’s lives were lost through starvation and disease and Dean remembered the ‘every’ woman in his talk.

Local Brisbane historian, Helen Gregory, spoke about revolutionary women. The author, curator and regular ABC Radio guest has been researching the Greek Orthodox Community of St George Brisbane. Helen’s talk encompassed three distinct Greek women : Presvytera Roula Sakelloriou from a local perspective, Professor Maria Kavallaris on the national scene and Maria Callas internationally. It was terrific to hear Helen’s eloquent talk. 

She shared the hardship faced as a 23 year old Presvytera had to come from Melbourne to Newcastle and finally Brisbane with a baby in tow and help her husband shape the future of the church in Brisbane, while raising an ever growing family.

She told of Professor Maria Kavallaris, herself a cancer survivor, who has devoted her life to studying cancer treatment and who now specialises in childhood cancers. She is researching in the field of nano medicines to help find a cure and her actions have seen her honoured with an Order of Australia. Action and tireless work is important to the Greek Community. 

On the world stage there has perhaps been no greater voice than that of Maria Callas who was known as ‘ La Divina’. From the age of three her family knew her voice was something special and by 13 she was studying and singing in Greece. She was praised for her ‘ bel canto’ technique. Her life was marred by an overbearing mother, scandal and in her later career, a loss of voice , but still today she is one of classical music’s best selling vocalists and is the definition of the diva as an artist. 

Throughout the talks we were treated to some beautiful Greek music from young Brisbane Greek musicians. They played a selection of songs from modern Greek composers or written by Greek women, including an aria made famous by Maria Callas.Vocalists Katrina Manolatos, Christina Xydi – Lignou and Panayiota Kalatzis were accompanied by George Lignos (Keyboard) and Nick Paras ( Bouzouki). When Panayiota sang it gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. Such a lovely treat to hear from these young Greek artists. 

Thank you to the Brisbane Greek community for your warm welcome and hospitality. If you are looking for your own taste of Greece head to The Greek Club and surrounds this weekend for the Paniyiri Festival. There will be food, fashion, fun, friendly faces, music and dancing with a feast of Greek history and community on display. The Greek people have contributed so much to Australia and it was a pleasure for SheSociety to  learn about their culture and amazing revolutionary women. 

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