IN SEARCH OF MY CASSIE HERITAGE
RETURN TO CASTELLORIZO
My mother talks of her return home to Castellorizo........In 1984 I returned to visit Castellorizo with your father. It was the first time I had been back since leaving, back in 1928. First stop was Athens. Then we caught a train into Piraeus to visit cousin Vassilis Agapitos, his wife, Irene, and two boys, Evangelos and Pavlos. We stayed with them. Vassilis had a big coffee shop.
Photograph of Vassilis Agapitos (rear) with parents Afrodite and Evangelos Agapitos (Karasavas), with eldest son Spiros (died Crete WW2) superimposed top right
Photograph courtesy Angela Karasavas
Whilst a Piraeus we also visited cousin Zafiris (Geoff) Xanthis, my mother’s nephew. We had a few meals with them. His wife’s name is Christina and the boys were George and Spiro. George was away in the army so we didn’t see him. Zafiris owns a large business that manufactures machinery, marine engines. He is very wealthy, a billionaire.
I didn’t see his brother Vassilis. He is married to Despina who is Christina’s sister, I don’t recall her name. I did meet their son, George, however. I think he was at University.
Cousin Zafiris could speak English but cousin Vassilis Agapitos could not speak a word. All the boys could speak English, however. Geoff told me that when I was in London to give him a ring and he would arrange for his agent to bring a key around so we could stay at his apartment there. We didn’t ring him when we arrived in England, your father wouldn’t let me.
We left Piraeus and travelled by ship to Rhodes. There we met cousin Spiro, the adopted Russian son of Uncle Malaxos Karasavas. His surname was Sekos. He was married and had four most beautiful daughters, one being a film star. His wife is in a wheel chair. Spiro took me to my cousin Maria Xanthis’ place, she is the daughter of my late Uncle Agaptos Xanthis. Even though they were not related they knew each other. I also saw John Xanthis. They all made us very welcome. Maria’s husband, George, was a retired headmaster. They never spoke a word of English, but the sons did. I cannot recall the children’s names, but one was Agapitos, of course. His son could have been Warren’s twin. When I showed Maria a photo of Warren she blessed herself. The resemblance was unbelievable. John had a whole street of apartments, he owned the whole lot, and was very well off. John’s daughter, Helen is married to Kyriakos Hondros. Your Aunty Betty had told me to look up Honros in Rhodes so we could locate the parents and her aunty. We didn’t have an address for either Helen or John. But we couldn’t find Honros in the phone book and thought we would miss seeing the Xanthis family. It was real fortunate that cousin Spiro Sekos knew the family.
We then travelled onto Castellorizo. It was very, very emotional coming home. I started to cry when I arrived there. Remembering that stone wall from the Raffles Hotel back in Perth and that I did have some recollection, brought on the tears. It was just the thought of me being born there.
Everyone was so friendly. Our ship didn’t get into Castellorizo until early hours in the morning and everyone, and I mean everyone, everyone including the dogs and cats were there to greet the boat. It came twice every week to Castellorizo from Rhodes. We stayed three or four days and went back on the next trip.
The facilities were not as good as I thought they would be. Accommodation, toilets, etc were so primitive. Your dad said to me, “Aren’t you glad that your parents migrated to Australia?” I was. It was terrible. I believe it is now better and also has a plane service. The ship we went over on was a mess. Smoke everywhere and it was real rough going. I never get seasick but I went real close on that trip. The seas are meant to be the roughest in the world. The ship was bellowing black, thick muck. The trip from Rhodes to Castellorizo was free. Any visitor could go free as they were trying to promote tourism on the island. It was a good idea, but they didn’t have the facilities. The accommodation was arranged for us and we were meant to stay at a boarding type of home but through a mixup we had to stay at a makeshift private home. The hotel was full so we didn’t stay a full week.
Cynthia Cresswell Visits the Remains of the Karasavas Home in 1984
Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell
We met an old identity, Stavros, who took me to the remains of my parents house. It was my mother’s house. My grandfather gave it to her as a wedding present. The house by rights belonged to my mother’s elder sister, Xanthi, who died in childbirth. Her husband, Kyriakos Makriargirou, gave all the jewellery and the home back after she died, my mum was only sixteen at the time. He told my grandparents that they had another daughter to marry and to give it to her. If the baby hadn’t died eleven days after Xanthi it could have gone to the baby, so it went to my mother. My grandfather also owned a block of land that he intended to give to my mother. But no-one knows where it is. The house now belongs to Mary and the block was given to me. All the papers are gone.
At Castellorizo we went into a shop to buy some postcards and stamps to send back to everyone in Perth. Not one of those cards ever reached Perth, they all went missing in the mail. At the shop the chap asked me who I was and where I was from. When I told him my family was Karasavas and Xanthis he said I must be related to his daughter-in-law who was an Xanthis. His name was John Hondros, the chap we were look for everywhere in Rhodes. He had moved to Castellorizo. He was writing a book and asked me about my parents marriage details as he was recording all the old Cassie families.
The only other family we met in Castellorizo were cousins of the Lazarakis family. They were not really related to us, only by marriage. No one else knew of my family, there were very few elderly people there, they were all gone.