IN SEARCH OF MY CASSIE HERITAGE

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INTRODUCTION

My sister, Stacey Ann Cresswell, and I, Allan Ronald Cresswell, grew up in North Cottesloe, Western Australia during the 1940’s and 1950’s. We resided in a suburb that was almost a totally Anglo-Saxon community, with very few ‘New Australians’, or ‘foreigners’ in the area. The whole neighbourhood, including all of my school friends, were British Subjects through and through........and proud of it!

World War Two was over and to offset the commodity and food shortages, patriotism, both for Australia and mother England, was everywhere. We were all in the same situation. All trying to re-build this British Empire outpost, after the horror and economic ruin of war.

The community was still suspicious of all foreign persons after the war, with many people unable to differentiate between Italians, Greeks, Slavs and other races of Mediterranean or Balkan background. Nor understanding or wanting to understand whether the country or government of these first generation Australians were supporters of the Allies or not during World War Two. Ignorance, intolerance and prejudice was everywhere.

These foreigners lived predominantly grouped in their own communities and did mixed with the Anglo-Saxons both professionally and in the work environment, but rarely socially.

All my family connections were in Perth’s western suburbs, namely, Cottesloe, Swanbourne and Claremont and all were associated with my father’s family. I looked British, lived in a British community, had British friends, went to a totally British school and everyone I knew considered Australia as part of Britain. Pro-British Nationalism and Social Conservatism was everywhere in Perth. Well almost everywhere.........

Allan Ronald Cresswell Aged 8 Years 1951 - Cottesloe WA

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Often our Mum and Dad would take my sister and I from the safe and secure environment of North Cottesloe and we would visit our mother’s family. These relatives lived in Lake Street, Newcastle Street and other inner metropolitan localities such as Leederville and Mount Hawthorn. They were happy and friendly people and welcomed us with open arms and with strong and sincere family bonds. But they were also different to me, and I knew it. They spoke a foreign language, pronounced the English language strangely, their foods smells were different and .......... everyone was so friendly!

Whenever we went to visit we always saw large groups of happy, sociable and bonded adults and children. As a child I could clearly see that their family structure was different. Men were more dominant and their children spoilt rotten. I liked their priorities, I was male and still a child.

Then the penny dropped. My mother spoke like them, looked like them and she was also part of them. What did this mean to me? How was it going to affect me? Who were these people? They were Greek and came from a strange mystical island called Castellorizo.

But when we returned to Cottesloe everything was back to normal. Normal food smells, everyone spoke English and there was none of these strange family groupings where everyone seemed to have a strong bond with each other. Back to the safety of Cottesloe where everyone picked their friends carefully and spoke only to selected persons.

Then there was my grandmother, Anastasia Karasavas (nee Xanthis) my ‘mum-mee’, who could not speak English. It was sad that she was unable to tell us that she loved us dearly nor us able to tell her the same. But we knew it to be so without any words spoken. Her smiles and her touching gave my sister and I no need for words. She was also totally blind in a foreign country, yet she was so happy! It was years later before I understood the reason why this was so.

But then a crisis came to my childhood life. My grandmother, ‘mum-mee’, came to live with us at Cottesloe. This initially was great news. She was kind, loving, smiled at us constantly, and my mother seemed even happier when her mother was around. But it also brought immense perceptions of social problems to my childhood mind. What would my friends think?

Stacey Ann Cresswell Aged 8 Years 1955 - Cottesloe WA

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

There I was with a permanently sun-tanned body, accepted fully by the local community who also sported suntans obtained from the nearby beaches. Mum spoke perfect English, with the neighbourhood and my friends unaware or ignoring her ethnic background. But my grandmother was going to create a realisation by this community of mine that my mother’s family (and half of me) was different. Grandmother arrived in her black Greek clothes, foreign language, Mediterranean looks and smiles for everyone.

My friends noticed this old lady immediately and the word soon reached my school. Even my best friend approached me in earnest stating, “your family are New Australians and Greek.” He must have known before but the message had only just registered with him on the arrival of ‘mum-mee’.

But my mother had already prepared me during the ten or so years of childhood. I replied with confidence, “my ancestors were the founders of modern civilisation. In the ancient times the Greeks were the rulers of Europe. Don’t you know about the ancient Olympics and Mythology, and all those smart men that wrote plays and fables who were Greek?” He did, and so did all the school. The subject was never brought up again. They accepted my heritage. But had I accepted my own? Perhaps my interest in family history in recent years stems from my prior reluctance (or opportunity?) to recognise and accept my ancestry.

Anastasia Karasavas (nee Xanthis) with Zafiris, Spiros and Maria on a visit to Athens in 1922. Anastasia is pregnant with Cynthia (Xanthi)

These perceptions during my childhood may be wrong but they were my thoughts at the time. Never was I ashamed of my mixed blood but only frightened of the effects it might have on my relationship with my friends.

The genealogy of my family is located at http://www.ozgenealogy.info/genealogy/ and includes various ancestry, descendant and pedigree charts together with many personal details and photos of families and individuals. Many persons and some particulars remain unknown. I will gratefully accept additional information, photographs or stories to expand, correct or clarify items in this article. Hopefully this article will generate such response and assist to fill many of the remaining gaps. When I started out in 1983 I had no photos of my Greek ancestors and only three photos of our Australian Greek family. Today there are many available and located and I am sure there are numerous more to be found.

The few available official records have been supplemented with personal interviews conducted with my mother in recent years. This article records those interviews in black italics. Other interviews or where information has been supplied is recorded in maroon italics. Additional information has been obtained from many persons who have since passed on. They include Mrs Marou Georgis, Aunty Panayota (Betty) Manifis, Aunty Cynthia Stavrianou, Aunty Mary Anastasakis, Mr Basil (Bill) Galettis and Mr Arthur Macrides. Others to contribute are Aunty Angela Karasavas, Mrs Despina Malaxos, Mrs Christina Panos, cousin Michael Agapitos, cousin Despo Moulatsiotis, cousin Michael Tsolakis, cousin Ann Gradussov, cousin Nicholas Malaxos, Nicholas Papas, Mrs Helen Baster and Mrs Helen Macrides. Many thanks to these people for all the details supplied.

Despo Moulatsiotis (nee Anastasakis) 2004

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Special thanks also to Aunty Angela Karasavas, Nicholas Papas, Faye Paioff and my late mother together who provided many of the photographs in this article. To those family members who contributed by supplying dates and personal information for their families that are shown in the genealogy section, I give many thanks. You are too numerous to mention, but we are aware of your contributions. My wife, Jean (nee Marshall) deserves a lot of credit and big thanks in supporting me in my effort to record the various pieces of information that I have gathered over the years.

Angela Karasavas (nee Theodorou) Sydney 2004

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Our ancestors made many difficult decisions in their times and we can only be proud of their fortitude and determination in their ability to make a new life for themselves and their families. We also should be proud of our family links with Castellorizo and both appreciate and reflect on the many sacrifices made by our ancestors to achieve for their families the lifestyle that we now enjoy. “First arrival” ancestors hold such a special place for Australians researching their genealogical origins.

I write this article in memory of my late mother who died in 2005 and to all my Greek relations, be they ancestors or living generations. I particularly thank my mother for all the assistance she has given in compiling this story. She successfully entered the English community over sixty years ago when it was not widely accepted by both societies for a Greek girl to marry an Australian man. This marriage contributed in a small but important way to assist in identifying Australia today as a truly multicultural society. This is her story and the story of many migrants who made that initial transition from one lifestyle to another.

NEXT CHAPTER - BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CASTELLORIZO