IN SEARCH OF MY CASSIE HERITAGE

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AGAPITOS AND OTHER RELATIONS TO AUSTRALIA

My grandfather, Agapitos Spiros Karasavas, son of Spiro Karasavas and Maria (nee Malaxos), arrived in Western Australia alone on the 24th July 1924 ex the Italian Ship, Moncalieri. The shipping documents list him as Mr Agapitos Carasava, Italian, travelling 3rd Class to Adelaide ex Port Said. Whether he disembarked instead at Fremantle or did initially travel onto Adelaide first, is not known. He did have relations in Port Pirie South Australia and also in Western Australia.

Agapitos Karasavas and Anastasia (nee Xanthis) had previously married some ten years earlier on the 26th February 1911 at Castellorizo.

Marriage of Agapitos Spiro Karasavas to Anastasia Xanthis 26th February 1911 at Castellorizo

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No doubt the earlier arrival to Western Australia by many of his countrymen also influenced his decision to come to this State. His wife’s younger brother, Komninos Xanthis, and his wife, Elefantiani (nee Kailis), the daughter of Palassis George Kailis and Maria (nee Kalaf), and children, were already in Perth and had advised him that he should come out to Australia.

From my mother.........Uncle Komninos Xanthis married Elefantiani Kailis and he came to Australia. When their eldest child, Cynthia, was aged six months Elefantiani then came to Perth. They would have arrived around January 1916. Their other five children, Geoffrey, Peter, Christina, Evelyn and Con were all born in Perth.

During 1924 Agapitos travelled down to the south west of Western Australia to seek work at the timber mills in Nannup. He was based at a settlement called Ellis Creek where other Greeks, especially Castellorizians, were employed. He later moved to Manjimup working both for the timber and tobacco industry. His aim was to raise sufficient funds to bring his family to Australia. He also wanted to assess the employment prospects in this new country, particularly for his two growing sons. His wife, Anastasia (nee Xanthis), the daughter of Zafiris Xanthis and Maria (nee Komninos), and his four children, Spiros, Maria, Zafiris and Xanthi (Cynthia), waited patiently for him back in Castellorizo.

Agapitos Karasavas (Centre Rear) at Ellis Creek Western Australia C1924. Con Kalaf is standing on the right and Michael Kalaf seated on the right. The chap standing on the left is unknown and seated on the left is Nicholas (either Christodolou or Psaltas - has been suggested)

Photograph courtesy Mrs Helen Baster

My mother commences the story……..Dad was foreman on the mills at a place just out of Nannup, called Ellis Creek. He later went to work for a tobacco growing company down that way. Dad used to send over five pounds every month to my mother in Castellorizo. That was a lot of money in those days. She was one of the richest women in Castellorizo. The conversion monetary rate was very good and even today (in 1985) everything is inexpensive there as opposed to Australian prices.

Agapitos had previously owned his own fishing boat but the British compulsory purchase of the whole of the Castellorizo shipping fleet for the Dardenelles Campaign during World War One meant his livelihood was gone. Some of the inhabitants were initially rich in gold through compensation but it was the beginning of the economic decline for them all. It did assist many to make their decision to leave the island. Another contributing event at the time was that Castellorizo had been given to the Italians under the Treaties of Sevres and Lousanne in 1923. The French had captured the island during the war and was the only Dodecanese Island not ceded to Turkey in 1918. Agapitos also had problems associated with the Russian Revolution and the family business there, the sinking of one of his boats and his bank folding, but that will be discussed later.

Agapitos Spiro Karasavas

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Aunty Cynthia Stavrianou (nee Xanthis) tells of the early days that led to the decision to come to Australia both for the Xanthis and Karasavas families........The reasons that the Xanthis family migrated to Australia started back in 1915. My father, Komninos Xanthis was living on the Turkish mainland at a Greek settlement called Antipilos (Antifilio?). He had a shop there. He had made friends with the local Turks and they respected him. He was told that there was to be a Turkish raid the next day on the town and that it was best for him to leave. He immediately took off for Castellorizo by swimming across to the island. The Turks raided the following day and many people died.

 Dad went straight to his married sister’s place (Anastasia Karasavas) and stayed there. He married my mother, Elefantiani Kailis, soon after his arrival on the island. Uncle George Xanthis, their half brother, then contacted my father and suggested he join him in America, making confectionery and chocolates. Things were very bad economically on the island and with the First World War in progress meant everyone was poor and there was very little income to be made. So my father decided to go to the United States of America and went down to the wharf and waited for the boat to take him to Egypt so he could travel onto America. He was leaving his new bride and was unaware that she had just become pregnant with me.

Whilst waiting at the wharf he was speaking to George Macrides, that’s Arthur Macrides father, who had just returned from Darwin to pick up his brother. George Macrides’ real surname was Stamitou and he had been a Greek merchant living in Turkey. He asked my father as to where he was going then suggested that Darwin was a better destination for work. He told dad that a job would be ready for him in Darwin. So my father came to Australia instead of going to America. His brother-in-law, George Kailis, went with him.

It was very strange that years later in Perth, Komninos Xanthis’ granddaughter, Annette Stavrianou, married George’s grandson, George Macrides. That discussion on the Castellorizian wharf in 1916 contributed to the marriage of my eldest daughter fifty years later in Perth.

When he arrived at Darwin in 1916 there was no work and he was alone in the town. He could not speak English. It must have been very hard for him. He then managed to pick up a lift on a truck to Wyndham and got a job at the meat works and worked there for a few years. I was born back in Castellorizo up in the hills. We were there because of the bombing, as it was not safe in the town.

And from Arthur Macrides........My father came from Cyprus. He left home at twelve years of age. His father had died and his mother re-married so he up and left. He didn't tell them where he was going, he just cleared off and found his way to Castellorizo. He became friendly with the Stamatigoulo family and they brought him up and gave him a job. He stayed in Castellorizo until he married. He never went back to Cyprus.

My father came to Australia first, he then went back to Castellorizo to bring out his brother, Nicholas, back to Darwin in 1916 to work at the meatworks. My mother, sister and I travelled to Australia during the First World War. We arrived at Darwin on 17th September 1917.

My father became a leading hand/foreman with the Roads Board. I went into the building trade at Darwin. Later I came to Perth and bought a shop in Bay View Terrace Claremont and was there for sixteen years until 1952/53. It was just down from the post office. I then sat for an exam to be admitted into the building trade.

So it was my Dad coming first to Australia that brought about Komninos Xanthis coming next which in turn brought about your grandfather, Agapitos, and his family to come to Perth Western Australia. Cassie family and friends let each other know where the best places were for job oportunities. Each came out alone so they could save enough money to bring out their own families.

Back to Aunty Cynthia........Dad and Uncle George Kailis ended up down at Ellis Creek, near Nannup. They were working on the timber mills and were timber cutting. The State Sawmills had just started up there. It was hard work but they saved money to enable the family to come out. In 1918 my mother and I, and my Kailis grandparents, came to Western Australia and we all went down to Ellis Creek. My Uncle Jack Kailis, also came with us from Castellorizo and went down to the timber mills. Prior to our arrival uncle George had moved to the canefields in Queensland and when my grandparents arrived in Ellis Creek from Castellorizo they wanted him back, but he wouldn't come home. But my grandparents insisted that he come back to Western Australia and he then went to Ellis Creek.

Passport Photo of baby Cynthia Xanthis with mother, Elefantiani Xanthis (nee Kailis) 1918

Photograph courtesy Faye Paioff

And more from Aunty Cynthia........At Ellis Creek there was the State Government Sawmills. I can recall that a river ran by the settlement. It was deep and dad used to row across to get firewood from the other side. As well as my parents, uncles and grandparents being at Ellis Creek other Cassies there that I recall were Michael Kalaf, Malaxos (Max) Kalaf, Con Kalaf (who later had the Subiaco Bakery), Helen Nicholas (now Mrs Macrides) and her parents, the Philips family and Helen Pitsonis (now Mrs Baster) and her parents. Helen Baster's mother died there.

We lived in huts and I was only five years of age. We left to come to Perth in April and I was due to turn six in July. My grandmother had a stroke at Ellis Creek and was taken to Busselton, then mum brought her to Perth. She looked like she was going to die so mum took a house in William Street - the house is still there, near Brisbane Street.

Bill Lightly was the Manager at Ellis Creek. The mill was near the River so they could use the water. The huts were next to the mill so the men could walk to work. Dad was working so he could make enough money to go back to Castellorizo to buy a shop. When living in Turkey he had a shop selling all sorts of materials.

Mrs Nellie Macrides parents had a house. They had been there a long time before us. Her mother came up to Perth in 1916 and Helen was born at the markets. Then they went back to Ellis Creek. I was born the same year back in Castellirizo and we went to Ellis Creek in 1918. I don't remember the inside of her house but it had a double sided frontage and a white picket fence. There was only three of them in the house.

Helen Pitsonis mother had died so they came to Perth. Her father then remarried and her grandparents looked after her until she was six. Her grandmother was a Kailis and grandfather a Kalaf. The father wanted his daughter back after he remarried and they wouldn't give her up and they went to court over it. Years later Helen marries a Cassie who was at Ellis Creek, Michael Kalaf. Andrew Kalaf was his uncle but he wasn't at Ellis Creek. Andrew had three sons, John, George and Komninos (Tom).

Helen was married for about one and a half years and Michael died of pneumonia. She had just had her first child. They had a fish shop in Subiaco. She then married another Greek and he also died. She then married Jim Baster, an Australian. Helen's mother was my mother's cousin (a Kailis).

My Uncle Jack Kailis later bought a lot of the land down in Ellis Creek and they cleared the forest. Bill Lightly, the Manager, had been very good to the Greeks chasing work down there.

It would have been in 1924 when Uncle Agapitos Karasavas came alone to Australia. He went down to Ellis Creek and also worked hard cutting timber. He left his wife and children behind. Agapitos was very good friends with both my Uncle George and Uncle Jack, and was loved by my parents. My grandmother became ill so we moved back to Perth and started a fish shop in Fitzgerald Street. Both my uncles later came up to Perth but Agapitos remained down at Nannup working to save money to bring out his family. He used to write regularly to my father and came up in 1926 so he could be godfather to my sister, Evelyn, who later married Michael Palassis.

My Uncle Jack then started up the sawmill in Roe Street Perth. He was selling firewood. From there he build a small mill in Forrestfield. The mill burnt down in 1944 and the family built a bigger mill with the insurance money. The mill company became very big in later years. Uncle George Kailis opened a fish shop in Barrack Street Perth.

None of the Castellorizian men at Nannup were used to the heavy labouring jobs and it was very hard work. All had come from jobs such as shop owners, traders and fishermen and had not worked on the land before. Agapitos saved his money then went back to Castellorizo and brought out his family in 1928.

From Mrs Helen Macrides........My parents arrived in Perth on Christmas Day 1915. The letter advising that they were coming was on the same ship so no one was there to meet them. My family lived in Wellington Street, right opposite Royal Perth Hospital with my aunty. Dad went down to Ellis Creek as mum was expecting me. I was born in Perth in 1916 and taken to Ellis Creek when I was a few months old. We stayed at Ellis Creek until 1923 when I was six years of age. My dad then bought a fish and chips shop in William Street, just near James Street. My father died in 1924 when I was seven years old. I am related to the Pispinis and Tocas families. Old Mrs Tocas and my father were brother and sister.

We had a nice house on the street at Ellis Creek. Mum used to put me in a wheelbarrow and push me into the bush to pick up firewood to bring home. The others had huts over by the creek. Dad had dug a well and we had a big garden with mum planting and growing vegetables. Dad was working in the mill whilst the other men were out cutting timber. Mum used to sit at night picking splinters out of dad's hands. There was dad, mum and I at Ellis Creek but we did not have any other family there. I can recall the Kailis family, the Xanthis family and the Barboutis boys from Bunbury all being at Ellis Creek.

I remember mum and I coming up to Perth to christen one of my aunties sons. We had to travel on the timber train to Nannup. We stayed overnight at Nannup then caught the passenger train to Perth. I was about five years old and was the interpretor as mum couldn't speak English.

Dad died of pneumonia twelve months after arriving in Perth, that was in 1924. He died within a week of taking ill. Mum said, "All that time in the bush and nothing happened". She sent him to the doctor but he came home instead with a new hat, he didn't go to the doctor. Mum buried dad with his new hat.

I remember your mother, Cynthia, when she first came out from Castellorizo. I recall your mother being brought to school in James Street by her sister Mary. They were living in Milligan Street. When your mother married during the Second World War it caused a big stir in the Greek community.

Ellis Creek Mill

Aunty Cynthia........Uncle George Xanthis then came to Perth from America. He left his wife, Constandinia (nee Hatzilea) and boys, Zafiris and Vassilis, back in Castellorizo. He started up a shop in North Perth making and selling chocolates. He was a brilliant man, very smart and clever. But times were tough and although North Perth was one of the elite suburbs in those days there was no money around. The depression made it hard for everyone. Uncle George sold up in North Perth and moved into the city, in Hay Street. He was the best chocolate maker but people were not well off in those days to afford it. He wanted to make enough money to send his boys to university back in Greece and that he did by sending back money to his family. In 1928 Agapitos Karasavas returned to Castellorizo with the plan to bring his family to Australia.

NEXT CHAPTER - COMING TO AUSTRALIA