Opinion: How Greek heritage has shaped second and third generation upbringing – Neos Kosmos

Australia is home to close to 400,000 Greeks who contribute in one way or another to keep their heritage alive through celebrations, arts, cuisine, language and education.

For years Greek parents and grandparents have laid out the foundations for the generations that have followed through cultural organisations, to lobby groups to even the milk bars and eateries scattered throughout the country.

Three young Greeks explore and tell Neos Kosmos how their Greek heritage has shaped their upbringing.

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Anthony Stabelos

Anthony Stabelos Photo: Supplied

Growing up with a Hellenic heritage has certainly been interesting, and perhaps this is just the point. Interesting, for many reasons, however primarily, because culture adds more meaning to life and what a world-influencing culture we all have inherited. My heritage has influenced my values as a human being. Values and thinking such as democracy, freedom of speech and the importance of family. Respect, honesty, solidarity are all values that have been passed down to us from our Hellenic forebears. Then there is the contribution that Greeks have made on a world-wide scale over the last 3000 years.

From an early age I was told about the importance of learning and education how it can be a tool provide me with freedom, respect and autonomy. Greeks were the originators of thought in important fields such as science, medicine, architecture, political thinking, including democracy. It is inspiring to know that we share the same heritage with some of the most influential people in ancient history. People such as Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and Archimedes, the father of mathematics. These pioneers still shape the way we live today.

Perhaps the biggest contributor of my upbringing is the personal values that characterise me today. Family is one of the most important foundations of my life, and much of who I am can be accredited to my family, including my cultural heritage.

I am very proud of my Greek culture for the values, traditions and morals it has instilled in me and we need to value the contribution that these values and thoughts have made and continue to make to the world that we know of today. The Hellenic contribution to world-wide, especially western, thinking and values, transcends all generations and is timeless. In a rapidly changing world, we all need to consider how we utilise this cultural heritage, thinking and values, as we adapt to modern realities and create a better future.

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George Nikolakopoulos

George Nikolakopoulos Photo: Supplied

Despite being born in Australia, my Greek heritage has always been a large driving factor in my upbringing. Blessed to have been afforded the privilege of being surrounded by my four loving Grandparents, all of whom were born in Greece and migrated to Australia in the late 50’s and early 60’s in pursuit of a better life, I have always had some sort of Hellenic culture and tradition present in my life.

For example, as a baby my parents and grandparents would often speak to me in a combination of English and Greek. Frequently met with sentence combinations such as “Pou einai i bala George? Where is the ball George?” and “Should we go to the park? Ti les, pame sto parko?”, I always had a strong exposure to Greek words and sounds that I was able to pick up and parrot from a young age.

Even further to just the language, however, the love that my family has for all things Greek was able to shape me in ways that not even I would be able to exactly pinpoint. Following traditions such as Easter festivities and celebrating name days, listening to Greek music, being told stories of my grandparents’ lives in Greece and their transition into the Australian way of life have all helped shape my personality and values into what they are today.

It is for this reason that I continue to have a deep love for all things Greek and follow my pursuits through organisations such as the National Union of Greek Australian Students (NUGAS) and the Monash Hellenic Students Society (MHSS). As an ongoing influence, I look forward to seeing how Hellenism will further shape me as a person for long into the future.

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James Panas

James Panas Photo: Supplied

Being a Greek-Australian is an identity I’ve held my entire life. With all four of my grandparents immigrating from Greece, I embraced my heritage from a very young age by immersing myself in the language, culture and traditions.

Studying Modern Greek through to my senior years and regularly speaking the language at home has proven invaluable. This has enabled me to communicate with family and liaise in the native language during overseas travels to Greece where I’ve formed newfound friendships. Furthermore, as a paralegal at the Fitzroy Legal Centre being bilingual has supported my work, allowing for a more personable connection with clients that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

I have always had a passion for the culture, especially the music, dancing and celebrations. By attending a range of paneyiria and tavern nights organised by various Greek youth clubs, I have been able to continue experiencing these traditions in Australia. Additionally, name day celebrations, Easter and Greek Independence Day festivities have played an essential role in my upbringing that I will continue to partake in the future.

Most recently, my Greek identity has led to my involvement in both the La Trobe University Greek Society and NUGAS Victoria. It is through my participation in these clubs where I have felt a true sense of belonging, having formed life-long friendships whilst promoting my heritage within Australia’s multicultural society.