Life Stories- Plomari


by Stan Andis (Andonaras)

Maria (Marigo as she was affectionately called) Masteriogiou was born in 1874 at Plomari, Lesvos, where she had two brothers, George and Stelios, and a sister Pirmathia. As the eldest daughter in the home her task was to assist with the chores which meant that learning to read and write was not a priority.

She was married to Stelios (“Ganosis” – his nickname) and soon after began a family. As Irene was the eldest she too was required to look after the family home of Dimitri, Emmanuel, Persiphoni, and Panayiotitsa.


Above: A portrait

Above Right: A portrait of her husband, Stelios. 

Stelios ran a Kafenion situated on the edge of the plaza at the entrance to Plomari. Maria learned the art of Jam making and became adept at turning many fruit such as Quinces, Cherries, Pears including Orange and Watermelon Skins into almost commercial quality which were sold at the Kafenion.


Yia, Yia’s culanary traditions were to later carry on at Glamis Ave with other delights such as Karidopita, Kourambiethes, koulouria, Paximadia, Finikia, Baklava, Risogalo, not to mention Yogurt and Feta.The sight of seeing Traxono drying out in the sun of the backyard raised the eyebrows of our neighbours.


Baking a family meal in Plomari was a work of art, and as times were hard, the luxury of serving an individual portion to each member of the family was not one they could afford. Instead the meal was baked in a communal oven then placed onto the middle of the table for each to participate.


The dilemma faced by Maria when her beloved Stelios passed away in his early fifties must have been traumatic as they both loved and respected each other dearly. Without doubt that marriage had not been arranged.   


Traditionally, widows dressed in Black. Maria was no exception and always groomed her hair in a bun-shape with a middle parting. During her life in Wellington, neighbours often wondered if she was a nun!  She left the shores of Lesvos bound for NZ in 1939, it was to be the last time she was to set eyes on her place of birth. One cannot conjure up the thoughts that crossed her mind during that journey as she travelled into the unknown. Just how her family were able to convince her to travel has not been recorded.


Her children from Plomari had all settled in NZ and had commenced to raise their own children. With 14 grandchildren and offer individual love and affection, to the virtue of a cherished grandmother was everlasting. She had the uncanny ability of being able to make each grandchild feel as if they were something individual and special.


Living at Glamis Ave had its moments. She remained seated in her usual corner in the kitchen while knitting and observing Stelios or Athena being disciplined. Yia Yia would sit there with an expression of concern, but when one looked her in the eye she was unable to resist an affectionate glance of understanding toward the guilty party. Gradually seeing her facial expression change into a compassionate smile of tenderness was something to look forward to.


One day Jim bought home a live Rooster as Maria wanted to slaughter it for the evening meal. She failed to slit its neck properly, and one could never forget the scene of a partially headless chicken running around in a crazed manner while spurting blood from its neck. Needless to say this was the one and only occasion that live chickens were ever brought home for an evening meal.


Religion as in every Greek’s life played a major part in her life with her dedication and outward love of our saviour being demonstrably clear. Worshipping of Icons and burning of incense in the privacy of her bedroom was an everyday ritual.


Sadly she passed away in 1982.