Life Stories- Plomarites in Australia

Migrant Profile

Sarandos Zaloumes (1940-   )


Based on an interview of Sarandos Zaloumes

By Vasilios Vasilas

My father, Dimitrios, captained a cargo ship for the Tiropolas brothers, and travelled all over the Aegean. Through all his naval experiences, he acquired this vast knowledge of the sea; it was as though he knew every wave and he read the night sky and its stars as though they were a map. During the Occupation, his ship would arrive in our village’s port but he would wait until very late into the night to come home. He would fill the insides of his trousers with whatever he acquired during his travels, whether it was wheat or broad beans, and risk himself being caught (by the Germans) to bring them home. Once he safely arrived home, my mother, Pelagia, would bring out a large tray and he would release everything from his trousers. Even in such difficult times, he was generous to the less fortunate in our neighbourhood by giving them whatever our family could spare.


Above: My father, Dimitrios (first from right) working on a caique.


Growing up in the Tarsana neighbourhood was a wonderful experience; I loved its people and they (in turn) loved me. As a teenager, I would enter our neighbourhood and the children would all get excited, “Look, Sarandos is coming!” And if I had a lolly of two, I would play a game with them, to see who would win it. I always loved being close to the Church; from eight years old, I was altar boy and when I got older, I was a chanter.


Above: Reciting poems during Independence day celebrations. From left, we are: Xenophon Mavragiannis, Stathis Bartis, Iphegenia Poulia, Stelios Caldellis, Mihalis Frantzoglos and me. Our teacher was Mersini Mihalelli. 


It was when I was in my mid-teens that I was offered to be sponsored to migrate to Australia. Manolis Makaratzis, who owned the Kookuburra Café in Holbrook (near Albury- on the New South Wales side of the border with Victoria)- had written to his mother asking her to find a good, reliable worker for his café. Subsequently, she approached my parents asking them would I be interested in such prospects. At the time, so many horiani (villagers) had already left for abroad, and I believed it was not a bad idea; I would go and work in Australia for a few years, save some money, help out our family and then return. I was only sixteen years old- full of zest and life- and I really wanted to work and get ahead in life.


I actually boarded the S.S. Navaria (a liner of the Orion Liners) from Navarino. As I was only sixteen years old, my cousin, Hektoras Volas, looked after me. He was very protective of me- always reminding me to be careful of where I was going. I remember buying an impressive-looking watch during our stopover in Djibouti- a watch that only worked for a day (or so). I had no money left, and a faulty watch. In hindsight, though, these encounters- no matter how disappointing they may have been at the time- were all learning experiences; We had left the safety net of our village and were now part of the wide world.


Makaratzis had called and advised me to disembark in Melbourne; it was March 25 and I could not help but think about what was going on in our village- the Independence Day celebrations. The reality was, however, was that I was on the other side of the world and making my way to a town I had no idea about. Working in the Kookuburra was definitely a new experience; I used to stand on top of a banana box to wash the plates in the sink. It was hard work. Semi-trailers and buses used to stop in the town, and the Café would be packed. After one month, Makaratzis approached me and broke the news that it was not busy enough to employ me. As a consolation, he had already lined up a job for me in Benala. I arrived in Benala on Sunday and was gone by Wednesday! My sleeping quarters were a shed, where I slept with sacks of potatoes; when it rained one night, the dirt floor was all puddles and mud. I could not sleep there, so I went to nearby tree and slept under it (out in the open).

Continue To Part 2