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‘A beautiful village’: New book tells story of Yarraville’s Greeks

Their immaculately neat house is full of photos of their three sons and six grandchildren. Mrs Vourvahakis serves us koulourakia — biscuits with sesame seeds — and their citrus trees are flourishing.

The book, called Yiasou Yarraville from Heartache to Heroes was a labour of love for Ms Koziaris, who grew up in Yarraville.

Author Olympia Koziaris c1968 as a child, centre, in Yarraville’s Ballarat Street, with her parents and grandparents.

Author Olympia Koziaris c1968 as a child, centre, in Yarraville’s Ballarat Street, with her parents and grandparents.

A circa 1968 photo of Ms Koziaris as a child in Ballarat Street with her parents and grandparents is on the book’s back cover.

More than 100 people contributed to the project, which received a City of Maribyrnong grant.

Those profiled in the book include Cally Kwas, nee Seitanidis, who challenged expectations of women to become a policewoman.

Film director Ana Kokkinos says Yarraville was “a wonderful place” to grow up, despite its industrial surroundings. But she notes migrant women’s struggles with language, isolation, sexism, discrimination and racism.

International wrestling champion Alex Iakovidis, in the1960s.

International wrestling champion Alex Iakovidis, in the1960s.

There’s a chapter on international wrestling champion Alex Iakovidis, and one on Ms Koziaris’ uncle, John Zahopoulos, a TV repairman who ran the Apollo Video shop.

Ms Koziaris said that during the pandemic, taking part in research was a welcome diversion for many interviewees who couldn’t see relatives.

“They were focusing on when they were young, remembering the shops and the little stories that went with their experiences of being in the area,” she said.

Mr Vourvahakis said as a young man, the number of Greek shops in Yarraville “made me feel that I was back home”, except with a better quality of life: in Greece people were starving and there were few jobs.

Mrs Vourvahakis said she loved the book, which brought back happy memories of her youth, of people and businesses she knew. She said Yarraville in the 1970s was “a beautiful village” with “a lot of Greeks”, and life seemed less complicated.

To buy the book, email karissoly@gmail.com or go to yiasouyarraville.wordpress.com

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