Life story

“His door was always open”: this is the story of the life of the late Drosoula Agius

By Maria Lucarini.

This story is in memory of my late dear mother Drosoula Agius née Tsakonas

Her mother Anastasia forced her to go to Australia because there was no future or prospects for marriage. She was poor, had no dowry, she was upset to leave her mother behind and didn’t care about being married.

She was sponsored by her brother Antonio to live in Sydney, Australia with her family of four children. In February 1956, she traveled on the ship Tasmania from Piraeus, Greece, arriving a month later in Australia. She spent most of the time in her cabin seasick and then went through the quarantine procedure before she could be released to her brother.

Drosoula was born in Skoulikado, on the island of Zakynthos. Her first year at school was interrupted due to World War II and by the end of it she was 12 years old and remained uneducated. During the war, she experienced starvation, saw men buried alive or burned alive, and much more that she would always try to forget.

Nikolaos and Anastasia Tsakonas and pet dog Liza, parents of family friend Drosoula, at the door circa 1956.

Shortly after arriving in Sydney, she was in a doctor’s office. In the meantime, she was chatting with an older Greek lady named Despina, who was also a newcomer to Sydney, and she wanted her to meet her divorced son Andre who had two boys – nine and 12.

Drosoula met André. It was love at first sight. He was 13 years her senior. He worked as an electrician with General Motors in Zetland and had a home in Enmore. André immigrated from Djibouti, Africa, after his divorce. His mother was Greek and his father Franco-Austrian. Andrew spoke seven languages, one of which was Greek.

They were married in September 1956 at St Sofia’s Greek Orthodox Church in Paddington. Together they had three children. Maria was born in 1957, Nicholas was born in 1963, and Anastasia was born in 1968. I barely had a room because mom offered my room to someone in need like female victims of domestic violence, refugees, new arrivals or temporary stays. They were very caring and hospitable. The doors were always open to anyone who needed a helping hand. Most of the people who stayed at home were very grateful and received many invitations to their homes.

Drosoula Tsakonas with Andre Agius 1956.

Drosoula held the house. She didn’t own a washing machine until 1967. She washed by hand for a family of eight, but also wanted to contribute by working to try to adapt to the Australian way of life she loved.

During her breaks from work, she kept other Australian women company, and the other Greek women who worked with her despised her for why she hung out with Australians and not them. She replied, “I need to learn English. Eventually the Greek ladies joined in and started mingling with the Australian ladies as well.

She worked from the early 1960s until 1979. Most of the years were at the Aero zipper factory in Bankstown where she had retired. By the end, she was speaking English but still had her Greek accent. She was able to memorize things by image. André wouldn’t need a roadmap. If Drosoula had been there before, she could take you back even years later. She had basic skills. She was able to do her banking and shopping through pictures.

André’s mother, Despina.

She never saw her mother again as she was on her way by ship to Australia for Christmas 1964 and she suffered a stroke and died aged 64. Her father Nikolaos was widowed at 44 and stayed with Drosoula until his death in 1977. My grandfather was twenty years younger than my grandmother Anastasia. He married her when he was 16, she was a 36-year-old widow with two children. He loved his wife so much that he never looked at another woman until his death.

Until the day my mother died suddenly in my home in 2007, she prayed that we would never see another war like she did.

Drosoula the day before he left Greece.

When the going gets tough, I think of how my mother survived it all and that gives me the strength to face any challenge that comes my way.

My mother taught me to have faith, to trust God, to thank God, to give without expecting anything in return. Do not gossip, do not be proud or have pride, but always be humble.

Love life, family and learn all you can.

The most important thing for her was respect.


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