Ships & Agents used by Cypriots to migrate

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adria373
Mattheos Mattheou 3

Due to the narrow Corinth Canal the Mesappia had to be tugged through the Canal

Mattheos Mattheou 6

The city of Bari in Italy was the next stop after going through the Corinth canal

Mattheos Mattheou 5

Venice was the last stop for the Messapia. From here many Cypriots like Mattheos would board a train to Genoa.

Mattheos Mattheou 7

Venice 1962

Mattheos Mattheou 4

At the end of the train ride from Venice many Cypriots would board another train to make their way North west to the Modane border crossing into France and then north towards Calais. A small ferry would then take the migrants to Dover for the last part of the 6/7 day travel to Victoria station, London

The following photos have been shared courtesy of Dawn Williamson.
Dawn travelled to the UK from Cyprus on the Messapia in 1965. She has kindly offered to share her family photos on this website. As a nine year old her family photos give us a glimpse of this ship which carried so many people not only from Lurucina but the whole of Cyprus to their final destination and a new homeland. Perhaps others will share what ever recollections they may have of their own migration voyage. This will give us an opportunity to record a momentous period in our history that will never be repeated

Dawn Williamson 1

Going through the Corinth Canal, Greece

Dawn Williamson 2

Dawn her mother and 2 sisters enjoying a photo shoot on the decks of the Messapia

Dawn Williamson 4

Dawn her mother and 2 sisters

Dawn Williamson 3

Dawn's parents and an unknown lady with her son

Dawn Williamson 5

Dawn & her 2 sisters
Dinner time and the food looks as good as anything that was available in 1965

In February,1969 I left Cyprus International Airport bound for Southampton,England where I and my father boarded SS Australis for the adventure of our lifetime! As Suez was closed at that time we went the long way, via Gibraltar, Capetown, Fremantle, and landed in Sydney on a bright day in March,1969.I turned 18 on that voyage,and I was having such a good time,I did not realise it was my birthday till a few days later when Father remembered it! There was sadness too of course,for I had left my mother and sisters behind,not to mention my civil war torn country,family and friends... We were Cypriots,on the same boat, sailing into an uncertain world and into an uncertain future. On SS Australis,we sat together, ate together, danced together, laughed together and cried together. And when we reached our destination,some of us even found shelter together. Within a couple of months of arrival Father and I were living in a garden flat owned by mainland Greeks who lived in the main house only separated from us by a garden gate! The lady of the house, Maria, took me under her wings, and in the absence of my mother taught me how to shop, cook, wash clothes and dishes! Some years later she wanted me to marry her daughter...but that is another story for another time,perhaps!

Mete Teoman

Mete 3

Tourists formed their own dance groups on The SS Australis. Mete is the first gentleman on the right.

The  SS Australis 1
The Australis 4
Mete 8

With 60 Cypriots on the ship they all felt at home. Another thing they all had in common was the excitement of starting a new life

Mete 2
Mete 1

Mete on the left waiting to board and with his father in Durban in South Africa en route to Australia. With the Suez canal closed due to the Arab, Israeli conflict this meant a longer voyage. With good food, company and entertainment however no one was complaining

SS America-Australis First Class dining room
Mete 4

Mete in the centre with a Yugoslav boy he befriended on the ship

The Australis 1
The Australis 3
Mete 5
SS America-Australis First Class Ballroom
Mete 6

Mete's father on the right with a friend

Mete Teoman
Mete 7

The lads getting ready for a swim

SS America- Australis first class main Lounge

The following photos have been shared by courtesy of Nina Solomonidies Achilleos

Nina 3

Nina's father. On the Phillipo Grimani, June 1956.

Nina 2
Nina 4

Nina's father. On the Phillipo Grimani, June 1956. Nina's father with a friend. On the Phillipo Grimani, June 1956.

‌Nina 1

Ninas mother in the centre with her friends. On the Phillipo Grimani, June 1956.

Unknown source

Migration voyage

The story of Eren Erdogan's journey from Cyprus to Australia and a new life

Eren Erdogan 1

Eren Erdogan in Nicosia

By Eren Erdogan. Melbourne, Australia

With my brother and sister we have written two articles about our childhood for cyprusscene.com which covered the years of our lives whilst living in the British Governor's House in Nicosia Eren Erdogan during the period 1950 to 1961. Like so many Cypriots, Turkish or Greek, we left our beloved island during those very desperate and dangerous times to make a home elsewhere in the world from which very few actually returned to their homeland.

Our family settled in Melbourne in Australia and have all made new lives but cannot forget the childhood years and with the advent of online social media, together with a number of other people who had similar interests, we created the Frozen Cypriots Facebook page which has a wonderful wealth of pictures shared by its members showing Cyprus its history and heritage.

With many ex Cyprus members having grown up and made their lives in the Diaspora our page has proved to be in great demand and we are glad to say devoid of the politics of Cyprus past as without it, many people of different ethnic backgrounds can come together.

I recently placed some more pictures of my past life and description in Frozen Cypriots and decided to write a fuller account of my life since making that one way journey, We perhaps now see so many people fleeing their countries with a dream of a better life, who may never return to their roots.

My journey from Cyprus to Australia and a new life

Looking back to our first stumbling years in our adopted country can also be very nostalgic. Here is my passage to my adopted country:

Nicosia, Cyprus, 1970. My dad made a deal with my older brother Sermen, “ I will send you to Australia first and in exchange, you will pay part of your sister and brother’s flight there” he said. Sermen, at the age of eighteen and only two years older than I, packed up and left for Melbourne, Australia to stay at our cousin’s (from Poli, Paphos), home in Doncaster.

My sister Tülen followed a year later, then myself a few months after. Our parents' home was empty at 50 Mahmut Pasha Street, Nicosia,

Mum and Dad were devastated by their suddenly emptied nest. They were to follow two years later during dad's planned retirement; however the war began in 1974 and delayed their plans for another three to five years. My enquiry to immigrate to Australia was fast tracked, however, by the Cypriot government.

On the morning of August 13th 1972, my mum boiled a bucket of hot water; we didn’t have running hot water in the house. I quickly washed myself with a soapy sponge and was bundled into an old green Austin taxi, my mother emptied a bucket of water after the car to wish me well on my journey and for a safe return, this was a long standing tradition.

I headed to the checkpoint at Famagusta gate, Nicosia next to the Bastions. It was approximately 6:00am and the boy on duty Eren Erdogan a boy from Nicosia was a friend of mine so he knew the score. I crossed the border to the Greek side without a hitch and waited for my flight at the travel agent's office until midnight, Sabena Airlines flight with a DC 9, Nicosia to Singapore then a transfer to Melbourne with Singapore Airlines.

My dad joined me for part of the wait in the afternoon. He needed to be home before nightfall so he kissed me goodbye, teary-eyed, got onto his bicycle and pedalled away. Mum and dad couldn’t come to the airport to send me off due to not wanting to create suspicion with Turkish border officials. My travel agent, his wife and a few of their friends took me to their house to play cards while I waited for the midnight flight.

The game turned into poker, a game in which sixteen-year-old me wasn't very familiar. Suddenly, I was down by two Cyprus pounds, I only had ten to my name. I tried to cash in but Mr. Travel agent wasn’t impressed. He threatened to not take me to the airport if I didn't continue playing. Not long after, I was bundled into another car and taken to Nicosia airport at about 9:00pm, he showed me where to check in and that was that. He did his job as promised to my Dad. By now, I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and had the biggest headache from the day's affairs, plus it upset me deeply to see my parents so deeply distressed. As I was checking in, there was a Turkish family sending a girl about my age to Sydney. They asked if I could help her. I said yes, despite perhaps needing some care-taking myself. I carried her bulky radio cassette player for her.

The headache got even worse while we waited to board, so I went to look for some painkillers. I saw two officers close by and asked in half Greek and half English if I could purchase tablets nearby. Till this day, I'll never forget the officer's reply, "Fiye re shilioTurko, men erkis biso etc..etc.." which loosely translated to “Piss off you Turkish dog and never come back to this country”.

I didn’t know what to do but go back to the waiting area and sit by this girl. I didn’t move a muscle until it was time to board. As we took off, I remember looking out of the window and saying under my breath, “Goodbye Cyprus, place of my birth only God knows when will I see you again”. Needless to say, I was motion sick all the way to Singapore. I had never flown before. Thankfully there was an overnight stay at The Mandarin Hotel of Singapore where I slept off the dizziness, it was a shared room with another passenger.

The guy I was sharing with brought back a ladyfriend, I hesitantly stayed in the room out of fear of getting lost, the room had gold water taps and a city view I'd never seen before. They eventually took their rendezvous elsewhere and I never saw him again. I remember going down to breakfast the next morning but not eating as I assumed I couldn't afford the meal, I wasn't aware that breakfast was complimentary.

We were loaded into the airport shuttle bus shortly after. I said goodbye to the girl in my care who was headed for Sydney, she thanked me for carrying her radio. After an additional 9 hours flight I landed in Melbourne. First question I was asked by the customs was “Do you speak English? “ All I could remember was I said “Yes, a little.” And that I heard from the lady that was ahead of me. I did go to night school to learn English while in Cyprus but without practice it was hard to respond instantly without thinking.

My brother and sister welcomed me at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne on the 14th of August 1972. We lived in a two bedroom flat in Lewisham street - Prahran. Five days later, I started working at the Red Tulip chocolate factory. As a result, I am proud to say I did manage to fund my own night classes and complete my high school education.

Eren Erdogan 2

Eren Erdogan

Eren Erdogan 3

Sermen Erdogan in Famagusta

Eren Erdogan 6

Eren's one way ticket to Australia cost £318. August 13th 1972

Eren Erdogan 9

Eren's brother Sermen and his sister Tulen in Cyprus 1969. They were soon to migrate to a new life in Australia.

Sermen Erdogan 1

Eren's brother Sermen greted him at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne on the 14th of August 1972

Eren Erdogan 7
Eren Erdogan 4

Eren Erdogan in Nicosia

Eren Erdogan 8

Standing from left. Eren, his father Erdogan & brother Sermen
seated Eren's sister Tulen and his mother

Eren Erdogan 5

Eren, standing 3rd from right took English lessons in a night school while still in Cyprus.

The following story and photos have been shared by courtesy of Eleni Kouzari, from the village of Xylophagou

The following story is a typical story of the thousands of Cypriots who left their birthplace for a new life in a country that was completely different to their original homeland in every sense of the word, and yet inspite of it being a different world offered the opportunity for a better life than what they left behind. It's true to say however that no matter how much material wealth or opportunity one finds in a new land, something in the human heart always stays behind in the place of their birth and ancestral homeland. That feeling is something that we as humans share. The adjustment takes time, and we eventually accept our new home but one thing is certain, we never forget our birthplace. I found Eleni's memories to be almost identical to the ones I remember when my own family came to the UK. Her fathers attempts to first go to Australia and then the UK is a testament to the determination of a father to improve and help create a better future for his wife and children. Except for a few words of desciption the following is in Eleni's own words.

My father, Michalis Elia Michael came to the UK in 1951, on the ship Messapia. My mother and I along with three other siblings followed in July 1952, on the Italian ship Filipino Grimani. I was only six years old at the time, sadly we do not have any photos. We were born in the village of Xylophagou, Larnaca. I remember going through the Corinth Canal. When we were going through the Corinth Canal, people on the bridges above were dropping oranges to us on the ship.from there we went on to Naples and then Genoa, then across through France by train, and finally crossing the channel to the UK, and then to Birmingham. My father tried Australia first, but eventually chose the UK for many reasons, mainly we had no relatives there, (in Australia) whereas my mom had already got a brother in the UK who came here in the early 1940's.

I remember that we all hated the food on the ship, everything was so tomatoey, but I think it's only natural, we had never been out of Cyprus, this was the first time.

I went to Naples ten years ago, but the big road I remembered was unrecognisable. I remember sleeping on bunk beds, and us kids would fight as to who would get top bunk. I also remember feeling sea sick. I also remember that on the ship they were selling these brooches of ladybirds and other bugs that were bejeweled with bright colours, to a six year old they were very appealing. When it was time to eat the stewards would come and call "mangearo, mangearo". ( mangiare/to eat in Italian)

During our voyage, a Greek Cypriot man helped my mother a lot, as she was travelling alone, without her husband, and also had four children to look after. Later, when my sister got married and went to the USA, she met this man again, his name was George, and he happened to be one of her husband's best friends. Fate, Destiny, call it what you like, it was meant to happen, George later became Godfather to my sister's first child, Georgia

When we first arrived in the U.K., we were crying to be sent back to Xylophagou, she was 11 years old and I was six. We hated it. Our brothers were too young to express themselves, Nako, (Antonaki) was three, and Elias was only 15 months old.

When we arrived at Victoria Station, I remember thinking how huge it was, rows and rows of railway lines. When we arrived in England, I remember that I expected all the English men to be wearing red berets, because the only people we knew in Cyprus, at the age of six, were the soldiers in the army, they were the Englezi for me. So, I was surprised as to why they were not all in soldiers uniforms

Eleni Kouzari (the baby) with her family
Eleni's parents on their wedding day

Eleni on her wedding day. Eleni's family in 1947 befor her father Michalis Elia Michael travellied Australia in search of a new home. He subsequently chose the UK for his family

Eleni Kouzari 1959-60
Eleni's father. Michalis Elia Michael

Michalis Elia Michael Eleni Kouzari

Like many Cypriots who yearned and missed their loved ones and homeland, Tsiattista & Biimada (poems and epics) was an escape that often reflected their feelings. Not many however had the talent for tsiattista, to rhyme their feelings in an instant requires a special talent that Eleni's grandfather seemed to have. On leaving Cyprus to search for a new home in Australia Michalis Elia Michael (Eleni's father) was the target of his father's poem. It seems Eleni's grand-father Elias Michail Izamis, (Ηλίας Μιχαηλ Ιζαμης) or sometimes known as Nizami/Νιζαμης,was a well known Tsiattisti in the area around Xylophagu. The following tsattisto is also one of Eleni's favourites.

Ν'αχα στες πλάτες μου φτερά να'μπορα να πετισω
Να ξερα πως εν να χαθω
Θα'ρκουμουν να σε φορτωθω και να σε φέρω πίσω
Γιατι μου στοίχισε πολλά ο αποχωρισμος σου
Κι'αδυνατον πιον να χαρώ πουν είσαι δα να σε χορω στο σπίτι το δικον σου
Στραφου στην Κύπρο σύντομα να μας καθισηχασεις
Τσιαι κοφκω σου που πάνω μου τσιαι τρωεις αν πεινάσεις
Προχτές εις τα χαρτωματα ουλοι ετραγουδουσα
Μα ρωτά τσιαι την μάνα σου, εμένα τσιαι την Άννα σου ιντα ζωή περνούσαν

N'acha stes plátes mou fterá na'bora na petiso.
Na xera pos en na na'bora
Tha'rkoumoun na se fortotho kai na se féro píso
Giati mou stoíchise pollá o apochorismos sou
Ki'athinaton pion na charó poun
eísai da na se choro sto spíti to dikon sou
Strafou stin Kýpro sýntoma na mas kathisichaseis
Tsiai kofko sou pou páno mou tsiai troeis an peináseis
Prochtés eis ta chartomata ouloi etragoudousa
Ma rotá tsiai tin mána sou,
eména tsiai tin Ánna sou inta zoí pernoúsan

Recited by Elias Michail Izamis / Ηλίας Μιχαηλ Ιζαμης. 1947

In Eleni Kouzari's words
The background to the following chatista is this: when my mother was expecting her first child, my father wanted a boy, so Pappou said the following to him,

Θέλω τσιεγω να καμεις γιον, πουλλοου σου να πάρει,
Στα αλλά ούλα να'ν καλώς,
Όμως να'ν ξερωτσιεφαλως,
Να'χεις τσιε σου γωμαρη.

Thélo tsiego na kameis gion, poulloou sou na párei,
Sta allá oúla na'n kalós,
Ómos na'n xerotsiefalos,
Na'cheis tsie sou gomari.

The following was to his son (Eleni's father) before the onset of his travel to Australia in the search for a new homeland in 1947

Πιάσε μελάνι και χαρτί, γράψε 'μερωνιμια,
Ένας που τους λεβέντες σου,
Που τα νερά της Λεμεσου,
Πάει στην Αυστραλία.

Piáse meláni kai chartí, grápse 'meronimia,
Énas pou tous levéntes sou,
Pou ta nerá tis Lemesou,
Páei stin Astralía.
_______________________________________________

Παρακαλώ τον Πλαστήν μου την ώραν που νυκτωννει,
η νύκτα γρονος να γίνει,
όμως να'ν μαύρη σκοτεινή,
να μεν ι-ξημερωννει.
Τζι αν με ρωτισουν, να τους πω ποια είναι η αιτία,
εν τα μαραζια που με τρων
τσαι δεν γιανισκουν με γιατρον,
γιατ'εν' απελπισία.
Τουντον τζαιρον να 'χουμεν νουν, καλά να το σκεφτούμεν,
πρέπει να κλαίμεν ουλοι μας, οι να τραουουμεν.
Με αλλά λόγια, Πλαστη μου, φρόντισε να μας δερεις
τσι σλλαξανα 'τζι αστοσιαν μεν μας ι-ξαναφέρεις.

Parakaló ton Plastín mou tin óran pou nyktonnei,
i nýkta gronos na gínei,
ómos na'n mávri skoteiní,
na men i-ximeronnei.
Tzi an me rotisoun, na tous po poia eínai i aitía,
en ta marazia pou me tron
tsai den gianiskoun me giatron,
giat'en' apelpisía.
Tounton tzairon na 'choumen noun, kalá na to skeftoúmen,
prépei na klaímen ouloi mas, oi na traououmen.
Me allá lógia, Plasti mou, fróntise na mas dereis
tsi sllaxana 'tzi astosian men mas i-xanaféreis.

Elias Michael Izamis, on the right

Elias Michail Izamis / Ηλίας Μιχαηλ Ιζαμης on the right & below

Elias Michael Izamis,
The Messapia

The Filippo Grimani built in 1928 was 3479 tons and 329 feet long

Eleni Kouzari (left) with her family on a visit back to Cyprus 1970

Eleni (on the left) on one of her return trips back to Cyprus in 1970

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