By Doris Falidis Nickolas
It is the story of a young man aspiring to patriotism, originally from Flambouro, Greece, who immigrated to Australia and dedicated his life to the Hellenes of Adelaide.
Coming from a bloated education, when John Mitroussidis, 29, arrived in Australia in 1960, his intentions were “to serve the Greek community”.
63 years later, the dynamic 92-year-old has kept his word, confirming his involvement and contributing to Adelaide’s vast Greek community.
“When I started teaching (in Greece), my goal was to help students believe in themselves,” John recalls.
“I wanted to instill good values and courage so students know they can achieve anything they want. I wanted them to have a good chance in life with a trade or a diploma in hand.
Being with John is like being with a talking encyclopedia and rightly so.
Originally purchasing a World Book Encyclopedia set for his family in 1972, John found himself surrounded by his passion for literature and became a successful salesman for the company, for over 16 years.
John (still smiling) became known as the ‘Encyclopedia Man’, visiting and selling a set of encyclopedias to almost every Greek household in Adelaide. In 1981, he became the top-selling salesperson and recruiter in all of Australia and New Zealand, earning him the position of Division Manager. This new role took him to the National Conference in Washington DC, traveling to Tokyo, Japan, New York, Canada and Honolulu. Not bad for a little Greek boy from Florina!
This is where John lives by his motto: “If you focus on something you want, you can achieve it!” »
Upon entering John’s home office, amazement sets in at the number of framed certificates strewn everywhere, not to mention the hundreds filed away in neatly presented folders.
To give just a little insight into John’s extraordinary voluntary work and cultural contribution since arriving in Australia, he has received certificates of recognition for: Service to the Members of the Panmacedonian Association; Exceptional service to Pavlos Melas Committee from South Australia as president for twenty years; Honorable Life President of Greco-Macedonian Brotherhood of South Australia, Alexander the Great; Appreciation of the good services rendered to the Southern Greek Former Military Association Australia. (walking every year on Anzac Day); Commonwealth Recognition Award For senior Australians 2001; And the list continues.
In 1979, with the committee of Alexander the Great, John, then Secretary of State, organized the first ever Macedonian Greek festival in Adelaide – the Dimitria Greek Festival held annually until recently, due to the impact of COVID-19. The festival will continue to be celebrated every October, but on a much smaller scale.
A man of many talents, notably a journalist and radio host for Radio 5EBIFM (1975-1990s), John founded the newspaper, Macedonian Hellenic Voice, in 2005. Since then, he has held the position of editor-in-chief.
Most of the time, you will find this admirable man in his office, enthusiastically preparing the newspaper, covering a diverse range of topics such as multicultural events and community news, ready for monthly printing. Thanks to the continued support of the Honorable Simon Birmingham MP, John is able to distribute the newspaper free of charge to the people of South Australia.
One of the many highlights over the years has been working with the Museum of South Australia, presenting an exhibition called ancient macedonia in August 1989. Once again John was recognized by the Government of South Australia for his tremendous efforts.
“Nothing makes me happier than enriching the education of young Australian Greeks,” says John happily. “Including my six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, I want to keep culture and traditions alive for them. »
First years :
Born on November 28, 1931 in the small village of Flambouro, Florina, North West Macedonia, Greece, John immersed himself in the world of education as early as he can remember. Sadly, John was only four years old when his beloved father, Denys, passed away. His young widowed mother, Panagiota, had to raise John and his three siblings on her own.
“Like most families in the village, we were very poor,” John’s voice drops as he recalls the difficult years.
“I remember being so hungry that I looked around for a piece of bread to eat. I had to survive. »
Fortunately, John was able to continue his studies and comfortably complete his 6th grade. He valued his upbringing more than anything. Although his elementary school years are over, he chooses to continue his education.
“I would rather be in school learning the same thing again than being home doing manual labor,” John said.
With the onset of the civil war in 1946, fear and trauma arose and disrupted villagers’ lives. With her four children by her side, Panagiota anxiously packed up what she could and they set off on foot to the nearby village, Ammochori.
The family found themselves moving again, this time to Florina where they lived as refugees until 1949. John frequented Pethopoli. (Technical School for Young Adults) and one of his many duties was to deliver the school principal’s letters to the governor.
Over time, noticing the potential of this bright young student, the Governor asked John if he liked studying. Surprised, John replied: “Pios then theli matia Sir Nomarhis” another way of saying: “Who doesn’t like to learn, sir! Hearing the excitement in John’s voice, the governor sent him to the local high school.
In 1950, after graduating, John had the opportunity to study agriculture and moved to the island of Rhodes, where he received a diploma upon completion of his studies.
“During the year I was in agricultural school, I learned a lot more than I did in high school,” John said.
“When I worked at Holdens in the 1960s, I was given the job of green keeper who maintained the grounds. I was so happy when I was given this job because farming was one of my passions. I did this for ten years.
In 1952 duty called and John found himself this time moving to Thessaloniki, serving in the Greek army for the next two years.
Fresh out of the army, John, 23, was delighted when he was offered a job at the agricultural school in Idrossa, a nearby village. He has taught a range of subjects from theory to practical studies in grafting and pruning.
Meanwhile, with the help of relatives, an agent (arranged marriage) was arranged for John and he met his gracious future wife Kaliopi, who lived in Florina with her family. After a short courtship, the young couple married on August 12, 1956.
Life was progressing pleasantly, and in October 1957 they welcomed their firstborn, a daughter Konstantina.
Life in Australia:
In the 1950s and 1960s, Australia was recognized as the land of new beginnings and opportunity. Therefore, in 1960, when John’s older brother Yavril (who had immigrated to Australia a year earlier) offered to sponsor and bring the young family, there was no thought.
After a little over a month of travel aboard the Greek ship Patris, and along with hundreds of other young hopefuls, John and his family finally set foot on Australian soil on November 7. From there they headed to their new home in Adelaide, South Australia.
The Mitroussidis family was growing and with the addition of his daughter Zoi in 1962 and Dionysius (Danny) in 1966, John found himself immersed in hard work to support his family. Coming from a teacher training background, he found the job harder than he thought.
“I often felt so exhausted that I wanted to break down and cry,” John recalls. “However, I was too embarrassed, so I held it all in and carried on.”
With continued support from Kaliopi and their three children, John eventually went on to own and work in retail businesses. While working here, he found himself deeply drawn to his passion for the Greek community.
In 1969, a great opportunity presented itself. With the cooperation of the Greek Cultural Club, John founded the out-of-hours Greek School at Fulham Gardens, teaching Greek language, culture and tradition.
John’s gratitude for the Australian way of life often shines through his teachings and for many years he applied this to his students.
The enormous amount of community and voluntary work often meant that John was absent from his family. Kaliopi has also dedicated her time to various committees, while supporting her husband. With the help of their three children whenever possible, the family came together and formed a wonderful team.
“My father’s life was dedicated to the promotion and development of Greek culture, heritage and language. Recognize and understand Greek history, which has shaped us and made us proud,” says Danny Mitroussidis.
“Essentially, we have a better understanding and appreciation of our roots, our heritage and our culture. I want to pass this on to my two children, Carla and Jon, and for them to recognize their pappu’s accomplishments.
“Education and knowledge are so important. Oh yes… and read the World Book Encyclopedia!
How to put 92 years on paper?
Certainly not easy – although I hope this short story about a humble man’s love and passion for his culture and his philanthropic nature has given a small indication of how a legacy can endure.
Passing on values and morals, Konstantina (Connie) and Zoi, John’s daughter, have taken over their father’s role and are very active both in the Pan-Macedonian And Virginia committees in Adelaide, their own children also being enveloped in the importance of their Greek culture.
Even though life threw obstacles in John’s family’s path – his beloved wife survived cancer – he always chose to stay positive.
“When things got tough and out of my control, I got up and carried on,” he says.
Today John, who says he feels sixty years young (and has the energy to go with it), is still involved in many aspects of the Greek community and is often seen with a camera in hand at various Greek social events.
When I asked John the secret to a fulfilling life, he replied, “Every morning when I wake up, I say thank you to God for giving me another day to live. »
“I’m happy about that,” he said with his big smile.