Eugenia Mitrakas OAM among new names added to National Migration Monument

Another 876 names were added to the National Monument to Migration at the Australian National Maritime Museum, during the last unveiling ceremony at Pyrmont.

The National Migration Monument has honored the thousands of migrants who have traveled across the world to settle in Australia, currently with over 31,000 names from over 200 countries.

Every year more names are inscribed on the bronze paneled wall that faces Darling Harbor and Pyrmont Bay – historically the site where many migrants first arrived.

The museum has worked closely with the Greek community over the past year on a special fundraiser to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence and to honor the contribution of Greek Australians.

At the unveiling, 244 new inscriptions were added, honoring people from Greece and Cyprus – among them the top ten Greek migrants to Australia. The ceremony was attended by 2,000 people, many of whom were Greek.

The MC for the event was SBS presenter Virginia Landenberg and other speakers included Polish-born Nick Lewocki, Richard J Aculus from the UK of Indian descent and whose wife came from Jordan and Stephen Nguyen whose the parents traveled in extreme circumstances from Vietnam.

Three speakers, whose names were among those newly added to the Monument, shared their migration stories at the event, including Eugenia Mitrakas, Nick Lewocki who greets Poland and Indian Richard J. Arculus. Stephen Nguyen, whose parents traveled in dire circumstances from Vietnam, also made an appearance.

“I was invited as a speaker at their recent unveiling ceremony to talk about my personal journey as a migrant. Most of your readers consider me second generation, but I’m a ‘FOB’ – Fresh off the Boat “said Ms. Mitrakas. Neos Kosmos.

“This event was timely since at the end of this month, it was the launch of a new book by Constantin Emmanuel on the fateful journey of the Corsican who was stopped on his arrival at Station Pier on February 2, 1952.

“My father was on this boat. My mother and older siblings arrived on the SS Skaugum in 1955. The news the day we arrived was equally dramatic for the time: Petrov’s defection. In recent days we have also celebrated the 65th anniversary of the ship Begona brides.

Mrs. Mitrakas OAM delivered her heartfelt speech at the National Migration Monument for Neos Cosmos. Read it below:

I am honored to have been invited to speak to you and I thank Tina Koutsogiannis and her team for their excellent work.

I grew up in a mountain village in Lesbos in the early 1950s.

I was brilliant and the villagers were sure that I would become a teacher, but I wanted more. I wanted to be a doctor.

My father, one of the few men in the village with a higher education, emigrated to Australia when I was 4 years old. My mom wanted him back, and after 4 years of him not making it, she wowed my older sister, my brother, and me. and we sailed to join him on the SS Skaugum. I had done 3 years of school in the village.

We had a suitcase between us. There was no room for my hair ribbons, but I had around my neck my precious ultra-thin gold cross given to me by my grandmother and a ultra-thin gold Parthenon given to me by my favorite uncle. They remain a constant reminder of my Greek heritage.

I remember during the voyage a funeral at sea, led by the captain of the ship, queuing each morning for a ration of milk for my seasick older siblings and being introduced to my first banana.

There was excitement when we finally reached Australian land, followed by disappointment when my mother announced that we still had 5 days at sea. Welcome to Fremantle.

We arrived at Station Pier in Melbourne on a cold winter day. The front page of the day was Petrov’s defection.

My first impressions of Australia were not positive. Rows and rows of wooden houses lined the main road with laces that looked like my mother’s doilies. We left our three-storey stone house for this! The taxi then took the lush Kerferd Road where we then settled permanently.

The location was fortuitous as at the end of the road was MacRobertson Girls’ High School. I attended this school in competition with the most gifted girls in Melbourne.

I was 8 when I arrived but turned 9 the next day and was looking forward to starting school in 4th grade, but to my humiliation, presumably because I was a vertical challenge, I I was put in first grade. At least I learned my nursery rhymes and completed three years in one.

I attended the University of Melbourne on a Commonwealth Scholarship, studying Law and the Arts with a major in Classical Greek and Greek Philosophy.

I visited Greece after finishing my studies where I had my revelation. Until then, I was a Greek living in my adopted country, but I returned home a fully engaged Australian, proud of my Greek heritage and the achievement of all that Australia had given me.

On the day of my admission, I was the only woman, and the Sun newspaper was there to record her as “the first Greek woman admitted to practice” with a large photo on page three.

The article did not go unnoticed by the Immigration Department who sent a reporter to interview me. The Department’s articles and photos were distributed around the world to promote Australia as a destination where dreams could come true, and I was happy to sing Australia’s praises.

In 1988 Vogue Australia interviewed me for an article about their bicentenary celebrations.

In this article, Diana Bagnall wrote:

“She straddles the Greek community and the wider Australian population with the agility of one who has been subjected to the mores of both. His Greek connections are his alpha but not his omega. Greekness is a stock on which she has grafted a predominantly Australian way of life”.

As I get older, I feel even more privileged to call myself Australian.

I took advantage of my privileged position to give back to the Australian and Greek community the debt I owe Australia for welcoming me to my adopted country and giving me incredible opportunities. This pro bono work began when I was a student and continued for over 50 years.

I fondly remember the ceremony I attended when I was 10 in the city of South Melbourne when I became a proud Australian citizen.

I am equally proud and humbled to be recognized in this national migration monument which is equally important in my life.

The museum is now accepting names for the next panel on the monument before the next closing date of December 22. For more information, go to

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