Australian-born and of Greek parents, Vasilas has published two books depicting the journey to Australia of Greek migrants from the island of Lesvos, Journeys of Uncertainty and Hope and Our Homeland: Lesvos, which were complemented with photo-exhibitions, and has also established an on-line archive on the Lesvian migrants in Australia and New Zealand. Vasilas has archived approximately 840 (to date) Lesvian migrants and their photographs on the website www.syndesmos.net.
Armed with his portable scanner and laptop, Vasilas has been visiting Estonian homes in Sydney as well as Thirlmere Retirement Village, scanning photographs and conducting short interviews with respective participants.
Vasilas explains the forthcoming publication on the people of the Baltic nations' journey to Australia is based on the structure and format of Journeys of Uncertainty and Hope, "The book's chapters will be structured according to the journey itself, with chapters on Europe, during the voyages and one chapter on the first two years of life in Australia.
What makes this work a little different is the emphasis on photographs. Participants only recount the story of the photograph(s) they provide for the publication. Where the participant would actually come into the publication is at what point of the journey the photograph was taken.
For instance, if participants had photographs about various aspects of life in the DP camps, their stories would only be about camp life. If they had photographs of their stay in Sweden, their stories would only be of life there. If they had photographs on the ships coming to Australia, their stories would only be about the journey. And so on...
By structuring the publication this way and collectively presenting the photographs and anecdotes, I believe the publication will symbolise the journey of a people".
Asked why Vasilas has chosen to write a book on the people of the Baltic nations, he explains there are a number of reasons, "As the people from the Baltic nations are part of the first ethnic groups to come to Australia in the immediate post-War years (1947- 52), it is important to visually depict their experiences and capture their stories before these people disappear. We are in the unfortunate situation in witnessing this post-War generation passing away; if we do not act now, this socio-cultural history will be lost.
The journey of the people from the Baltic nations is a story that needs to told- with people expressing their personal experiences- as it is truly an odyssey of adversity and hardship, and, endurance and resilience. It is also important to pass it on to the next generations to preserve this socio- cultural inheritance.
|Images and Stories from People from the Baltic nations Sydney school teacher, Vasilis Vasilas, has recently began gathering photographs and anecdotal stories within the Estonian community for a forthcoming publication, Our Odyssey: Images and Stories from People from the Baltic nations.|