George Morfessis is an Ithacan from around the world. 2006

Ithacans from Around the World

Yianni Raftopoulos

Yiannis Raftopoulos was born in Kioni and left for Australia in 1947 as a young lad with no future on the island. His Aunt Dionisia, who lived in Australia, encouraged him to make the trip and start to make a life for himself in this distant land of opportunity. His father too, a Captain in the Merchant Navy, said to him "Go and don't come back" Life was hard during the years of war and after, and growing up without decent opportunities, had Yianni say goodbye to his family to travel to a distant horizon. In those days, most, traveled by ship, so it was a rare and exciting time for Yianni to fly to Australia, with Air travel still in its' pioneering stages. When Yianni touched down, he wondered why on earth he had traveled so far. His first impressions of this new land were disappointing to say the least. As it took Yianni 42 years to return to Ithaki, he did eventually make the transition to the Australian ways. He got married, had 2 children, Peter and Rena, and knocked up 3 Australian Championships in wrestling to boot. For many, many, years, Yianni worked the fruit market at Melbourne University and

is now retired. Yianni has many years between visits to his birthplace because his life and his family keep him where he has planted his new roots. Yiannis brother, Maki, still living in Kioni, has seen his brother only 3 times since he first left Ithaki, 1992, 1998 and 2006. Yianni has been a Wrestler, a Champion, a Wrestling Coach to Champions and a Fruiterer. An interesting life. He was raised in interesting and frightening times for a young person growing up during the War. He recalls the day the Germans lined up the community in Kioni, looking for Gorilla fighters among the locals. Yianni saw them from a distance, with their guns, gathering the locals on the bay. He was convinced they would all be shot, so he and his cousin hid amongst the wine barrels in the family house, now the Jewelry Store in Kioni, known as Tehnima. They were too frightened to breath when they heard the marching boots of soldiers heading up the stairs and inside the stone dwelling. Yianni tells he has never been so scared, thinking, if they were found, they would be shot on sight. Luckily the two young teenagers weren't discovered. The soldiers left and continued to search the other houses along the bay. When the coast was clear, the two headed up the mountain to hide, expecting the worst for their fellow Kioni locals. No one was shot , but to this day, Yianni can not relieve the fear that pumped through his small body when he thought he, along with his village would be shot by the Germans. Yianni also remembers the bombing raids in the Ionian, when ships ignited under force of enemy fire. He recalls the sea was in flames. At night, his father took him out on their boat to pull injured and dead Germans from the water. He winces when he adds "You know that fish eat the head first, don't you?" For Yianni Raftopoulos, there are no romantic notions of Ithaki, just the plain and horrid truth of a young man growing up with little food, little opportunity and fear in the days of War.