Home Full bios Aikaterini (Kaiti) Galanaki (Kafaki) – Full biography

Aikaterini (Kaiti) Galanaki (Kafaki) – Full biography


“I am very proud to have lived in NZ…
I love you New Zealand and if sometimes I hear on TV about NZ I cry, I get emotional, it is my second country, I love New Zealand very much”

Aikaterini (Kaiti), born in Chosti of Kidonia, Crete in 1937. Her mother was from Chosti and her father from Alexandria, Egypt and they had five children. Her father migrated to Greece when he was young and was baptized Orthodox. Her father’s parents were likely Greeks from Egypt. He came to Greece around the age of 18, probably alone, to work. He was a farmer and later ran a fruit and vegetable shop. Aikaterini and her family left Chosti for Chania in 1948, after the war for better opportunities. She recalls the hardships of the war, including food scarcity, which led them to eat just greens without olive oil or bread.

Kaiti shares experiences of the village during the German occupation. The Germans stayed in the village from 1941 to 1944 and caused significant damage, including burning houses and killing animals. The Germans burned down the nearby village of Skine in retaliation for the killing of a German soldier. The Germans regularly visited the village, possibly searching for British and New Zealand soldiers. She recalls incidents where young men were taken away and shot by the Germans. Her father hid in a chimney to avoid being executed by the Germans. Men from the village would hide in the mountains to avoid detection and women would secretly bring them food and water. The conversation also mentions a village called Giti where 110 people were killed by the Germans. Kiki remembers the fear and hardship of those years, including being hungry and unable to take food from the Germans due to safety concerns. Her mother for instance was cautious about accepting bread from the Germans, fearing it may be poisoned.

She spoke of her childhood during a time of conflict, when she didn’t go to school and spent time at home, playing with stones and making dolls from rags as they didn’t have toys. Their mother cooked whatever she could find, often from their father’s vegetable garden. Their father would visit them secretly at night, bringing food and then leaving out of fear of being caught. People, including a baby, hid in caves in the mountains to escape the Germans. She shared an incident when the baby’s crying led the Germans to the cave, and they set it on fire, killing everyone inside.

The interviewee shares her experience of leaving her home in Crete to work in New Zealand. Kaiti describes how she and other girls were recruited for positions in Canada but ended up being offered the opportunity to go to New Zealand instead. She talks about her desire to leave and explore the world, and how she eventually convinced her father to let her go.

She initially planned to stay for a few years to support her family financially. She was told she would work as a domestic worker in houses, hospitals, and hostels. She ended up working in a hostel’s kitchen as a cook’s assistant.

Before leaving, she attended a school in Athens for six months, where she learned English and domestic duties. She lived with her strict brother during this time. Her life in Crete was restrictive, especially regarding interactions with men, which she likened to a prison. She saw her move overseas as a chance for freedom, despite initial feelings of depression and loneliness.

She returned to her village in Crete for about 15-20 days before leaving for New Zealand. Her departure was marked by a family dinner. She found it hard to believe she was leaving, and her last day in Chania was filled with sadness.

The journey to New Zealand was long and difficult, and she felt homesick and worried about never seeing her family again. However, upon arrival, she found comfort and support from the other girls and the people of New Zealand. She worked in a hostel and later in a hospital kitchen, and she appreciated the kindness and care she received. She expresses her love for New Zealand and how she never regretted her decision to leave Crete.

She worked hard to save money, not only for herself but also to help her family back home.  She used some for personal purchases like a coat, shoes, and a handbag. She enjoyed having the freedom to buy what she wanted. She mentions a hostel where she stayed and worked in the kitchen for three months. She formed friendships with the girls there and spent their free time writing letters and exploring the shops. After three years, she left the hostel and started working at a hospital in Wellington.

Kaiti invited her sister to join her in New Zealand from Crete (chain migration). The sister had a successful sewing school in Crete, but chose to leave it to be with Kiki. Upon arrival, the sister continued her work in sewing. They lived together in a rented room, as that’s what they could afford. She emphasized that despite their modest living conditions, they were not in prison, implying they valued their freedom and independence.

Kaiti compared her life in New Zealand and Chania. She explains that in New Zealand, she had more freedom and financial stability, allowing her to go out, shop, and visit friends. She also mention that she didn’t get involved with anyone romantically in New Zealand, despite the presence of many Greek boys. 

Despite the initial struggle and homesickness, she managed to adapt to her new life, finding work and eventually becoming a second cook. She also sent parcels and letters back home, maintaining a strong connection with her family and friends.

Kaiti was initially overwhelmed by the new environment and language, but she gradually adjusted. She also found joy in her work and the ability to buy things she wanted. Despite receiving marriage proposals, she remained focused on her work until she started corresponding with Stelios, a man from her hometown who was living in the USA. They got to know each other through letters, and eventually, he came to New Zealand, and they got married.

Throughout her journey, she remained dedicated to her work, her family, and maintaining her self-respect. Despite the challenges, she found happiness and satisfaction in her new life in New Zealand.

Kaiti describes the experiences and thoughts regarding relationships, marriage, family, and living in different countries. She reflects on the past, mentioning the importance of respect and matchmaking in marriages and her own marriage, the loss of a child, and the challenges of balancing work and family life. She expresses her initial desire to leave due to cultural differences but ultimately decides to stay for the sake of her parents. She also mentions the experiences of her siblings and children in NZ and Australia. Kaiti returned to her village in Crete with her husband where she now lives.

Kaiti talks about their son being in New Zealand with his children and how they communicate daily through internet. She also talks about her daughter meeting her husband and how they researched his background before approving the marriage. She mentions her children’s language skills, growing up with both Greek and English and their parenting approach, not allowing their children to go out alone as teenagers and discouraging alcohol consumption. She expresses contentment with her current life, focusing on their grandchildren and engaging in activities like sewing and knitting. but also her longing for their son in New Zealand

Kaiti reflects on the changes in her village, with many people leaving for other countries and urban Greek cities. She expresses her love for New Zealand and pride in having lived there, considering it her second home and mentions that she is staying in touch with friends who have also moved to New Zealand and Australia.