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Argyro Pendaraki / Full biography

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Argyro provides a glimpse into the personal experiences and hardships endured

during World War II. Her recollections shed light on the resilience, sacrifices, and

strength of individuals and families during such tumultuous times.

Argyro talks about her birthplace in Agia Erini of Selinos in Crete, her conflicting birth dates in different documents, and her family. She mentions the German occupation of their village, and the arrest of her father and recalls the fear and trauma she experienced during this time, resulting from the destruction of their house and their imprisonment by the Germans. She also talks of the difficult conditions after the war and her decision to become a dressmaker.

Argyro also shares memories of hiding New Zealand soldiers during World War II in Crete. The soldiers were taken in by her father, who provided them with food and shelter. The soldiers stayed in a cave in the mountains during the day and came to the house to eat and rest at night. Argyro recalls how how they helped with household chores. The family took precautions to hide their presence from the Germans, who were stationed nearby. The soldiers eventually left and made their way to Africa. The conversation also mentions finding a button belonging to the soldiers and the risks involved in hiding them.

Argyro explains that they knit jumpers and singlets and card wool for the Germans in exchange for food. She remembers her younger sister Alexia was given candies and biscuits by them and her mother telling them that the German soldiers are just following orders by their government, implying they are not necessarily bad people. They communicated with the Germans through gestures. Argyro helped her mother with knitting, burling, and spinning clothes. At some point her mother and her siblings were taken to the Agia prison as a way of putting pressure on their father to surrendered to save his family, as he was unsure of the Germans’ intentions. Argyro recalls a Greek interpreter informing her mother that they would be released. They eventually left and stayed with a friend in Skinia before moving to Brase, where they stayed in her mother’s sister’s basement. They frequently visited their own house, which was mostly burned down leaving only one part of the roof intact. Argyro’s mother made a vow to walk barefoot to the Monastery of Panayia when her husband returned, and she fulfilled it.

Argyro remembers her father telling them about the Germans executing men by shooting them and burying them in a hole. Her father had a red mark on his chest. The Germans would mark those who were to be executed, her father kept that mark until his death. He was released when the war was over and when he returned to the village he built a wall in a cave in Ayia Irini’s gorge, and they lived there until they received timber from URA, a foundation helping war victims, to rebuild their house further up from the location of the old house. The process took months, and they faced difficulties during the rainy winter. Argyro talks about her father’s death due to a heart condition and how it affected her family. She mentioned her father’s reluctance to talk about his time in prison.

Argyro shares her experience of becoming a dressmaker and the challenges she faced, including the need for a diploma. She also mentions her struggle to save money for the diploma and her brother taking her money for her sister’s dowry. The interview touches on societal expectations regarding relationships and marriage, as well as Argyro’s limited interactions with boys due to her brother’s strict rules. Argyro is sharing personal stories about her experiences living in the town of Chania.

Argyro talks about her experiences when going to Athens and Molivos in Mitilini. She mentions her time in Thessaloniki, where she worked in a kitchen. The interview also touches upon Argyro’s decision to leave for New Zealand and her mother’s passing away while she was abroad. This includes details about taking the ferry from Crete, flying from Athens, and making stops in Bombay, Darwin, Sydney, before finally reaching Wellington in NZ.

In the interview Argyro shares her arrival in New Zealand and her experiences. When she arrived in Wellington they were divided into groups and she was sent to Auckland. Argyro arrived in Auckland by train and was taken to Middlemore Hospital where she was taken to a single room and was given a uniform. She started working at 3 o’clock on the same day in the kitchen where had to cut potatoes. She remembers a misunderstanding about the word “spuds,” which means potatoes but was unaware off. She worked until 7 o’clock and then went to sleep. She remembers her  first meal of bubble squeak. She normally worked one shift a day and had different tasks in the kitchen. She also served the doctors and each doctor had a different ring tone for urgent calls. Argyro also mentions her own English language learning journey.

In the interview, Argyro talks about her pay and savings while working in Auckland and her own contentment with earning her own money and having her own bank account. She mentions that she earned 17 pounds/sterling per week and saved most of it. She spent her free time exploring shops and occasionally buying things and talked of her happiness at meeting her sister Alexia who was also in NZ on her days off and sewing dresses for others in her spare time. She also shares her decision to take up driving and the importance of having a driver’s license. She reflects on her decision to leave Greece and her positive impressions of New Zealand, where people have been supportive and friendly.

Argyro shares her experiences and relationship with her husband, about how they met, their engagement, decision to get married, and honeymoon. The conversation also touches on cultural differences and her limited knowledge about sex before marriage. Argyro shares the story behind naming her daughter Alexandra, her struggles with miscarriages, and the operations she had to undergo.

She talks about her experiences living in New Zealand, her financial situation, her marriage, her involvement in the Greek community and her attachment to her home in New Zealand. She mentions her preference for living in New Zealand, the freedom she experienced as a woman, and her husband’s reluctance to let her go back to Greece, which she did after many years. The conversation also touches on her husband’s passing and her subsequent entry into the workforce.

Argyro talks about the importance of family, Greek culture, and the changes in the Greek community in Auckland. She expresses her appreciation for having her sister Alexia around and mentions missing Greek music and the sea and Greek food items like olives, oranges, and olive oil, which were not readily available in New Zealand at the time. She mentions receiving parcels from Greece in the past, containing items like olives, tin sardines, and Turkish delights. She also discusses the positive changes in the Greek community, such as the creation of a youth club and having their own space. However, she admits to being less involved due to work commitments.

The conversation touches on Argyro’s efforts to instill Greek values in her daughter, Alexandra, including teaching her Greek dances and allowing her independence. Alexandra, who was present at the interview, shares her experiences growing up and her desire to be independent.  The conversation concludes with Argyro expressing her happiness for her daughter’s happiness and well-being.