Katie Tsaldaris moved to Australia to meet a man she’d never met – her future husband. She spoke to Ben Cameron about leaving her family and home in Athens while still just a teenager.

 

You came to Australia to marry a man you’d never met. How did that happen?

My family and some friends were very close and they wanted to send me to Australia [in 1957] to marry a man I’d never seen before – my husband. But my family knew him. He was a wonderful man from a good family and I was from a good family, too. His name was Nick. I was nearly 19 years old.

 

It’s very young to take that big step.

I was so young. He was a gentleman; he lived in Chapel Street. He rented upstairs, and downstairs was a post office. After a year we moved to Sunshine. A few Greek families lived in Glengala Road. I had my son [in 1959]. It wasn’t easy because my husband was working. I tried to do the best I could, be a good mother, a good wife, but the life was hard.

 

Is Nick still with you?

He passed away three and a half years ago. For 10 years he was sick with dementia. He was a beautiful man.

 

How has the area changed in that time?

No roads, nothing back then. It was very hard to live there. Now it’s a beautiful area, not before. When I first came here, Sunshine was not for me.

 

Did you have more children?

My daughter was born in 1963. When they both went to school, I was about 33. I went and got a job to make men’s clothes. I was so happy to have the job. I have so many stories, I could write a book.

 

You became a renowned seamstress, right?

I sewed for my friends … I worked in different factories for clothes. If anybody wanted me for sewing, I did it.

 

Did you still sew?

I have had some health problems, so not really. I’ve had a few operations, I had an operation on my tonsils. I also had a knee replacement. I’m lucky because I try to be healthy and I try a lot. I’m 78 now and I have arthritis, but I move. I’m not a 20 year-old [laughs].

 

Have you been involved with any community groups in Brimbank?

I was on a committee for senior citizens for three years. I did a lot of senior citizens work.

 

Katie was among 18 other Victorians in a campaign of aged-care provider Benetas – Unexpected Heroes, aimed at changing how older people are seen in the community. The campaign showcased untold stories of older people in a unique photographic exhibition at Melbourne Town Hall earlier this month.