Many more people have the opportunity to write and publish their memoirs today than ever before thanks to advances in technology and the availability of many online publishing platforms. Many Greeks of the diaspora are among those who take the time and make the great effort to share their stories and their struggles. Among those is Malamateniah Koutsada. Her book, titled But I Promised God, recounts her story, beginning with her parents’ story, both sides of the family being from Asia Minor and who were part of the compulsory population exchange in 1923 and resettled in northern Greece.
As Koutsada writes in her book’s description, “the purpose of this book is to tell others to follow their dreams. There is nothing one can’t achieve if one sets one’s mind to achieving and if one is focused and works hard toward it. The universe is waiting for us to ask so that it can give to us. ‘Ask and it shall be given you,’ said the wisest sage that has ever lived (Matthew 7:7, New International Version). As parents, we all make mistakes and unwittingly hurt our children, alienating them from us. I can say with confidence that it does not have to remain so.”
The traumatic events and brutal experiences seem to follow one after the other as Koutsada grew up witnessing domestic violence and the Greek Civil War and its aftermath. Her writing brings to life the time period as well as her own day to day experiences so vividly described in the book. Readers will be transported to the Greek village where Koutsada witnessed many troubling instances, including her grandfather beating her grandmother with the poker from the fireplace.
At age 21, she immigrated to Australia as many others did in search of a better life with hardly any money and without knowing much English either. She marries and has two children. With hard work and a dedication to her studies, Koutsada completed her education and works as a clerk in the Aeronautics Facility in Papua, New Guinea, but is determined to become a nurse. Realizing her ambition, she works as a general nurse, a midwife, and later as a psychiatric nurse. Prayer plays a vital role throughout the book and in Koutsada’s life. Returning to the work force later in life, Koutsada notes that faith and determination helped her succeed.
In Australia, like many immigrants, she changed her first name to a more pronounceable name, from Malamateniah to Estella, and her honesty about her experiences as an immigrant will undoubtedly resonate with immigrants of any nationality or ethnic background.
The attention to detail is impressive in this memoir and the book is a hefty 427 pages in the paperback edition. Published this year, the book offers insights and life lessons that began in the dislocation of Koutsada’s family from Asia Minor to northern Greece, then through the Civil War, and dislocation again and again in moving from the village to the city, and then the major life decision to immigrate to Australia on her own.
Malamateniah Koutsada’s But I Promised God is available on Amazon.