Every morning, Gregory Liakatos drives to Eaton Mall in Oakleigh, in Melbourne’s south-east, where he sips Greek coffee and soaks up the scent of grilled gyros.
Liakatos is in good company, surrounded by Greek migrants like him. They play cards on outdoor tables. They eat cake. Some rotate Greek worry beads, known as Komboloi, with their fingertips.
Mostly, they chat about everything from their grandchildren to the motherland.
“I’ve known him since he was eighteen months old, from back in the village,” 79-year-old Liakatos says, pointing to his lifelong friend James Kaloumeris, who is sitting smiling at him from across the table.
“Like everybody, we came here many years ago on a promise. We were told we were coming to a very promised land.”
Liakatos spent 33 days travelling aboard a ship, called Patris, from Greece to Port Melbourne in 1960, as a 14-year-old boy. His family were crammed alongside thousands of other migrants. He was seasick, excited and anxious. But the riches of the promised land have been plenty.
“I meet a beautiful lady in 1966,” the self-taught chef and grandfather says, proudly holding up a photo of his wife, Aspasia, on his smartphone. “I worked hard, ran my own business. I have had a wonderful life.”
But Liakatos, who has lived in nearby Mount Waverley since 1972, senses great changes are on the horizon for Melbourne’s Greek heartland and the city’s south-east.
Liakatos says his…