By Margaret Burin.
For several years now, Eleni Kallianiotis has been fielding questions from her parents Bill and Soula about when she will get married.
She’s their only daughter, and that day has finally arrived.
Bill left Greece in 1957, after his father was killed while serving in the army. As a young man he settled in Melbourne where he owned the Village Oyster Bar in North Balwyn and married Eleni’s mother, Soula.
At their family home in Lower Templestowe, north-east of Melbourne, Bill and Soula perform Orthodox blessing rituals as they prepare to give away the nifi (bride).
“My parents are extremely traditional, but also modern in many ways,” she says.
“They are as stereotypical as you can get. They grow their own vegetables in their huge garden, they make their own sauce using home-grown tomatoes, my mum is always cooking and cleaning.
“Eat”, Bill says as he points to their celebratory spread, including overflowing platters of baklava and spanakopita.
“You can’t come to my parents house and leave without eating and drinking,” Eleni says.
“They do everything for their family, they will die for you. That’s what they take pride in.”
Eleni and her partner Chris met seven years ago through mutual friends.
At first their relationship came as a bit of a surprise to Bill and Soula, who had always imagined their daughter marrying a Greek man.
“I have one brother who is married to an Aussie girl, so my parents had an even greater expectation of me bringing home ‘a good Greek boy’ as I was their last chance,” she says.
“Like most Greeks they want to carry on their traditions and their culture, they want to keep it alive.
“When I went home and told them I was in love with a Mauritian boy… there was major shock at first, but as soon as they met him they fell in love with him, and love him like they love their own son now.”