The Story of the Eleni Crossing Bodice

The story of the Eleni Crossing bodice is inspired by my mother’s journey to Australia.

The story of the Eleni Crossing bodice is inspired by my mother’s journey to Australia. 

It’s not a journey she took willingly but one that was decided for her by war and famine. She never wanted to leave everything that she knew and loved. She has often said: “Who willingly leaves everything and everyone that they love behind unless they absolutely have to.”

Her story is her own and it is unique but it’s a story that has common roots in every migrant’s journey.

During the Nazi occupation of northern Greece my grandmother lost her husband and key provider after he set off on foot to travel to a neighbouring village to get food and provisions for his five daughters. The Nazis had decimated all of their food stores, food that they had toiled the land and broken their backs to grow. 

It was a particularly snowy winter. My grandfather after trudging through the snow for over a day sat down to rest. That was his final resting place. My Yiayia learned days after his death that she was a widow and her 5 young daughters orphans. 

Marrying her daughters was my Yiayia’s only option. Her eldest was already promised to the village priest. My mother unbeknownst to her was next. Arrangements were made without her consent or approval to marry a man a ‘they’ knew of in Australia who was looking for a wife. 

Within a month of the parties agreeing that this would be her fate, a bewildered and traumatised Eleni, my mother, a shy and naive village girl found herself alone and on a ship bound for Australia. She was shipped off with her ‘baoulo’, her box of handmade treasures to adorn her new home and a golden cross to hang around her neck to keep her safe. Oh if only a cross could keep her safe. 

This crossing took 2 months. She spent most of her days below deck because only loose girls went above deck. My mother has many regrets but one of her biggest regrets is that she didn’t go above deck to smell the sea and feel the warmth of sun on her skin. 

The Eleni Crossing crocheted bodice is the story of her crossing the seas holding her beloved cross. The brown in the cross is inspired by the luscious brown tones of Greek Orthodox churches and the touches of pale blue an homage to sea and sun. It is made of upcycled wool which is in keeping with Eleni’s values of wise use of existing resources.

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