Pelagia Iakovidou (nee Pavlidou), recently turned 100 years old. Her long life is part of modern Greek history.
In the summer of 1922, while still in her mother’s womb, her parents fled with other Greeks from Haciosman, a village in Asia Minor. Most came from Pontus and had to leave their homeland a second time during the Asia Minor catastrophe. Over 1.5 million Greeks were ethnically cleansed from Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, during this bloody period.
Pelagia, who celebrated her 100th birthday a few days ago in Melbourne, was born on July 23, 1922, when her parents were crossing Thrace with a caravan of refugees.
Her mother and Pelagia, her newborn child, still had hundreds of kilometers to go before they reached their final destination, Apsalos, where they would rebuild their lives from scratch.
“The only thing her mother had told her about this uprooting journey was that they hid during daylight and only traveled on at night so that they would not be caught by the Turks,” says her daughter Sophia Pavlidis neo cosmos.
Life was hard in those early years in Apsalos, a village in Pella prefecture in northern Greece, where many refugees fled during the Asia Minor disaster.
“They didn’t have a lot of money. They didn’t have much to eat. But things got better once they got a piece of land there and started growing their own produce.”
Pelagia was just 18 when she married Iraklis Iakovidis, then 30.
“My mother’s and father’s families came from the same village, but they were also refugees from Haciosman,” explains Sophia. Her father was uprooted twice. Once from Trabzon when he was 9 years old and then again when he fled to Apsalos in 1922.
“It was an arranged marriage, of course, as was customary at the time.” People said her father was from a wealthy family and she was beautiful.
It was a good match, although their life together began ominously with the outbreak of World War II and the newlywed groom’s departure to the front lines.
They overcame these difficult years and in 1954 the couple, who now had four children, decided to start over and set off for Australia, where many of the village’s young people had fled in hope of a better life.
During those early years in Melbourne, Sophia, who was then two years old, recalls living in an apartment in Melbourne with other migrants from Apsalos.
67 years have passed since then.
Pelagia gave birth to her fifth child in Australia, worked and traveled back to Greece a few times to see family and friends. She was happy here as she had siblings and cousins living close by and she is thankful that even her mother was able to visit.
Today, she continues to enjoy family moments with her children, her seven grandchildren, and her three great-grandchildren!
“She never thought she would survive everyone. But she has. She gets a little despondent sometimes because she thinks all her friends are gone. And her siblings are all gone, and she’s getting down a bit. But when the grandkids get together, she’s fine.”
According to the local press, Pelagia is the eldest woman of Apsalos who made a report on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
Despite her age, she lives in her own home with her son and the other children nearby to take care of all their needs.
Your secret? Inner peace and the simple, rustic Greek cuisine.
“’Don’t let anything stress you out’ is my mother’s motto. No matter what happened, mom sat there and crocheted and knitted. She didn’t let anything stress her or worry her. For every problem there was always an alternative solution. If someone was upset with her, she could let things go and wouldn’t care.”
“Of course, another thing was the Greek food. They always ate the traditional dishes with vegetables and fruits from the garden, which is exactly what they had at home. With vines, figs, fruit trees, potatoes, fasolacia and everything you can imagine!”
And as Pelagia Iakovidou and her family celebrate this amazing milestone, we wish her a happy birthday and may she continue to thrive and inspire her descendants with her incredible life journey in the years to come.