The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A most remarkable woman.

Fellow citizens,

On International Women's Day, I thought I'd talk about my experience with a most remarkable woman.

Who is it?

My mother, Elizabeth Catsaras. Now 84 years old and still going strong.

Why do I say she is a remarkable woman?

There are many reasons, but perhaps the most astonishing reason is how she learned English.

My parents came to Australia in the mid-1950's. They were Greeks from Alexandria, Egypt, who, like many others, found they could no longer live there following the Suez Crisis.

While my father was out working three jobs to provide for his pregnant wife and to save for the future to buy a house, my mother was at home alone with no friends.

My mother spoke very little English although, like many people from Egypt, she was fluent in four languages: Greek, Arabic, French and Italian.

The landlady of the premises at which my parents were renting would leave my mother the morning newspaper to 'read'.

It was then that my mother decided to teach herself English.

Every day she would take the newspaper that the landlady had left her, and her copy of an English-Greek dictionary, and proceeded to translate paragraph by paragraph large sections of the newspaper.

She did this day after day, week after week, until she was able to read the newspaper with no assistance from the dictionary.

She tells this story as if it was as simple as making a ham sandwich. Yet, it was an extraordinary achievement.

While this story is a personal one and perhaps might hold little interest beyond my family and some might even think self-indulgent, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight this remarkable achievement from a remarkable woman on International Women's Day.







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