Vale Andrew Georghiou

Normally one would not mark the passing of a suburban hamburger takeaway shop owner. Sure he or she would be missed by the family, but would it go beyond that? Would there be an impact beyond the family and the grill? Would some big international chain take over anyway?

Andrew fed me hamburgers since I was about the age of six. He watched me grow, saw me develop from child to man, and in all that time remembered my name, what I did and where I was – no mean feat given that I was an international aid worker dancing from hotspot to hotspot.

When I returned from aid work in Yugoslavia in the 1990’s the relief on his face was evident. “You are back”, he would say, “we were worried about you”. He would feed me burgers, not take money, ask how I was and would listen to the stories of hell and happiness I went through.

Andrew worried when I left again and listened with relief when I returned from Rwanda, Pakistan and others. He wouldn’t take money, happy knowing I was safe.

This wasn’t local marketing hype, Andrew meant it. Andrew cared about the people he served. Rich or poor, powerful or powerless, Andrew really cared. Quietly spoken, compassionate and hardworking, he was a role-model in decency.

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Andrew Georghiou was more than just the proprietor of a local hamburger shop – even given that it was constantly voted the best in town! He was more than a loving father, uncle and husband. He was a father figure for many in the local community.

Andrew Georghiou was farewelled today, at the St Eustathios Greek Orthodox Church.

Whilst the church is in Australia it did not in anyway seem odd that the priest opened the service in Greek. Greek was spoken widely in South Melbourne in the early 1970’s. We were proud that Melbourne was the third largest Greek city in the world! My neighbours George and Athena spoke no English, only Greek. As a kid growing up in the local area, Greek was the first ‘foreign’ language I came to hear, and learn a few words.

Today, the priest chanted in Greek, quiet whispers in Greek Cypriot accents echoed around the congregation. Wizened old faces showed, through their aged lines, an important history of Australia. This was a church full of people who had begun life in difficult conditions and came here to work a life of honest, hard work.

Andrew, like many others of his generation, was a post-war migrant from Cyprus. He came to escape the poverty of a brutalised Europe and through hard work and dedication built a life for him and his family, while in the process helped build the country we see today.

As Andrew’s life was farewelled today, those younger in the congregation could take time to step back and appreciate what Andrew and his generation helped build.

His generation’s legacy won’t be best reflected in monuments, but rather in a culture of integration and multicultural pluralism that makes this country great. One of the best things about this country is we not only accept difference, we celebrate it.

Andrew’s funeral today was not just a remembrance of his life, it was a reflection of how this country was built – by welcoming those from foreign lands prepared to work hard to build a better future for their families.

Andrew certainly did that and more.

RIP Andrew Georghiou.

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