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Pandi Thomas, Albanian Migrant, 1938

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Source: Museum Victoria

Pandi Thomas was born in Albania in 1914. He migrated to Victoria in 1938 on board the 'Genoa', leaving his family behind. Pandi had a brother who had migrated to Australia some years before and settled in Shepparton East with his wife. Pandi had intended to only stay in Australia for two years while he worked to save enough money to return home to marry and offer the next brother the opportunity to seek his fortune. However the outbreak of World War II prevented him from returning home, something he later regarded as a stroke of good fortune, as his relatives were very poor under the communist regime, which came to power in Albania after the War. He regularly sent money home to them throughout his life, which added strain to his own family's financial circumstances.

Pandi lived with his brother and worked on his market garden until 1944 when it was decided that it was time for him to marry. Through his brother's business contacts he found a potential Albanian wife in Bagnoo near Wauchope about 40kms from Port Macquarie, New South Wales. A restricted travel pass enabled him to travel by train to Bagnoo to discuss the marriage prospect with the father of his potential bride, Artemissia Hari. Artemissia's father wanted her to marry someone of similar cultural and religious background.

The couple met and Artemissia (born in 1922) agreed to the marriage as she was culturally expected to do. The Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony took place at the family farm house with a priest brought in from Sydney and Pandi wore the suit now in the Museum's collection. The couple honeymooned in Kempsey, New South Wales and then had to return to Shepparton before Pandi's pass expired.

They lived with Pandi's brother for a year, then purchased adjoining land and had a house transported in from Benalla. They lived in this house until 1984 when they built a new house on the same land, although they retained the old house for sentimental reasons. Both houses have since been demolished. Pandi and Artemissia had five children, worked hard at their market gardens and orchard, which kept the children fed, clothed and the family wanted for nothing. The couple died within seven weeks of each other in 1995.

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