Conversations with a Translator

We had to attend Greek School at the community hall for 2 afternoons a week for most of our junior school career. The obligation faded in senior high school when the pressure to matriculate well was not helped by a non registered 7th subject. Our first teacher was Mrs Zaxa, an Athenian dragon. The second was Mr Paschali, from Ionena, with terrible halitosis. He became my father’s first speech writing assistant.

At various functions my father would generally speak in 3 languages: English for everyone, Afrikaans to appease the locals and Greek to satisfy his soul. He never had formal education in Greek like English and Afrikaans, and struggled. So he used translators to put together a professional speech. He even practised with them. And then he practised some more on his mini voice recorder, at a time when the micro tapes were only being used by the CIA and Fortune 500 directors. He was ahead of his time.

In 2002 he began using a professional translator, Chariclia Voulakis, on a regular basis. It was about the time he retired from direct local community involvement and had attained life honorary presidency of the South Africa Hellenic Federation, an organisation he was instrumental in founding. He was also made honourary vice president of the board of SAHETI. He was also appointed a director of the bank of Athens. He elevated his game in speech making with Chariclia to be able to present at various functions both at home in South Africa and in his homeland, Greece.

Chariclia recalls his presence from the 70’s when my father was instrumental in organising Greek films to be shown on Sunday evenings at Uncle Mike’s cinema theatre, the Libertas. It was a draw card for Greeks from all over the Witwatersrand. As children we loved it as we could throw popcorn while everybody was laughing at the crazy slapstick Greek humour. And we got to stay up late on a Sunday night, where before we were in bed by 8pm and listening in secret to radio shows on the English service under the covers.

Chariclia subsequently said the following about my father: he was “a passionate patriot to the bone …, considering his indefatigable efforts and contributions towards promoting and fortifying the Hellenic spirit, culture and education in South Africa and in particular, in our Greek school, SAHETI.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to liaise with Peter regarding various queries I had from to time in respect of certain documents. Besides providing me with the required information, he never lacked a wonderful sense of humour! “

“When perusing my work, he showed great objectivity, not hesitating, in a very courteous manner, to point out an error or inaccuracy that needed to be attended to. In my mind, Peter will always stand out as a man of integrity, who unselfishly gave of his wisdom, education, knowledge, experience and his kind and generous disposition, in a genuine effort aimed at creating a better community and world for his compatriots and fellow human beings respectively. In short, he was consumate.”

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