The KAV is delighted to name Perth-based Marilyn Tsolakis as the 2023 Kastellorizian of the Year.
Marilyn Tsolakis has made an exceptional contribution to Kastellorizian communities both in Kastellorizo and Australia through her countless grassroots initiatives over the years. Since 2008 she has shown her strong dedication to her Kastellorizian roots through her role as Coordinator of Friends of Kastellorizo (FoK), an organisation with a mission to help create a positive future for Kastellorizo and give back to the island, while recognising our proud heritage as Kastellorizian descendants in Australia.
Marilyn was first approached by two of the Directors, Nick Mitaros and the late George Theo Kailis to take on the role as Coordinator of FoK where she successfully managed and implemented numerous community projects that fulfilled the aims of this non-profit organisation, some of which included an Intercultural Student Exchange Program between Australia and Kastellorizo for twelve years and managing a Youth Festival on Kastellorizo for two years. On Kastellorizo, Marilyn led and organised Katharo Kastellorizo – ‘Keep Kastellorizo Beautiful’. Held over two years, Katharo Kastellorizo gave the community the opportunity to work together to ensure a cleaner, more beautiful island and thereby, recognise the need to maintain it throughout the year. Marilyn also encouraged the youth who participated in the Youth Festival to also participate in this event. As Coordinator for so many years, Marilyn has shown her generosity and dedication to many in the Kazzie community, but particularly youth, truly ‘giving back’ as is Friends of Kastellorizo’s mission. Marilyn also served as Vice President of the Castellorizian Association of Western Australia (CAWA) in 2012, and has contributed to CAWA initiatives.
Born in Perth to Kastellorizian immigrants, Marilyn graduated from the University of WA with a BA and Diploma of Education, majoring in English, and went on to excel in her chosen field of English education, becoming Head of English at Methodist Ladies College, Perth from 1995-2008, where she led a team of teachers recognised for achieving outstanding Year 12 results. She also served on the English Syllabus Committee for the State of Western Australia. It is therefore no surprise that Marilyn is known particularly for her storytelling, writing and speaking, through which she helps to tell the stories of Kastellorizians to Kazzies and Australians of all ages.
Marilyn produced and co-wrote a bilingual illustrated children’s book, Kastellorizo: My Odyssey, about the life and history of Kastellorizo, thus leaving a cultural legacy through the power of story. She has been editor of the FoK’s ‘Filia’ Magazine since its inception in 2009, and regularly writes for FoK website and numerous other publications for the Kastellorizian-Australian community.
Marilyn is the editor of the monthly eNews with a current subscription of 2775 from across the globe including Australia, USA, England, Greece, Cyprus to inform subscribers about what is happening on Kastellorizo & the diaspora. She works as a team to coordinate and edit this publication.
The Friends of Kastellorizo website guides people of Kastellorizian descent to find information relating to the island and its history. Marilyn continually provides content and updates for the webmaster, which keeps Kastellorizians connected.
The Municipality on Kastellorizo recognised the quality of the Filia publication to transmit knowledge about the island and its history by announcing an award in recognition of their efforts to keep the diaspora informed about their heritage.
These are but a few of Marilyn’s creative initiatives for the Kazzie community, through which she has helped many to connect with the island and its culture.
The projects Marilyn has coordinated for Friends of Kastellorizo have been mentioned and analysed in several academic publications relating to the Kastellorizian and Greek diaspora by Vassiliki Chryssanthopoulou. This work has contributed to the preservation of Kastellorizian history and culture and on the strengthening of the Kastellorizian identity globally.
Marilyn was a loving and devoted daughter to her late parents Michael and Lola (nee Simeon) Tsolakis, and arranged for her father’s story to be told, which featured on the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller website. Her father’s story was later transformed into a script and performed to two sold-out shows at the Blue Room Theatre in 2018.
Marilyn’s many initiatives show her love for the island and her dedication to preserving Kastellorizian culture and history, while supporting Kazzie youth welfare as well as our Kazzie elders. Her strong values, charity and compassion for others makes her an inspirational role model for all. We congratulate her on her award and her many life achievements.