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For the Lostroms, Carlton is community

Roula Lostrom and her children, in all their Carlton finery, at Rhapsody's on Rathdowne Street. From left to right, "Didi", Roula, Anthony, Irene and Julia. (Photo: Supplied)
Roula Lostrom and her children, in all their Carlton finery, at Rhapsody's on Rathdowne Street. From left to right, "Didi", Roula, Anthony, Irene and Julia. (Photo: Supplied)

At 793 Rathdowne Street, on the north-west corner of McPherson, can be found the vibrant North Carlton café “Rhapsody’s”. The café’s assiduous proprietor is Roula Lostrom, whose surname, fittingly enough, is a derivation of the Greek word “lostromou”, meaning “seafarer”.
 
From half a world away, Roula, her husband Nick, eldest daughter Eleni and quadruplets Julia, Irene, Anthony and “Didi”, have made Rhapsody’s their own. Roula, you see, was born in Zambia, Nick in Zimbabwe, Eleni in Durban and the quads in Greece.
 
At the time of writing, Nick and Eleni remain in Zambia, but are to reunite with their nearest and dearest here once the old family home in the nation’s capital of Lusaka is sold.
 
Rewind to 2012, when Roula fell in love with Carlton and the charming tree-lined Rathdowne Street on her first Australian sojourn – so much so that when the heritage listed North Carlton corner shop (formerly known as “Two on Rathdowne” and, in another life, the King & Godfree liquor emporium) came on the market, she swiftly placed a successful bid.
 
For Irene and Julia, who spent the first 16 years of their young lives in Zambia, the crossing of the seas from one continent to another was not without its tribulations. Zambia, after all, was a pristine place teeming with local wildlife, and sanctuary to a people who owned little materially but were gloriously uncomplicated as a result.
 
“Zambia is a third world country with a lot of poor people, but they are always happy because they haven’t been exposed to materialism,” Irene said.
 
“That is also our attitude to life, because the most important thing is to surround yourself with people you love and people who make you happy.”
 
On as recent visit to Ikon Park, Irene and Julia reflected on the past four years of Australian domesticity, and of the sheer bravery of their parents to cast their bread upon the waters.
 
 “At the time my Mum’s parents had relocated to Greece, and we were getting to the age where we were about to move away to go to university, more than likely in Europe,” Julia said.
 
“Because we’re a very family-oriented group, Mum wanted to keep us all together.  She felt it was time to ensure a better life for all of us and it came down to Canada or Australia. Mum pitched for Australia based on the ‘feel’ she had for the place when she holidayed here five years ago.
 
“At the time we kids really didn’t know why Mum wanted to make the move, but now we understand and we’re so incredibly grateful she did - and she’s always said to us ‘Never be afraid because the only thing that will hold you back is fear, and you never know what you’re capable of doing until you do it’.”
 
As with the Italian migrants who frequented the old boarding houses dotted in and around Carlton as far back as the between-war years, the Lostroms of Zambia have found the Carlton Football Club to be a galvanising presence.
 
With the intercession of Roula’s cousin Morris Simpson (a more rabid Carlton supporter there never was), Blue became the colour for the Lostrom clan.
 
“It was Morris who took my brother to his first game saying ‘You are going to be a Carlton supporter’ . . . and he loved it,” Julia recalled.
 
“My mother then said to us: ‘This is an amazing sport, you’ve got to watch it’, remembering we were used to rugby and soccer.”
 
For Julia, there was a further, less obvious Carlton influence - Rebecca Judd - based on the former’s love of fashion and her interest in the “Postcards” television series in which Chris Judd’s better half features.
 
“Then, when my brother went to a game, I made the connection with Chris Judd and Carlton.”
 
In the years since their migration, Julia, Irene, Anthony and “Didi” Lostrom have settled with their mother into a home in suburban Doncaster. They’ve also completed their final years of schooling at Alphington Grammar and are now furthering their tertiary studies.
 
Between times, the siblings assist Roula in taking care of the many and varied visitors to Rhapsody’s, which incidentally takes its name from the wine bar and restaurant Mum once managed in Lusaka.
 
A specialty of the house is the No.1 Zambian cocktail “Rhapsody in Blue” . . . and the Lostroms vow that this lip-smacking alcoholic mix will be available on request at their much-loved North Carlton café once the liquor licence comes through.