Twenty-three unforgettable stories of migration by and about people, who after weeks at sea, disembarked in Port Melbourne.
E-Book first published February 2017
Recalling the Journey is © copyright 2017 by Multicultural Arts Victoria Each story is under © copyright by the individual author(s) The Foreword is © copyright 2017 by Anne Lane Recalling the Journey is published by Multicultural Arts Victoria, South Melbourne Town Hall Level 1, 208-220 Bank Street, South Melbourne 3205 PO Box 5113, South Melbourne 3205. ISBN: 978-0-6480262-0-4 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from Multicultural Arts Victoria. Multicultural Arts Victoria greatly acknowledge all who have contributed towards the creation of this book. Every reasonable effort has been made to verify facts, to credit contributing photographers and to identify and inscribe copyright for photographs or quotes in cases where Multicultural Arts Victoria does not hold an existing agreement to reprint the material. Multicultural Arts Victoria welcome any further information regarding copyright or the history of the organisation. Curator and Commissioning Editor: Lella Cariddi Proof readers and Editors: Andy Miller, Anne Lane, Lella Cariddi and Stella Michael Cover design, creative layout and compilation: Bianca Winataputri 2
R e c allin g th e Jo u rn ey A Multicultural Arts Victoria publication researched and curated by Lella Cariddi
Any political and/or socio-cultural views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views of Multicultural Arts Victoria
Although I didn’t really understand what having an identify meant, I sensed the absence of one. I am extremely proud to be able to provide the foreword to this amazing book of hope, made possible by many, but driven by Lella Cariddi. All the stories compiled are real and written with pride, entrenched pain and a huge sense of humility. The accounts of life after migration are delivered by the children of the real pioneers; those who left everything they knew to embrace a life they hoped would provide a better future. In many ways, this book, at least from my point of view, offers a form of catharsis. My own parents, left Europe in the early 1950s with my two-year-old sister in tow. They sailed on the Skaubryn and disembarked at Port Melbourne on 7 February,1952 bound for Bonegilla, a refugee camp in the remote Australian countryside. My father, who was Polish, had met my German-born mother in Germany not long after World War II ended. In 1939, Poland was invaded by German forces, and, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, German soldiers captured around 400,000 Polish soldiers. My father was one of those soldiers captured and made a Prisoner of War (POW). He was forced to become a ‘civilian worker’, as most were required to at that time. The alternative was to be sent to a concentration camp. My father missed many aspects of his culture, but he adapted easier. Although he never said much, he appeared happy tending his garden and enjoyed the simple pleasures of following his soccer team, Polonia. Australia was a place that offered him distance from the struggles of the damaged countries that they had both left behind. My mother, however, found the move much more difficult, particularly because of her German background. Australia was one of the few countries prepared to allow Germans entry after 1945. But the war had left deep psychological scars which, in my mother’s case, distance could not heal. As the child of displaced parents, acceptance was extremely important to me but without a “voice” and without an understanding of the culture, I wasn’t sure that I would fit in anywhere properly, especially since my mother never felt that she could. She appreciated that the country offered an endless freedom and an abundance of amazing fresh foods, but she was the passenger. Being trapped in one culture and wanting to live in another challenged everything we did, both independently and as a family. And although Australia has given us a great deal and much freedom, growing up with a carefree attitude is not something that I think the children of parents who left their lives behind at that time, can ever truly achieve. But this collection of personal journeys goes a long way in providing a positive way forward in the process of healing and recognition.
Anne Lane, 2017
Melbourne is often referred to as the multicultural capital of Australia. Many immigrants arrived through both Station and Princes Piers, enriching our Victorian community. This book Recalling the Journey is a collection of many of the untold and personal stories of our Memory Keepers who settled in Victoria. These stories reflect the adventurous spirit of those who arrived as new immigrants and refugees, particularly during the post second-world-war period. The mention of the Piers to many of our Memory Keepers evokes an emotional response with stories of aspiration, struggle, hope, fear, hardship, ingenuity and new beginnings. They also remind the reader of how lucky we are to have a country built strongly on migration whilst acknowledging our Indigenous history. Recalling the Journey is a culmination of Lella Cariddiâ€™s work titled What Happened at the Pier. This is a visionary project that has engaged many Memory Keepers, whose stories we must capture before they are lost. It is also collated and published at an important point in contemporary Australia with increasing political discourse on refugees and immigration. Storytelling is a creative method by which people might begin to reflect on the enormous contribution of migrants to this country, challenging negative commentary that increasingly pervades media channels. Recognising culture and the arts as a tool for social change takes on greater significance after reading these powerful and moving stories. I look forward to this first volume of Recalling the Journey affecting positive change and contributing to the social and cultural memory of Melbourne and our community, and the stories yet to come.
Jill Morgan AM, Multicultural Arts Victoria CEO
ABOUT THE STORIES
As part of Multicultural Arts Victoria’s What Happened at the Pier program, the Recalling the Journey publication touches on our profound cultural heritage through the historical sites of Princes and Station Piers in Port Melbourne. These sites resonate as the first impression of a new home for many thousands of migrants; people forced from their countries of origin, people seeking a new beginning and leaving behind much of what was important to them. What would these people have felt as they disembarked from the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, the Australis or the Neptunia? Recalling the Journey allows us to sense a little of what this abrupt experience might have been like for some, as they took their initial steps along the pier, carrying their few possessions, perhaps with their children, perhaps alone, towards an unfamiliar horizon. Each of the stories in this publication echo moments in history. They are a collection of opportunities to consider the circumstances that motivated millions of people to embark on the long and dangerous journey to Australia, which for many, up to the late 1970s, was an unknown continent. The family decides to make the journey to Australia, to make a brave new life that is unrestricted by Communism. In secret, they wake the children at midnight, only to find their house filled with relatives and friends, wishing to see them off with tears and good wishes. Unaware of the enormity of this choice, István kisses his Grandmother goodbye, not knowing that he will never see her again. - Sally Hederics, Memory Keeper. These are stories that challenge one-dimensional views of the immigrants and refugees that arrived in the latter half of the 20th Century. These stories demand that we think of them not as lowly skilled workers or usurpers of ‘Australian’ jobs, but as determined individuals with unique gifts and talents, who despite not being able to conduct their trade or profession or speak English, incrementally worked their way into the world of business, commerce, politics, medicine, science, literature and the arts - gaining respect amongst their peers and contributing to the richness of our multicultural nation.
Lella Cariddi, Curator & Commissioning Editor
Multicultural Arts Victoria would like to thank Lella Cariddi for her imaginative enthusiasm and commitment to the project, from commissioning the stories to overseeing the entire process from concept to publication. Recalling the Journey has required much detail, a lot of patience and a generous amount of time, and to that end, a heartfelt thankyou to the book designer, Bianca Winataputri for her dedication to the task right up to the last minute. Special thanks to Jill Morgan, Andy Miller and Katrina Lin for their judicious guidance along the way, on the scope, style, design and promotion of the publication. Recalling the Journey is a development of our overarching project: WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PIER. WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PIER has been sustained with the consistent support of the City of Port Phillip through successive Piers Festivals, in particular, Arts Development Officer Sharyn Dawson, who agreed for the book to be produced as an E-publication. We would like to extend our gratitude to Coordinator of the Vibrant and Creative City, Sandra Khazam and to Art & Heritage Program Officer Anne Scambary, who in 2015 & 2016 made it possible for the overarching project to be featured in two different exhibitions at the Emerald Hill Library & Heritage Centre. Also, the City of Port Phillip Collection Team Leader, Brandt McCook who agreed to alert the Victorian Public Library network to this publication. Above all, we are enormously grateful to the Memory Keepers featured in this publication, who trusted Lella Cariddi to respectfully present their migration stories as visual narratives and, now as a part of this E-publication: Vivien Achia, George Aivatoglou, Sabi Buehler, Marcello Dâ€™Amico, Amelia Dozzi, Marietta Eliott-Kleerkoper, Jeltje Fanoy, Sally Hederics, Janna Hilbrink, Anita Horvath, Deborah Klein, Anne Lane, Stella Michael, Concetta NikolovskI, Con Pagonis, Julie Pagonis, Rossella Picciani, Dorothy Poulopoulos, Rita Price, Helen Said, Despina Sarikizis, Rose Stone and John Zika.
CONTENT Foreword................................................................................................................................................4 Introduction........................................................................................................................................... 5 About the Stories................................................................................................................................6 Acknowledgements...............................................................................................................................7 Memory Keepers
Vivien ACHIA.......................................................................................................................... 12
Dr. Amelia DOZZI....................................................................................................................30
MAV has edited each of the Memory Keeper’s story’s text to the best of its ability. However, in an effort to maintain the teller’s voice, the reader may have come across some discrepancies
VIVIEN ACHIA World War II tore Italy apart. So many things changed in Europe with the onset of that war. Food was scarce. We used to receive only 100 grams of bread each day. My mother had to give away her wedding ring, for the sake of the country, and was given an iron ring in exchange.
DA LI A QUI: FROM THERE TO HERE: The story of Eliseo Achia, in his own words. Eliseo Achia was born in December 1925, in Spogna, Italy, in the province of Aquila. It was a simple town’ and full of life. My family was a very united one, myself the second eldest of seven children. Discipline at home was very rigid and respect for our parents came before all other things. My father and I were good friends but because he was a military man by profession, he could be very severe. My mother was obedient, submissive but strong. The family was very religious and we went to church every Sunday but, if for some reason or another my mother missed mass, she genuinely suffered. On occasions such as the village feast day, Christmas and Easter, the bells rang endlessly to call the people to church. I didn’t have much contact with my father when I was young because he lived away from home for ten years. He was a devoted fascist in Mussolini’s forces and in 1935 he took part in the war in Africa. He then left for Spain during the years of the Spanish civil war, returned to Africa in 1937, and was later taken prisoner by the English at Cairo and ended up in England as a ‘free prisoner’. World War II tore Italy apart. So many things changed in Europe with the onset of that war. Food was scarce. We used to receive only 100 grams of bread each day. My mother had to give away her wedding ring, for the sake of the country, and was given an iron ring in exchange. During the fascist regime everyone knew that the country was ruled by a dictatorial government and that we had to be careful how we spoke and dressed.
Rome was bombed and Anzio, our former home, was littered with the dead. I was anti-fascist and I joined the partisans. When I was sixteen, in 1941, the family moved to Rome, which was often in danger of being bombed and we all went down into a shelter. It was during the period in which my father was a prisoner in Cairo that I decided to become a partisan. I was 18 years old, Mussolini was no longer in power and Italy didn’t have a government. The Germans had occupied our country and called upon young Italians to collaborate with them by serving in their army, but I preferred to join the partisans. On one occasion we had to throw a bomb at a German and he died. The Germans avenged his death by executing ten of our men, and that scene made a great impression on me. I didn’t want my life to end like that, so I decided to leave the partisans and went to work for the Germans, loading and unloading ammunition for the front at Cassino, near Naples. After the war I became a builder and worked to reconstruct my shattered city, Rome. When the war was over, Rome and its outskirts had been devastated. There was a great demand for builders. I took courses, worked hard and began to get on in the construction industry. I was approached by a sculptor who wanted me to be the model for a sculpture of a fisherman pulling in a net full of fish. This statue is now in the garden of a villa in Lido di Lavinio. When I was 27 years old, with the permission of the Pope, I married my cousin Anita. Six years later I decided to come to Australia. A friend of mine, the general inspector in the Department of Labour and Industry, assigned to emigration, together with the Australian Consulate, guaranteed me work in the building industry in Australia, together with a furnished house. Everything was ready for me in this new country eager to be developed. And so we left, with no expenses and a guarantee of work. 13
However at Fremantle, the first Australian port, the Australian Commissioner came on board the ship, assembled all the assisted passengers and said ‘If you have friends or relatives, go to them. These are hard times. With this depression, there is no work to offer you. You will have to find it yourselves. There is no work and no house for you.’ It was 1959 and another option that time was to enter the Bonegilla camp. I had heard about this camp on the ship and I certainly didn’t want to begin my new life as a prisoner, and so I sent a telegram to a friend who lived in Leeton, NSW. He answered that there was work where he lived and he met us at Port Melbourne. I was very fortunate in also having an Italian friend in Melbourne. He helped me understand the building regulations here and the method of work. I moved to Melbourne, worked with Italians and saved enough to buy a house and furniture.
Sculpture of Eliseo Achia pulling in a net of fish, in the garden of a villa in Lido di Lavinio.
Although I was doing well in the building industry, my wife Anita was heartsick and homesick after three miscarriages, so I arranged for her to go back to Italy for a visit. She never returned. Some years later when young Australian friends, Mick and Vivien, separated I became involved with Vivien. We became good friends and married, but we had an ocean of cultural differences to cross. She didn’t know how to save, or cook, or clean, all things an Italian woman can do almost by instinct, but which Australian women seem to regard differently. I said to her, ‘Wife, if you are good and obedient, you will be happy’, but she decided to challenge my extreme attitudes.
Eliseo Achia and Vivien Achia’s family photo
Three years later we went on a three month trip to Italy, but I felt very ill at ease. These days I feel more at home in Australia than Italy. At Kinglake West I am building a ‘castle’ brick by brick, nail by nail. I am in no hurry because it has a more profound meaning for me than any other work I have ever done. I built my family a castle at Kinglake When I migrated to Australia, I knew quite well that I had lost everything: family, friends, and a certain identity, a way of being that was mine. I learned quickly that if I wanted to become a part of this society, I had to let go of all the old memories and customs. There was no room for an exchange of ideas or values and I would tell myself that it was I who had everything to learn. Although the future is promising, and there’s room for everybody, based on my experiences, I would say to those Italians who are half thinking of coming here, ‘You’re better off staying in your own country’.
Read on: the story continues: Vivien Achia, Eliseo’s wife, has written a memoir about their lives together: ‘Marrying Italian: When love is not enough’. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2014.
Eliseo Achia and Vivien Achia
GEORGE AIVATOGLOU George was born on 3 May 1938 in Edessa, Greece. He came to Australia on the “Patris” in October 1962. George was the third child in a family of 5 children. He had two older brothers, both of whom George’s father had urged to migrate to another country and get out of Greece.
George in the army (National Service) stationed in Theva, Pelaponesos I was born on 3 May 1938 in Edessa, Greece the third child in a family of five. My father worked as a tailor and always brought home food, but no money. Even though I also worked very hard since the age of 11, the system was unjust, for example, if I had earned ten drachmas, I would be paid only five. My father could see that there was no future in Greece, for anyone. Because of his experience, he wanted all his children to get out of Greece and migrate to another country. When I finished my National Service, I thought that I might go to Germany, as many before me had done, but my father urged me to go to Australia, as he had met Australians during the war and found them to be great people. He showed me a small advertisement where Australia was looking for tradesmen to come to work here. So I decided to apply. Officials wanted to see that I hadn’t been a member of the Communist Party and that I hadn’t been mixed up in the political strife with the civil war in Greece, rigorously examined my application. When I was finally approved I was told that I would have to attend English classes in Thessaloniki, 80 kilometres from my home in Edessa.
I didn’t have anywhere to stay in Thessaloniki, but I hoped I could stay with an uncle who had been living there. He took me in, but it ended up badly, he made me sleep on the floor under the stairs and didn’t give me anything to eat. The English teacher did not look kindly on me either. All students were expected to turn up with a piece of wood to be burned in the fireplace to keep everyone warm, as I couldn’t afford the wood I went to school without it. Before the examination at the school, to select those tradesmen who would go to Australia, the teacher told me not to attend because my English wasn’t good enough. But my father insisted, explaining that when the roll was called my surname would be first on the list, and the school inspector could not avoid me. I followed my father’s advice and presented myself in class. The inspector called up my surname and started questioning me: “What is your name?”, “Where are you going?”, “What work do you do?” I gave all the right answers, and heard the joyous news that I was going to go to Australia. I was not sad to leave my country, which had basically given me nothing, having served it with 17
my national service and working diligently as a carpenter, for which I had hardly ever gotten paid. I was not sad to leave behind the aftermath of war and the civil war that had engulfed Greece, but I was very sad to leave my mother behind, who during the war she had been confronted by a German with a gun pointing at her chest whilst she went to get water from the village water-tap. She never recovered from that experience and because of that, my father and sister had to do the washing, cleaning and cooking for the whole family. I was sad to leave behind my father, my two brothers and my two sisters. All of them came to Australia at various times, but not my mother, she was too ill to travel. Only one sister, Toula, remained in Australia with me. She arrived in Australia about 2 years after me and never pined to go back to Greece except for a holiday. She is still living very happily in Dromana to this day. I was the first to emigrate from my hometown of Edessa to Australia, arriving at Port Melbourne on the Patris in October 1962. I was twenty-four years old and, like many immigrants, thought that I would work for a couple of years, then make enough money to return home. However things did not work out the way I had planned. As soon as I stepped off the Patris, I realised that everyone else who had been on the ship was being greeted by friends or relatives and went off with them. After getting off the ship, I was supposed to go to Bonegilla migrant camp, but there was no one to help me and I didn’t know how to get there by myself from Melbourne. With very little English, I spent four days around the port, sheltering in the public toilets until someone asked me who I was and what was I doing there. I said “Greek” and the man sent for an interpreter. So it happened that the brother of a fellow passenger, Vangelos Stoyanou, took me to his home in South Melbourne, fed me and gave me a place to stay in return for some renovation work. The next day, he gave me
Georrge saying goodbye to his mother outside his parent’s house in Edessa
George’s family and friends
three-pence to get a newspaper and look for work. That evening, he found me a job with a carpenter on the mountains in Mt Buller. So began my working life in Australia, where I got to know lots of new people. While skiing was never part of life where I grew up, I soon learned. I worked that summer on the first ski hire that went up. My boss was impressed and asked me to stay on for the winter skiing season to work at the ski shop we had just built. In the summers I worked as a carpenter and repaired skis. In winter, I helped to manage the ski shop. All the while, I worked day and night at improving my English. Everything is difficult if you don’t know the language. My wife, Margaret, whom I married in 1967, is of Scottish and Irish descent, but because she wanted to support me, she went on to learn Greek. In 1968, I had my first taste of fully managing a ski hire business on the mountain - Molony’s, owned by Geoff Henke. Mr Henke promised that he would sell me the shop when he retired. We shook hands on it and that was our contract. As the years passed and the skiing industry grew, I came to own three ski shops, two on Mt Buller and one at Merrijig, just off the mountain. That required me to travel regularly to Europe and Canada to source products for the store.
George’s ski business
up to 4,000 customers. I love to make people feel welcome. Maybe it’s because I’m Greek, and Greece is in big trouble, that I want people to learn through my story, that Greeks are hard-working people, and if you work hard, success is likely to come your way. Later, when I brought my father out for the first time, he told me that I would be an idiot to leave a paradise like Australia.
Not only did I build ski businesses, but I also established a nursing home in Parkdale, and named it after my mother: Evangelia by the Sea. Margaret managed the nursing home for 27 years which, at its’ peak, employed 80 staff. Today, 20 employees are on the books in the one Mt Buller shop that remains. It’s now a family affair with my son Robert and daughter Lia key to its success. On a good season we get
SABI BUEHLER Although I was barely eight years old when we left Germany to come to Australia, I already had a strong sense of the momentous changes that were about to occur in our lives. Reading copies of letters that Gundel had written to her siblings brought back my own mixed feelings at the time â€“ the sad farewells, the excitement and fear of new experiences, the boredom of four weeks on board ship and the confusion and hopes of an unknown and uncertain future. - Sabi Buehler, Oct. 2015
Background to the Buehler-Isenberg Family In 1917, Gunhilde (Gundel) Isenberg, who came to be my mother, was born in Haiterbach, a small town in south-western Germany. Her father, Theodor Isenberg, was born in India to missionary parents but when his father Charles became ill, the family returned to Germany. Charles died soon afterwards leaving Marie to support herself and her two young sons. She found a position teaching English in a boysâ€™ school. Four years later she married Johannes Hesse, and she had four more children. The oldest son from this marriage was Hermann Hesse who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Against strong opposition from his stepfather, Theodor, in his late teens, followed his dream of becoming an opera singer and studied music. The story goes that young Martha Cohen, from a well-off secular Jewish family, fell in love with Theodor when she first saw him singing on stage. However, both families were very much against a marriage between them, not only due to religious backgrounds, but also because his profession was deemed unsuitable. So Theodor retrained as an apothecary while Martha learnt the tenets of Protestanism and the art of Swabian cooking. They married in 1896. By the time their youngest child entered the world Martha was 47 and Theodor 51 and their other four children were well into their teens and early twenties. Gundel was a precocious child, showing an early aptitude for music, drawing and writing poems and stories and the family home provided a fertile ground for fostering her talents. The family lived in comfortable circumstances and was well regarded in the community. Things changed drastically when the Nazis came to power. She was expelled from school ostensibly for writing an anti-Hitler essay and secretly listening to BBC broadcasts, but her motherâ€™s Jewish heritage was most likely the key factor in
Martha Cohen and Theodor Isenberg c. 1894
Family portrait 1951, before departing
the expulsion and throughout the Nazi regime Gundel was denied further education. On a visit to her aunt in 1935, Gundel met Hans Buehler, born in 1917, and shared interests in music, art and literature drew them together. Hans’ pious, working-class family also opposed his ambitions to study art and urged him to learn a trade. He did this but also attended art classes and read voraciously. When Hans was drafted into the army he and Gundel kept their love alive through the poems and stories they wrote to each other. They were engaged for 10 years, during which time they applied twice to the Department of Health for permission to marry, but were denied each time due to Hitler’s Nuremberg Race Laws enacted in 1935 in an effort ‘to preserve German blood and German honour’ from any possible contamination by Jewish blood. Thus, two of their children were born ‘out of wedlock’ – Sabine in 1944 and Angelika in 1945. Hans and Gundel were permitted to marry in 1946 and their youngest daughter, Veronika was born on Christmas Eve that year. Theodor died in 1941 and Martha, in constant fear of being taken by the Gestapo, took her own life two years later. In the last stages of the war their family home was burnt down and looted and Gundel lost everything, including most of her manuscripts. Under Hitler’s ‘final solution’ she was ordered to report for deportation to a forced labour camp, but with unexpected help she was able to elude the Gestapo and saved her own life and that of her soon to be born child. After the war Gundel made a modest living from her writing and drawings and Hans from his graphic art but accommodation was hard to get in bombed-out Germany. Soon after they moved into a dilapidated house deep in the Black Forest in 1948, they suffered the tragic loss of their little daughter, Angelika, who died after eating Deadly Nightshade berries. Gundel was alone much of the time while Hans sought
“A Life in Two Suitcases” written by Sabi Buehler. work in nearby towns. Foraging for food in the fields and forests was a regular and necessary pastime and Gundel wrote a regular column for a regional paper. At the time Australia was seeking to increase its workforce and newspapers carried glowing advertisements promising an abundance of opportunity and work in sunny Australia. Hans was eager to try his luck but Gundel was reluctant, not wishing to leave the familiarity of homeland, friends and relatives for such a distant, little-known continent. He talked her round. In September of 1951, Hans left for Australia under the sponsorship of the Overseas Construction Company. Gundel and the girls followed in December of 1952, and arrived at Station Pier on the 6th January, 1953. A few days later, the ferry took them across to Tasmania, where Hans, with the help of his workmates, had built them a house in Georgetown. 22
Hans arriving in Melbourne
In 1955 they moved to Launceston. Hans felt there were better employment opportunities for himself and Gundel and greater scope for their children’s education in Melbourne and so they moved there in January 1959. Later that year they became Australian citizens. Both Hans and Gundel found work with the PMG’s Department and Gundel became much happier in the cosmopolitan milieu of Melbourne while the girls settled well into the multicultural student body of Fitzroy High. In August 1960, they moved to Parkville where Sabi and Roni, as the girls were now known, attended University High School.
With the help of a kind friend Gundel managed to raise a deposit on a small house in Eltham where she was happy with her garden and mini-menagerie until her untimely death in 1976. She is buried in the Kangaroo Ground Cemetery. Hans decided to stay in Germany and spent much of his time writing and painting. He died suddenly in 1985 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Freiburg Cemetery. Details and descriptions of our family’s background and journey through life can be found in “A Life in Two Suitcases” written by Sabi Buehler.
In 1963, Hans and Gundel bought a house in Ferntree Gully but it was a long way to travel to work and school. The constant money worries took their toll on the marriage. Hans returned to Germany in 1968 while Sabi was on a contract to work in Papua New Guinea for two years. Roni had married young and moved away from home. 23
MARCELLO Dâ€™AMICO ...during the day, I would get my mandolin and guitar and play music on the veranda. Young girls would stop and listen and my audience was increasing every day. To get that macho look Iâ€™d stick a bamboo pipe between my lips, but no tobacco. Then parents started complaining and the daily performances stopped.
DAYS IN ST. KILDA I was born in the small Aeolian island of Malfa, Salina, Sicily, on the 18th of November 1940, the youngest child of Vincenzo Calogero D’Amico and Anna Maria Terzita D’Amico’s five children, Antonio,Vincenzo, Maria, Nicola and me. On the 25th of January 1955, I left Malfa to come to Australia on my own, aboard the MV Oceania. The ship arrived on the evening of the 25th of February 1955, but we didn’t get off until the following morning. All passengers, eager to disembark, spent most of that night on deck in Port Phillip Bay, looking at the city lights, trying to imagine what was waiting there for them. Some passengers had relatives waiting for them; others were going to the unknown. I had two brothers, Tony, Nick and my sister Maria in Melbourne, who had lived for most of the time in St. Kilda. Nonetheless, I was in a state of expectation, intrigued, at just how long I would stay in this new ‘promised land’. Through stories told by Aeolian migrants from our Islands, who had migrated before WWII and returned home to see their loved ones and in most cases bring them back to Australia, I had a vague idea what St. Kilda would be like. They talked about a glorious beach with clean waters and Luna Park, the centre of entertainment both in summer and winter. Once the ship was securely tied to Princes Pier all passengers flocked against the railings trying to catch a glimpse of their relatives and friends. I managed to get a front row position and somehow managed in picking among what seemed a sea of people, my brothers and sister, as well as some other close friends. All of a sudden my heart started pounding and I was impatient to meet them.
was proving to be quite a handful for me, but somehow I managed to push them along to the landing stairs. In spite of over a thousand passengers having to go through customs, order seemed to prevail, with only a few trying to jump the queue. It seemed like an eternity; I simply wanted to disembark, embrace my loved ones and start my Australian life immediately. I suppose this would not be unusual for a young boy a little over 14 years old. Because I had so many pieces of luggage to be searched, I reached the custom exit after an hour, and somehow, once I set foot on Australian soil, I felt I was a big man. Obviously it was a very emotional reunion with many tears shed. A family friend had just bought a Mini Minor, and had to do more than one trip to transport eight pieces of luggage in the small boot and five passengers. But I was the first one to be seated and managed to fit in the cramped space, and we arrived at 73 Carlisle Street, St. Kilda at approximately 1:00 pm. The drive was a real eye opener, to see so many cars on the road driving on the wrong side of the road, to see for the first time so many timber homes and so many trees along the foreshore. Through letters I learned that my siblings had bought a timber home which they had already started to renovate and add more rooms and facilities. The news of a timber house was received with great horror by my family, who thought that their children were living in a cabin as we had no real idea what a timber house looked like. But what struck me first was that right in front of their house there was a tram line with trams passing very regularly and making a lot of noise. I said to myself: with all this noise day and night, do I have to live here?
I had eight pieces of luggage, including a guitar and a mandolin, suitcases and parcels, and this 25
It must be remembered that I lived the first 14 years of my life on two small islands: Malfa where I was born had a population of almost a thousand people. And Ginostra, an island close to the very active volcano Stromboli. Most of the time we were completely cut off the rest of the world as communication with mainland was only possible through the services of small steamships and row boats. Provisions arrived when good weather and calm seas permitted, and then were carried on a steep path by porters from the small pier to a quaint general store with a few empty shelves and nothing else. For the rest nothing at all. My family used to receive by post some food staples that they had ordered from mainland. The post office was very small and had a telephone line that rarely worked. There was no doctor, nurse or medicines. Ginostra had what is still the smallest port in the world that could hold only two small boats at the same time, there were no roads, only small footpaths that in many places were dangerous. No electricity, gas, transportation, telephone, with one exception, radio, and refrigeration, was unheard of. However we were happy living there and still today I consider myself fortunate to have grown up there. I was fortunate that my older brother Vince was the local parish priest and my private tutor, holding lessons when and where we wanted. No school rooms for me. The culture shock was even greater when I saw the mess the St. Kilda house was in, with workers creating so much dust. The kitchen had been pulled down to be rebuilt, but my sister Maria managed to prepare a very delicious meal on a kerosene stove, and I was reassured that in a few weeks the place would be a paradise. There and then, once again, I said to myself to be patient and if after a few months I was not happy I would return back to the Islands.
Photograph of the late Maria Dâ€™Amico-Cafarella leaving her native Malfa (Aeolian Island, Sicily)
GINOSTRA (ISLAND OF STROMBOLI) JUNE 1953 Marcello ringing the church bell. At the time in Ginostra there were less than 70 habitants. Before the war there were almost 500, but then most of them migrated to Argentina, United States and then mostly to Australia.
MALFA (ISLAND OF SALINA), September 1959. My father Vincenzo, aka Calogero, takes a break standing on a ladder during the repair and renovation of an old house.
The first night I went to bed in the front room, with improvised curtains to block out the light, but nothing to block the racket made by the tram that stopped outside our gate. I soon got used to it only because in Ginostra, I used to sleep only three kilometres from the active volcano which made itself heard at regular intervals. In the first few days after my arrival we had many visitors and somehow we managed to prepare meals for everyone. On weekends and sometimes at night we’d go swimming. I simply could not believe what transformation I was going through, but I was very determined to survive it. We had not decided what I was going to do, my initial thought was to go to work instead of school, but only after a few hours this option was shelved and I suggested that I have a month rest so that I could slowly have a successful transition from a small village dweller to a city one. My parents and brother, Vince wrote to us by Airmail, which was very expensive at the time, and we’d reply every week telling them that everything was working out well and that I had made the right decision (tongue in cheek still). After a week, I started helping the builders with varied chores, but I was horrified when I saw the plaster sheeting that were to be new walls and ceiling, a faraway cry from the stone and mortar houses my father was building in Italy. But once again, I accepted what was inevitable and decided that perhaps a new way of living would be a great experience for me. I started making new friends, I could speak a few words of English, and went for long walks around St. Kilda so that I could get properly acquainted with my new home. I started doing the shopping and was cooking meals for everyone. Looking back, this was a very beautiful suburb with a most beautiful Town Hall that was more like an
Italian building, green gardens, wide streets, lots of street life (especially in Acland Street) the foreshore, and Luna Park. Being 14 years old and full of ideas, hopes and ambitions, I had to make some serious decisions of what I was going to do with my life, both in the short and long term. I discussed this with my siblings and, as I wanted to start working and pull my weight instead of being kept by the others, we decided that I should try working. Soon after, I started working at a spring factory, Chaffey’s Springs, but by lunchtime I had already quit and gone home. The others were not surprised. The following week I went with my sister Maria to try getting a job at a knitting mill in South Melbourne where she worked. The owner Mr. Patross thought I was too young and that I should go to school. Maria was so upset that she quit on the spot and, as there was plenty of work around, went somewhere else. However, some months later she returned to Mr. Patross and stayed at his factory for almost forty years. In the meantime, during the day, I would get my mandolin and guitar and play music on the veranda. Young girls would stop and listen and my audience was increasing every day. To get that macho look, I’d stick a bamboo pipe between my lips, but no tobacco. Then parents started complaining and the daily performances stopped. Work on the house was continuing at a slow pace, and eventually after months of frustration, it came to a halt. Besides the finishing touches, the overall result was not that bad. That house still stands today and belongs to my brother, Nick who has been living there for almost 40 years. Eventually, because I was a good swimmer and the intercollege swimming carnival was to be held in a few weeks, I was admitted to the Christian Brothers College (CBC) in Westbury 27
Street, West St. Kilda. In spite of limited knowledge of English, after 18 months I became dux of the class with an average of 40% above class averages. In the two years there, I never failed a single subject. Because of my French results they nicknamed me the French Professor. We did not have a car but as public transport was so good, we could travel from St. Kilda to anywhere. Life was progressing very well, I was going to school, and after school I’d do the cooking and by the time the others came back from work the meals were ready on the table. Every Saturday night we would go to the pictures either at: Palais Picture Theatre, St. Kilda Victory or the quaint ‘Flee House’ that was screening continental films. In November 1956, Melbourne hosted the friendly Olympic Games and after having obtained permission from the school principal, I spent two full weeks, watching the fencing events at St. Kilda Town Hall. I remember the night the Italian Fencing Team won the foil team event after 3.00 am, there were only a few spectators left, including four of our family. As the officials did not have a record of the Italian National Anthem to play at the presentation ceremony, I started singing the first words and then the others, including the fencers, followed and the night was saved. For almost two years every Friday afternoon I would go past Maria’s work and together we’d catch two different trams to the Victoria Market to do the weekly shopping, and carry everything back. Other shopping was left for Saturday mornings before everything closed until Monday morning. But then, through a chance meeting during one of my regular visits at the National Museum and National Gallery in Swanston Street, my life changed forever. As I was admiring a series of drawings I was approached by a distinguished gentleman who was intrigued at the way I was
looking at the works. I told him that I liked drawing, had been doing it since I could remember and, that I wanted to continue doing it in the future, but in a proper way. He happened to be Alan Sumner, the head of the National Gallery Art School, then one of the major art schools in Australia. I told him that at CBC I had won second price at an Art Exhibition. He suggested that I show him what I had done, which I did the following week. At the same time, I decided to get a job so that I would not have to rely on my brothers and sister, and soon after I started working as a timber technologist at Caulfield Timber Company. I, and many others, were shocked when I was accepted to start art classes at the National Gallery Art School in February, aged 16. I was the youngest student there and still wonder how I managed everything. In the morning I would get the tram in front of our house straight to Caulfield, sometimes return home for a quick bite to eat, go to the National Gallery and back again to Caulfield. Sometimes, however I would have to miss meals because I had been detained at work. At Art School, I started drawing plaster casts of hands, feet, skulls and portraits. Usually it would take a term or two before one would be promoted to the class, where the students worked with larger copies of old masters and eventually, after a year, the big promotion to the life class. Yet, I was fortunate enough that only after a few weeks I was promoted to the master’s class and I was so happy. At the end of the first term I had achieved more than I had dreamed. But more shocks were on the horizon. At the beginning of the second term, when I was still 16 years old, Mr. Sumner told me that he had promoted me to the life class where I would work with nude models. Everyone started to congratulate me and I could not believe what was happening. But suddenly the model came in and refused to pose nude in front of “that little boy!!” It took some convincing but after 28
the first pose she was reassured that I was for real and she liked what I had drawn. I was still in the clouds. I kept with this hectic life, started painting too and to my greatest surprise at the end of the year, I was asked not to miss the announcements of the prize winners awarded by the three famous Australian artists Alan Shore, George Bell and Jock Frater. I nearly fainted when George Bell announced: “The winner of the Sara Levi drawing scholarship is….Marcello D’Amico”. Suddenly there was a total silence; this little by who had just turned 17 had won a major scholarship!!! Of course I was completely stunned; I could not believe what I had achieved. After the usual congratulations, the three artists congratulated me and they all offered to teach me free of charge. However it then dawned on me that I could have a big problem at home when I would tell them what had happened. So far, for fear that he would kill me, I had kept from my brother Tony that I was drawing naked women. I cannot remember how I did broke the news, but Tony did not speak to me for a week or two. Eventually he ended the silence and said “And you, who have a brother who is a priest!!”, but he did not know that I had already written to Vincenzo in Ginostra telling him of my artistic progress. In fact he had been so proud of me that he had mentioned to a German art professor of my achievements and when he saw a few photos of my work he arranged for the Munich Academy of Art to offer me a scholarship!! After serious thought however, I decided not to accept it. This of course upset not only my brother, but my parents too, as it would have meant that I would have to go back to Europe and then maybe return to the Islands. One night in 1957, I met another older student, George Champion, who was one of the best trombonists in Melbourne and he was a member of the St. Kilda Brass Band. In spite of being already so busy, somehow he convinced me
to join this band. Even though I had no experience with a brass instrument, every Thursday I would finish classes earlier and go by train to the St. Kilda 5th Scout Hall, near the train station, where the band was rehearsing. After a few lessons by the band master, Freddy Glenn I started playing the baritone and euphonium. By the end of the year I was playing regularly with the band at Blessington Street Gardens, St Kilda foreshore, Elwood foreshore and West St Kilda Gardens. We were also playing at other venues, at major events including services for Anzac Day. At the end of each year we’d receive a small payment from the St Kilda City Council. Early in 1958 I won a euphonium competition at the Melbourne Town Hall. In some ways I was still considered an ‘enemy wog’! Home life in St. Kilda was progressing well. Every week-end visitors flocked to our place and we’d go on picnics, to Elwood, Brighton and Sandringham. Often, some of us would go to Point Ormond to collect mussels and bring them back on the tram/bus in potato bags dripping with salt water. We would then eat them raw, baked or stuffed and cooked with tomato sauce and lots of pasta. In 1958, my sister Maria married Joe who lived with us during the day and at night slept in a house nearby. In May 1960, the year after Maria and Joe’s first child, Felicino was born. My mother, my father and my brother Vince (the priest) came to Australia on a tourist visa to visit my two brothers, my sister and me. They came for a few months, but because in those days there was a shortage of Italian priests in Australia, the Melbourne Dioceses applied to have my brother stay permanently, and they all remained here until they died, my father in 1977, my mother in 1981 and my brother, Vince, in 2002.
DR. AMELIA DOZZI These women had come as young girls and young wives, not knowing any English, unfamiliar with English/Australian customs, unsure of their destination place but confident that they were strong, capable, adaptable and with their families together they would make it in the new country.
15 June 1949. A cold, winter day in Melbourne. A group of women have come from Carlton where they lived near each other … some with their young children … likely they took the tram as the menfolk were at work … and gathered at Station Pier to farewell and wish BUON VIAGGIO … SAFE JOURNEY … to one of them, Evelina. She was to sail on the “Ugolino Vivaldi“, bound for Italy and a holiday visit to their village (paese) Arba, province of Pordenone in the northeast Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. All of the women had emigrated to Australia in early and mid-1930s from Arba. They came to join husbands, fathers, sons, brothers who had preceded them, some arriving in Melbourne in the late 1920s with the promise of work and a better economic future for their families. These women had come as young girls and young wives, not knowing any English, unfamiliar with English/Australian customs, unsure of their destination place but confident that they were strong, capable, adaptable and with their families together they would make it in the new country. The outbreak of WWII in 1939 brought many challenges to them as foreigners and especially as Italians … but they survived. The women kept Friulian culture and traditions alive in their family, but with patience and persistence also helped their family integrate into Australian society and life. The young girls married, had children, worked and saved to have their own home, educate their children and have a prosperous future. But the memories of their village, relatives, friends and even family members they had left behind never left them. They carried a longing in their heart … a dream … to return to see their village … the church and its bell tower (campanile); the village square (piazza) with its ancient nettle tree (Italian-bagolaro; Friulian-crupisignar) in the centre; the fields and wildflowers;
Clementina (Woman on the left): Mother of Evelina... I came to see her sail away... will she come back Caterina (second left): I came to Australia in 1937 with my two sons, Dante and Mondo... We travelled from Arba all the way with Laura and her two daughters... I have with me Remo, in front, the second of my two sons born in Melbourne Evelina (third left): Excited to be travelling … taking greetings from everyone here … how changed will I find the village and its people? … how have I changed since I left Arba? … will there be cars, telephone service? Nonna Laura (second right), Clelia and her daughter Carmen (woman on the right), Eleonora with Amelia and Bruno (woman in the middle)
the Alps in the distance; school friends; and, to hear the ringing of the bells which in many instances served as a message carrier of news to the community. Evelina was the first of the women to return to Arba. While the women were happy to be there and see her off, in their hearts and minds were their personal thoughts of what and whom they had left and where they now were. This story focuses on the thoughts and memories of my grandmother (Nonna), Laura Rigutto-Rangan, and her youngest daughter, Eleonora (known as Nora) who was my mother (Mamma). Their sentiments expressed in relating the family stories were as they experienced them in mid 1949, 12 years after migration to Australia. I always loved to hear their stories and look at the photographs. They were inspirational and captivating role models strong women, resilient, adaptable, industrious, family focused, spiritual. They were teachers of life! 31
Nonno Zuan I arrived in Melbourne on the “Osterley” on 10 December 1927. No friends to meet me so slept the night at Station Pier and next morning friends (paesani) came to get me. This photo taken in Carlton in 1929 … sent to my wife and four children in Arba… I hope they see how good I look … work is plentiful in the building trade here and I am doing well.
Nonno Zuan and oldest son, Luigi Another family member emigrated… in Carlton, 1933 … photo sent to my wife and three children in Arba… we are well, our company has much work … maybe soon we will all be together again
Nonno Laura Our family photo before we left Arba in March 1937 … how sad I felt to leave my son, Sergio, behind … but he had entered the seminary ... my husband, Zuan, has always sent us money from Melbourne… how lucky we were to be dressed so well and have some money for our journey to Australia … my daughters, Caterina and Eleonora, are anxious, sad … I am looking forward to seeing my husband and oldest son, Luigi. We arrived at Station Pier on 3 May 1937.
Nonno Zuan and Nonno Laura My maternal grandparents. How happy we are … it was wonderful to be reunited in 1937 with my husband … it is 1939 and we are at the Zoo … he wanted to show me so much of Melbourne … I am slowly learning English.
Nonno Laura My son on the day of his ordination in Rome in 1943. He is now Father Sergio Rangan with a PhD in Theology and Sacred Music. We could not travel to Rome because of WWII, but many relatives and friends attended his first mass
The Family of Zuan and Laura Rangan Our first and only photo of all the family together … 1949 in Melbourne … a surprise when our son, Father Sergio, came from Italy to visit us in Carlton where we lived in Cardigan Street. Our other three children have all married here and our grandchildren – now six of them – are all born in Melbourne.
Eleonora Oh, how I long to see my village again … I was nearly 16 years old when we left it in 1937 … my best friends, Lidia and Maria, write to me often … I want to hear the church bells ring; walk around the square and sit under its central nettle tree (crupisignar); hear the music and sing the folk songs; eat our local cheese with polenta … what a trip we had leaving Arba, travelling also with Caterina and her two sons … first time on a train to Genoa … then to Napoli, sailing on the “Ormonde” … first time I had a banana … excited to see my father again after 10 years.
Ferdinando and Eleonora – My Parents Eleonora I met my future husband, Ferdinando, in the Friulian/Italian community in Carlton … we became engaged in 1941 … here we are strolling on a sunny day through the Carlton Gardens near the Royal Exhibition Building … we loved the opera, waited hours for tickets, saw many performances in Melbourne … I loved to sing and was in the Italian Theatre Company … but with WWII it was difficult for us … no talking Italian in public …Ferdinando was sent to chop wood in north Victoria as part of the war effort… blistered hands, long hours … our community supported each other.
Our wedding, 21 February 1943, an all day celebration… 8.00am Italian mass at St George’s Church in Carlton… three priests officiating … we were surrounded by people as we left the church … Evelina was one of my two bridesmaids, pictured here with my brother, Luigi. Official photographs taken … bridal party driven by friends around city be- fore lunch at noon at the Society Restaurant on Bourke Street … meanwhile St George’s Hall was decorated and tables prepared and filled with food that family and friends had cooked … mid-afternoon we joined all the guests for a big wedding celebration with music and dancing … next day, we all went back to clean up the Hall … no honeymoon but a memorable wedding day.
I am sitting with my two children, Bruno and Amelia, in the centre of Cardigan Street Carlton, in front of the two-storey house where we lived.
A special family photo of Ferdinando and Eleonora Dozzi, with Amelia and Bruno, taken in 1948 at Argyle St Carlton
L’EMIGRANTE (Italian translation)
The Emigrant (English Translation)
L’Emigrante e uno che parte dal suo paese per trovare lavoro piu volte contro la sua volonta, con un nodo nel cuore. Piu volte lasciando la sua famiglia e il suo paese ove e nato.
The emigrant is one who leaves his village to find work; often against his wishes, with an ache in his heart, often having to leave his family behind and the village where he was born.
Non sa se avra fortuna o fame, o se sara troppo pasciuto. Sa solo che va per lavorare e per nutrire la famigliola e l’inverno venire per un po a vedere I figli e la mogliettina.
He does not know if he will find fortune or hunger or be over fed. He only knows that he is going to work and to feed his family, and that in winter he will come back for a while to see his children and wife.
Fin che possa venire quel giorno di potere tornare anche se era partito con l’intenzione di rimanere. Tornare nel proprio bel paese ove si e nati passare gli ultimi anni con coloro che abbiamo conosciuto.
Until that day comes that he can return, even if he had left with the intention to remain. To return to his own village where he was born, to spend his last few years with those that he had known.
Per godere di quel poco che abbiamo potuto risparmiare si puo godere, vivere bene senza paura di mancare. Ma si vedono tante case chiuse e pochi ragazzi correre, giocare nelle borgate.
To be able to enjoy that which we have been able to save, we can enjoy, we can live without fear of doing without. But we see many houses closed and few young people running around, playing in the village streets.
Teniamoci con cura, e alta la morale, sapersi organizzare e fare qualche festicciola e perche no anche ballare? Magari con quelle raggazze del tempo in cui avevamo amoreggiato raccontarsi quei bei momenti che avevamo trascorso.
Let us look after ourselves and keep our morale high, organize ourselves and hold some celebrations and why not, even with dancing? Maybe with those girls that long ago we courted and we can talk about the memories of those beautiful times.
Mai pensare al male, o al brutto avvenire tiriamo avanti il meglio possibile ogni giorno. Pensare a coloro che son partiti da tanti anni e dirgli che non dimentichino mai il loro paese.
Never think of illness or a bleak future but let us go ahead each day the best we can. Think of those who left many years ago and tell them to never forget their village.
Anche se siamo emigrati da tanti anni il Friuli e il parlare Friulano non li abbiamo dimenticati. L’anno prossimo a Ferragosto senz’altro ci troveremo faremo un evviva con un buon bicchiere di vino …
Even if we emigrated many years ago we have not forgotten our land, Friuli, and how to speak our language, Friulano. Next year at Ferragosto (15 August national holiday) without a doubt we will all get together and drink a toast with a good glass of wine … 36
MARIETTA ELIOTT-KLEERKOPER On New Yearâ€™s Eve that year, my parents had invited a number of friends to celebrate the New Year, but no-one came. The next day they bumped into a friend, who whispered to them that it was forbidden to talk to Jews.
The story of my family We come from a Dutch-Jewish background. My father, Siegmund Kleerkoper, was born in Amsterdam in 1910. My mother, Hanna Rudelsheim, was also born in Amsterdam in 1908. At the age of only 19, he left Amsterdam to work for the Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1930 till 1933. They married in August 1932, in Amsterdam and my mother accompanied him back to Frankfurt, where he had arranged for her to work at the Dutch Consulate. Very shortly afterwards, Hitler came to power. My mother was locked in the library, where she was working part-time. She was eventually released but warned to leave Germany. On New Year’s Eve that year, my parents had invited a number of friends to celebrate the New Year, but no-one came. The next day they bumped into a friend, who whispered to them that it was forbidden to talk to Jews. Back in Amsterdam, my father started his own business, recycling car tyres for use as rubber soles for the New World. I was born in Amsterdam on the last day of 1937, the elder of two girls. My mother had previously lost a baby. My younger sister Elisabeth (Elly) was born in 1939.
In front of the SS Volendam. From left to right: Frieda Stone, Elly, Hanna (mother) Sieg (father) Marietta, Auntie Grace Stone. (The Stone family sponsored us.)
In May 1940, my father was trapped in England while on a business trip, by the outbreak of war. He joined a Dutch battalion, which served in England, Sri Lanka, India and Australia. While in Australia, he met Mrs Olive Simonson, who later sponsored us to come to Australia. (When we first arrived, we lived with her for a few months and then rented a very run-down cottage in Armadale.) After peace was declared, the Dutch Government refused to demobilise him and instead sent him to what was then the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). He was Adjutant to General Spoor, who was in charge of fighting the ‘Indians’ and didn’t return to the Netherlands until 1946. My mother had only just learnt before this that he was alive.
In front of our furniture crate: Back, left to right: Mrs Simonson (We stayed with her for 6 weeks and it was her house we rented.), Hanna. Front, left to right: Elly, Marietta. 38
Meanwhile, my mother joined the Resistance in Amsterdam. She hid her Jewish identity, taking on an assumed name and changing her speech and mannerisms so that she appeared less Jewish. She pretended to be a kindergarten teacher so that if anyone asked whose photos she was carrying, she would say they were the children she was looking after. The family decided it was necessary to go into hiding. My mother made the painful decision to hide the children separately from herself, in what she hoped was a safe place in the countryside. Elly and I were hidden in a small town, Zeist, between 1942 and 1945, with Christian families, also under assumed names, which confused me. We were separated, not only from our parents, but from each other and saw each other only on a Sunday after Church. My sister tells me she didn’t understand that I was her ‘real’ sister, because she thought she belonged to her foster family. Sometimes I was forced to hide in the cellar. The following poem, Cellar, relates to my experience of being locked up when Nazis visited the house in search of young men for the army or for Jews. However, I thought I was being punished, and I would scream: ‘I’ll be good now! Whatever I’ve done, I won’t do it again! Just let me out!’
From left to right: Marietta, Elly. Sometime during our time in hiding
My sister immigrated to Israel in 1967. My parents were successful in building a future and a business in Australia and never regretted leaving the Netherlands. I have been left with nostalgia for the country I lost, even though I have also been successful in a worldly sense in the new country, using my skills to teach English to new immigrants and to teach teachers. English is now my dominant language and I can also write poetry in the language. However, it is important to me to present my work bilingually because that is who I am.
Even at that time, as a five year old, I was able to appreciate and vividly remember the interplay of light and dark.
Sinds ik vijf was schrijf ik mijn kelder
Since I was five I have been writing the cellar
Hoe de lichtstraal door de tralies bij de straat
How the light-beam from the grille at street level
de deeltjes stof besloeg de manier waarop ze dansten
struck the dust motes the way they danced
Hoe de schaduw van het tralieraam een patroon neerlegde op de vloer van steen
How the shadow of the grille created a pattern on the stone floor
Hoe de scherpte van het licht de duisternis deed verduisteren
How the intensity of light made the darkness darker
Hoe mijn hand werd belicht als ik in het licht stond
How if I stood in the light it illuminated my hand
en duisternis terugweek
and darkness became an absence
SS ‘Volendam’ Amsterdam-Melbourne: december 1948-januari 1949 Amsterdam Het oude transportschip had betere dagen gekend wanneer ze haar laatste reis aanvaarde met 1665 emigranten aan boord op een bleke middag in 1948 We gaan in de rij staan met onze handbagage marscheren over de loopplank in orderlijke stoet
Port Said Bij een handelaar aan de kade biedt Moeder op een ebbenhouten olifant We zwerven rondom het schip – verstoppen ons in de reddingssloepen onder een zeildoek -------Colombo Pa heeft hier gedient gedurende de oorlog
Vrouwen en kinderen slapen in het vrachtruim een reuzendriehoek, die op en neer, heen en weer slingert
We drinken thee in een bergcafé met uitzicht over witte daken -------Engelse les voor één uur per dag voorbereiding voor het leven in Australië --------
De jongen in het naaste bed schiet spuugballen op me af -------Golf van Biskaje Vanuit het achterdek kijken we hoe het kielwater door grijze golven snijdt
Indische Oceaan Zelfs de meeuwen hebben ons verlaten -------Op Oudejaarsavond worden de kinderen dronken Ma en Pa spelen Beethoven --------
De massa kotst gelijktijdig over de zijkant -------Rots van Gibraltar – een krijtschets in de mist
Fremantle Onze eerste blik op het nieuwe thuis Eindelijk het vaste land
De rij bij de wasbakken is zo lang dat we soms ongewassen blijven of een zoutbad nemen waar onze huid de hele dag kleverig van blijft Om tijd te sparen snijdt Ma mijn vlechten af -------Het Suezkanaal – geometrische figuren uit de modder gehouwen Langzaam glijden de schepen door de snede --------
Schuren uit golfplaten – een armoedig café in harteloos licht -------Melbourne Het schip dokt met fanfare en applaus Wij proberen een van beneden gegooide wimpel te vangen. We kijken neer op omhoog gekeerde gezichten – het lijkt wel een koninklijke ontvangst
SS ‘Volendam’ Amsterdam-Melbourne: December 1948-January 1949
Port Said Mum bargains for ebony elephants with a quayside merchant
Amsterdam The old troopship had seen better days when she embarked on her last journey
We roam the ship – hide in the life-boats under the tarpaulin ------Colombo Dad was stationed here during the war
with 1665 emigrants on board one pale afternoon in 1948 We line up on the quay with our hand luggage walk the gangplank in orderly procession Women and children bedded in the cargo hold an outsize wedge that pitches and rolls The boy in the next bed fires spitballs at me -------Bay of Biscay We go aft – watch the foamy wake carve through grey turbulence The crowd heaves up in unison over the side --------Rock of Gibraltar – chalk outline in the mist
We sip tea at a mountain café overlooking white rooftops --------English lessons one hour a day to prepare us for life in Australia --------The Indian Ocean Even the gulls have deserted us --------On New Year’s Eve the kids get tipsy Mum and Dad perform Beethoven --------Fremantle Our first sight of the new country Dry land at last
The queue at the washbasins is so long sometimes we go unwashed or have a salt bath
Corrugated iron sheds – a down at heel café in unforgiving light --------Melbourne The ship docks to fanfare and applause We try to catch a streamer
that leaves our skin sticky all day Mum cuts my plaits to save time
thrown up from below. We look down on upturned faces – feel like royalty
-------Suez Canal Textbook patterns carved in mud Slow ships glide through the cut ---------
JELTJE FANOY ...I attended 19 English classes during the voyage. Iâ€™ll never forget those classes, everyone was so excited about what was in store for us once weâ€™d disembark, leave the safe environment of the migrant ship. We all tried, of course, very hard to learn English, but it was almost impossible to concentrate on anything much, apart from sharing our dreams and apprehensions.
A Department of Immigration card survived, miraculously, my many moves over the years. It “certifies” that I travelled to Australia on the M/N Aurelia, disembarked at Melbourne on 16 Aug 1963, and that I attended 19 English classes during the voyage. I’ll never forget those classes, everyone was so excited about what was in store for us once we’d disembark, leaving the safe environment of the migrant ship. We all tried, of course, very hard to learn English, but it was almost impossible to concentrate on anything much, apart from sharing our dreams and apprehensions. As a migrant writer, I write in both Bookish Dutch and English and, since the mid seventies, have been working on themes of work, alienation and displacement. In 2015 I felt honoured to have been asked to write the Foreword to a book about Dutch migration*. After much soul-searching, I wrote: “Friends and acquaintances often wondered why my family actually left Holland, when homesickness, more often than not, was considered as being far too high a price to pay, it being such a long way to come here, just to get a better job, or improved housing. After all, many of their ancestors had left the British Isles only because of extremely dire circumstances e.g. the Great Famine (Ireland), or extreme social and economic deprivations in the British towns during the Industrial Revolution. Or, in many cases, they had come as convicts against their will and, when granted emancipation, reluctantly, settled on Aboriginal land. Initially, it seemed enough for me to explain, that the terrible traumas of WW2 made a lot of people in Europe queue up to leave (as asylum-seekers do now, in war-torn countries). But as time went on, I also started to feel the need to piece together, in a more personalized way, the realities that made my family do the long trek, from where they were living in Holland, to settle in Australia…”
For the Pier Festival 2015, I performed, together with guitarist Sjaak de Jong, several poems about the migration experience, including a selection of pieces from my latest collection Princes by night. At the crossroads of myth and actuality, these recent poems are an exploration of some very complex Dutch-Indonesian post-colonial realities which continued to live on, long after my family settled in Australia. I recall spending, as a teenager, many a long summer pouring over dark and dusty albums (hidden away in a drawer in our hallway) of family photographs taken in the house and garden settings of the former Dutch East Indies. My parents’ childhood memories, long frozen in time and place, together with the fading photographs, have proven fundamental to my understanding of why we came to Australia. They have allowed me to move backwards and forwards, in an informal and, I hope, compassionate way, from the patchy, largely forgotten past, to my own reality as a second generation Dutch migrant in Australia.
*E.Anderson, 2015, Dutch Odyssey/stories of migrant settlement in South Australia’s South East, E. Anderson and P. Jans
Tempat (1960s) For some unknown reason to us Mother couldn’t or wouldn’t drive, kept on failing her driver’s licence examination, though a car would have made her Queen of the Road, she was happy for Father to drive us around, while they were arguing from maps about where on Earth they’d be going, and we sat meekly in the back, but vouching to get our licences as soon as we’d leave home, and the three of us sang many songs, in all the parts, as much as we could without our parents ever joining in, I can’t even remotely recall my father ever singing, though he whistled softly when raking the leaves and grass, or, at night, gazing at the Australian stars.
I only ever loved Babu** One evening, when I picked up the phone in my parents’ house, a woman shouted, as if in the middle of an engaging conversation: “You know, I only ever loved my Babu!” “Hello” I said, “I’m not the Jeltje you want, I’m my mother’s daughter.” “No, no, no” she said, “It’s you I want to speak to!” “Okay. What did you say, then, about your Babu?” Her very lengthy answer disappearing in a haze of incomprehensibility, was my informant drunk that night? Or didn’t I have any business finding out more about her Babu, until I’d made some similarly incriminating statement, in return? ** a Babu was an Indonesian woman hired by the Dutch colonists as a nursemaid, known simply as “Babu”, or Babu plus her first name
What if (1947) What if my fatherâ€™s diagnosed aberration, the beings he saw? defying all comprehension? unreachable? out of control hostile? roaming inside the ceilings of Dutch Navy Administration Buildings? grotesquely giant, a motley lot, with sharp yellow teeth like rodents discarded from all consciousness, at night, in the dark, could sense them scratching and gnawing at the rafters, ever getting closer to breaking through the flimsy ceilings with ceiling fans crashing to the ground, irrepressible something he both marvelled at, and feared, Sundamys infraluteus the Giant Mountain Rat, or, the Giant Rat of Sumatra (from The Adventures of the Sussex Vampire, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Bad Press Rat, actually never seen on ships and impossible to trap, giant rat of the woolly sort, quietly fossicking for bark beetles, lizards, half-decomposed leaves, shoots and twigs, accidentally spreading, on the moist forest floor, a messy smelly trail from hidden scent glands, telling of my fatherâ€™s unhinged state, still duty-bound, facing a vicious colonial war directly after the horrors of WW2, fervently longing for lasting peace and, finally, for justice, and his affinity to regions, both densely forested and highlander rice, on the Indonesian Archipelago?
Far away (talking) Blues And there it lived on, in the distance. It wasn’t as if you couldn’t distinguish anything much, like, for example, a tiny, far-away church steeple or brick works’ chimney, or, perhaps, even, some miniature, swaying palm-trees. There was no adverse weather condition, like a mist or approaching storm that could explain the lack of clarity of vision, hampering one’s reconnaissance. There was nothing. But there it was, all the same. It’s just that the metaphor of a ship nearing its destination, or one’s own view, from the other side of the waterway, was wrong. There was no agency, nor sense of proximity. It was very, very far away, like a shadow of its former self, rather than anything real. But also, right before one’s eyes, in the foreground. It was upfront, it was daring, dextrous and intense. It was everything you could possibly dream about, and more. It was near in emotion, it could be sensed the moment one got up, the very first sensation when you opened your eyes. It was like having been born with it, not to be discarded in any way, or unravelled, and demanding that one should try to live with it, better. It was a package deal. Of immense sadness, of many, unknown regrets but, always, so full of promise, and moments of joyous abandonment. A never ending quest for precious, hidden truths, while others played but trifling games. Extraordinarily romantic realities, while the world at large dealt packs of cheating hearts. It was there that one would surely find oneself, it was here that one was forever in the wrong place, without any conceivable means of appeal.
SALLY HEDERICS The family decides to make the journey to Australia, to make a brave new life that is unrestricted by Communism. In secret, they wake the children at midnight, only to find their house filled with relatives and friends, wishing to see them off with tears and good wishes. Unaware of the enormity of this choice, Istvรกn kisses his Grandmother goodbye, not knowing that he will never see her again.
This photo catches my Father’s family in a transitional and historical moment of major beginnings and endings. They had just arrived in Australia after their long journey on a ship from war affected Hungary and were about to start their new lives in Mildura, so very far from everybody and everything they knew. The photograph was taken in 1957. His father was 33, his Mother was 29 years, his sister Margaret was 10 years, my Father was 9 years old, Lou was 8 years, and baby sister Julie was 18 months. My Father remembers many details from the family’s escape and the subsequent trip to Australia. - Sally Hederics
This story begins in 1957 in a small village in Hungary, named Tótszenmárton. István (Stephen) lived a storybook childhood in the village, growing up in a very simple home with earthen floors and no modern conveniences, yet he wanted for nothing and lived happily with his Mother and Father and 3 siblings amongst the corn and the sunflowers, the gypsies, the pigs, and the chooks. A curious and adventurous child, he loved to draw and play with the other children under the walnut tree, swim in the stream and adventure was altered only by the seasons. All was picturesque and he was immersed in village life, until the age of 8 when the Russians invaded Hungary and everything began to change for István, his family and the whole village.
It is hard to imagine such a perfect scene, the days are long and languid and the work is hard but life is simple and small things are special and treasured. Produce is bountiful and shared generously; fresh food, homemade wine and old friends and family are constant. Life is punctuated by : church, births, marriages and deaths and the wheel keeps turning, time is unchallenged and mostly there is happiness and contentment. Traditions are strong and built on many generations but evolution is unavoidable when war reaches the village, bringing armed visitors in the night, questions of alliance and interrogations become more common and a new fear begins to whisper through the trees.
The decision to leave We can only guess at the thought process that was undertaken to make the choice to leave the village. István’s Mother was just 29 years old with 4 children under the age of 10. There was a very real risk that the family would be captured in their attempt to cross the border and shot by the guards. The enormity of this decision must have weighed heavily on István’s parents, but the opportunity to be free in a new country, and to live as they wished, was a temptation they could not resist. Time to say goodbye The family decides to make the journey to Australia, to make a brave new life that is unrestricted by Communism. In secret, they wake the children at midnight, only to find their house filled with relatives and friends, wishing to see them off with tears and good wishes. Unaware of the enormity of this choice, István kisses his Grandmother goodbye, not knowing that he will never see her again. The crossing The family sets out into the frozen night, white with waist deep snow, the chilly wind biting their rosy warm faces. They have one suitcase between them and the youngest child is wrapped in a large pillow to keep her warm. The border where they must cross is between Hungary and Yugoslavia and is divided by the Mura River. The water is frozen over but cracking and groaning beneath their wary feet. Silently, they step, making it over safely and are met on the opposite side by the guards of the Yugoslav military Red Cross. The passage to Australia The family is bussed to a nearby hotel where, from the window, István lifts the curtain and sees, for the first time, a ship with lights along the side, travelling steadily across the distant horizon. The hotel is the first of a number of refugee camps, where they bide their time, waiting for their turn to board a ship bound for Australia. The black of night slowly turns to blue
and the beautiful sea is revealed. The first of many new experiences for the small boy, who thrives on the adventure of the trip that, once begun, will take an 8 week long sea voyage to complete. István’s father trades cigarettes for bananas. They taste oranges and lemon tea and endure storms and the constant rocking of the ship. Istvan’s Mother is sea sick for the entire journey, arriving in Melbourne, little more than a skeleton. A Communist life Back in the village, life is also changed forever as the Russians enforce the Communist rule across all of Hungary. The women find themselves no longer free to choose the tasks of the day and are instead put to work in a purpose built sewing factory to make drab and mundane clothing. How they must have longed for something more glamorous and dreamt what their life may have been if they too had been brave enough to escape. A new life begins In a way, the family never really left the village completely. They worked very hard to earn enough to build their home and fruit block, recreating what they had always known as the comforts, sights and smells of a happy life. Their hearts must have missed their village but the simple life they had left was never the same again. As the years went by, the families stayed in touch and István returned to the village to visit with his own family. Even now, 4 generations later, family members are welcomed back with tears of joy, open arms and laden tables. It was the details in my father’s stories that inspired me to choreograph a contemporary dance work that highlighted the emotions and the decision making process that his parents undertook to risk their lives and leave Hungary to begin again.
JANNA HILBRINK I remember liberation in May 1945. It was glorious spring weather and we danced the hokey-pokey in the street and at school we sang a song in which, to the tune of â€œDaisy, Daisyâ€?, we thanked the Canadians for bringing us biscuits and chocolate instead of the sugar beets on which we had learned to subsist.
Emma’s Story On 8 June, 1954, my mother, my brother and I were walking across a parkland back to our home in North Adelaide. We were returning from a Dutch friend’s home where there had been a little party to celebrate my mother’s fortieth birthday on that very day. Suddenly my mother stopped in her tracks and exclaimed: “She was right! She was right!” She then explained that when she was in her early twenties, she had had her fortune told. The gist of the palmist’s message was that by the time she was forty, she would be living in a country further away than the Dutch East Indies. At that stage Australia and New Zealand did not feature as countries to which to emigrate and so this prediction had not meant much to her. As we continued our walk home she told us, in a subdued voice, that Sjoerd, one of my father’s brothers, had had his fortune told by the same woman. In his case the fortune teller had not wanted to continue, but at Sjoerd’s insistence she finally and reluctantly told him that he would not reach the age of thirty. He was executed by a German firing squad for his part in a plot to obliterate the names and addresses of Jews by blowing up the Amsterdam Registry Office. He had just turned 28. On 8 June 1914, my mother, Emma, was born in the city of Utrecht in the centre of The Netherlands. It was a Monday morning in summer, according to what she told us in the memoirs she tapped out for her family on her little typewriter. She was 92 when, after a long and courageous life, she died on a summer’s day in Sydney.
Janna Hilbrink’s mother Emma
My mother, who was named after Queen Emma, was born in a comfortable, three-storeyed house set in a large garden. Her parents were solid middle class and relied on the services of a housekeeper, a maid and a gardener to ensure the efficient and harmonious running of the household. 53
But the year of her birth was the year in which the first World War, “the war to end all wars”, began. We have a large photo of her when she was four years old. It was taken in a photographer’s studio and shows a well-dressed little girl whose plump face smiles shyly into the camera. During those first four years of her life there was horrific suffering in the countries south of the neutral Netherlands. Men were dying in their thousands in France and Belgium. They were for ever lost in the mud of Flanders or ended their young lives caught in barbed wire. Many of those men had come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Emma lived in tumultuous times, indeed, for after the war there was also the Great Depression, known in The Netherlands as The Crisis. Her father lost his publishing business and all of his investments ended in disaster. The little family - in 1918 another child was born, a son - were paupers overnight. They lost their house and their livelihood and were taken in by my grandmother’s parents who lived in an apartment in a busy street in Amsterdam. There they slept in the one bedroom and my grandfather went out looking for work. He eventually got a job as a travelling salesman in toothpaste. After a miserable period full of family friction, they managed to find an airy flat in a newish part of Amsterdam and things started to look up. However, the stress had been too great for my grandfather. His health had suffered and he died when my mother was thirteen and her brother nine. Grandfather was only 59 years old. In those days there was no widow’s pension and her mother, who had never worked outside the home, but who was a good cook, managed to get a job as a housekeeper and cook in a gentlemen’s club. My mother often told us that she and her brother would wait till their mother arrived home at about 8 o’clock because, if there were any left-overs, she was allowed to take them home. As payday was monthly, it happened frequently that towards the end of
the month they would sit in the dark, with only some candles to see by because the electric light tokens that were put into the meter would be finished. Needless to say, this exhausting job was poorly paid and it is no surprise to us that my grandmother also died rather young. She was only 57 when she succumbed to cancer. The fact that my grandmother’s large extended family did nothing to help the widow and her two children is something my mother has never forgiven them. The next big crisis was the Second World War and for the Dutch five years of German occupation. In Amsterdam we also had to contend with the “hunger winter” of 1944. My mother went foraging, on a bike with wooden tyres, to the farmers where family silver and baby soap and ration coupons were traded for potatoes and brown beans. During all this she was constantly bailed up by German soldiers, at one stage interrogated and forced to come back with her birth certificate to prove she was not Jewish. This was all because of her dark looks. A great-grandmother, famed within the family for her beauty, came from the province of Zeeland and my mother had inherited the typical Zeeland looks: black hair and brown eyes in a long, oval face. I remember liberation in May 1945. It was glorious spring weather and we danced the hokey-pokey in the street and at school we sang a song in which, to the tune of “Daisy, Daisy”, we thanked the Canadians for bringing us biscuits and chocolate instead of the sugar beets on which we had learned to subsist. But the joy was soon dispelled by a new threat. Now we had a “cold” war and we heard on the radio that we needed to be wary of Russia. Visitors to our home were talking about “emigrating” and an uncle and aunt disappeared to America. A lot of war brides had already left for Canada and the United States. But now Australia and New Zealand were also mentioned and, in fact, there were many information sessions 54
organised by these countries. She soon found out that New Zealand would not accept a lone mother with two children for fear the family might at some stage become dependent on its welfare system. Australian authorities were also wary, but were prepared to take the risk provided there was someone in Australia who would undertake to provide support should that be needed. It has only recently occurred to me that the fact that I was fifteen must have lessened the risk in their eyes. After all, I was over school-leaving age and could be put to work forthwith. They did not know that my mother valued education so much that she had not even considered that possibility.
moved after taking leave of her brother, said she was glad. She was glad we were getting away from the darkness and destruction in Europe to a country full of sun and light. It was early March when our ship docked at Station Pier. My mother had brought her children safely to the end of the world.
A former boss of my motherâ€™s had taken his family to Adelaide in South Australia and his letters gave glowing descriptions of their new country. He knew first-hand how hard my mother worked and how dependable she was and so he declared himself prepared to be her guarantor. Not only that, but as he and his wife had established a boarding house in which lived a number of single Dutch men, he could also assure the authorities that we would have immediate accommodation. In addition my mother would have a job assisting his wife in the running of the boarding house. We left The Netherlands on a bitterly cold February morning in 1954 on a ship which had served as a troop ship and so had ready-made dormitories. We were assigned cabins, however: my mother and I sharing with a lady and her little daughter, her husband and my brother and two other men next-door. I felt very moved when I saw the replica of a shipâ€™s cabin in our Immigration Museum here in Melbourne because it was almost exactly like the one in which we spent the next month. We thought we would never see our motherland again and so, standing at the railing as our ship pulled away from the quay, I felt a deep grief. My mother, however, even though visibly 55
Prelude March 1945: Russian troops march west through Hungary, towards Vienna; Austrian troops march vainly to defend Burgenland. My maternal grandmother, propelling her 2-yearold daughter in a pram laden with necessities, marches to Trulitsch. Soon after, in pitch darkness, my mum Maria, then 17, with her middle sister and suitcase in tow, travels along the same forest track, frantic for refuge. My mother’s terror was justified. Noises in the distance, warring artillery, flashes of light, assaults from the multi-rocketed, Stalin organ (Soviet Katyusha rocket). Little did my mother know what she was marching towards. Thirty-five years later, I lose myself in this forest. Wheeling my unlit bike, spooked by the looming firs, the rumble of distant cars… reminded of mama’s flight. My angst was a result of stupidity. My maternal Lutheran grandfather was ‘safe’ in a Nazi concentration camp near Maribor, Slovenia, for allegedly funding communists. Military intelligence had identified his family’s hometown, as the route through which the Russians would advance straight up a broad valley. Instead the Russians, having lost 20,000,000 people in the war, took a conservative stance, approaching under the cover of woodland. Mere hours after my family’s arrival in the hamlet farmhouse, the Russian platoon command arrived too. Officers took the house. Its owners, along with the refugees, repaired to potato sacks in the cellar. Meanwhile, 800 km north, near Koenigsberg, East Prussia, my dad Raimund, also 17 and from Pinkafeld, took one for the Fatherland. While injured, he survived the Russian attack, which many of his youthful comrades didn’t. After seven weeks on a ‘practice’ maneuver, he luxuriated in his first wash, before being evacuated, only to be captured by the English.
Newly arrived Maria and Raimund, c 1957
Salad days By the time mum married dad, she had been by his side, for nearly seven years. Both born in 1927, they did not cross paths at school; respectively attending Lutheran and Catholic parish schools. They meet while working at the same woolen textile mill; dad the fitter and turner, and mum in cloth repair. House They enjoyed 2 years of carefree courtship, touring the Austrian countryside on my father’s prized Puch motorbike, before buying a large allotment on Pinkafeld’s outskirts. Before they could marry, they needed a home, so they set about its construction. Over 3 years, working a 5 ½ day week with only 2 weeks annual leave, they drew up the plans, dug their own cellar, laid foundations, made bricks and roof tiles, laid plumbing and finished the cellar and first floor. Afterwards money was transferred from Australia to externally render the ‘unfinished’ house.
My father entering the house via the vestibule window
Migration My parents married in Pinkafeld on October 1955, just after completing their home. Two months thereafter, they embarked on a train to Trieste to board the former troop carrier, MV Flaminia, for a ‘honeymoon cruise’ to Melbourne. It was the biggest journey of their lives. Why did they leave when they were one of the lucky few to own a house, and after so much toil? Because until 1955, the Russians occupied Burgenland, demanding it be ceded to Hungary. Infrastructure has been stripped by them, the economy was depressed given the political uncertainty, and I suspect, dad wanted to be free of family ties.
Mother’s suitcase, adorned with photographs of their migration, features in the “What Happened at the Pier” exhibition at the Emerald Hill Library & Heritage Centre
Mum’s first suitcase didn’t survive the war. All they had in their possession was carefully stowed in four suitcases, including a small, crimson, cardboard one. 58
At sea Mum had never seen the sea prior to arriving in Trieste. She was full of excitement and trepidation. Used to hard work, she was prepared to take on anything in Australia to get ahead. She loved dad and trusted both his capabilities and his word: ‘after we save enough funds to complete our house, we will go home in a few years. Australia’s streets are paved with gold, it’s ours for the taking’. Little did those non-English speakers with limited education, who hailed from a small remote city of 2,500 people, know. It was their courage and determination, which enabled them to bear and benefit from what they were about to encounter. Whilst riches were anticipated, honeymoon plans required adjustment. Instead of being granted a private cabin, assisted migrants were segregated by gender, four persons to a bunkroom. Fortunately, urge and enterprise soon conquered frustration, despite not sharing a common language, rosters were soon organised amongst passengers so couples could have an hour’s privacy each day. Despite being obliged to attend English classes on board, the five and a half week journey was my parents’ first holiday and their last for another six years. They had fun, but like their fellow passengers, considered the long journey tedious, as they were impatient to work and save. Fremantle In January 1956, Flaminia berthed at Fremantle, where many British migrants departed. This was my parent’s first disappointing encounter with Australia: gender segregation in pubs, no rye bread, palatable cheeses or small-goods to be found. Instead, there was racial vilification, an abundance of flies and penetrating heat.
Bonegilla Immediately upon arrival in Melbourne, all passengers travelled by rail to the former prisoner-of-war camp and once migrant hostel at Bonegilla, in northeast Victoria. Here they were processed and allocated work throughout Australia. Their 2 week interlude was another trial. In the height of summer they resided in un-insulated corrugated iron huts, on bunks. The mosquitos were merciless. For Europeans, the cuisine was hard to swallow: white bread, tea, potato, boiled vegetables and mutton. Dad enjoyed the mutton. The Italians went on strike demanding pasta. The linguistically diverse migrants conversed in limited English, with gestures, humour and frustration. Whyalla Dad’s trade skills were in demand at BHP’s South Australian shipbuilding town of Whyalla. Unless they had organised sponsored employment, assisted migrants were obliged to work for 2 years in an allocated location, or repay their fare and establishment grant of then 6 pounds each. Dutifully my parents boarded the train to Adelaide. They arrived in a heatwave, to be informed it’s hotter in Whyalla. On the eve of travelling northwest, mum became inconsolable: “I’ve followed you to the end of the earth, but I’m not going to go with you into hell!” The next morning dad negotiated with the labour board, calling a distant Austrian relative, and eventually secured employment at Production Equipment, in Melbourne. Melbourne My parent’s first lodgings were on Lillimur Rd, Ormond, where my mum became the cook for the boarders (two of whom became my Godparents). They made friends with other Austrians, who dad had encountered at work. Everyone worked hard and saved even harder. On Sunday my parents would frequently meet friends in St Kilda or the Botanical Gardens. 59
Within 2 years of arrival they bought their second house, at 276 Tooronga Rd, Glen Iris. I was born in March 1958, an only child. German was my first language and I rarely spoke English until I began attending school. Until the mid 60s, we often enjoyed a drive to the countryside for a Sunday outing. Return to Austria and back again Mum became very homesick and swallowed much sadness, whilst dad worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs. In March 1964, my parents and I traveled to Austria aboard the MV Fairsea, setting sail from Port Melbourne to Naples. My parent’s smallest crimson cardboard case became my suitcase. In Pinkafeld, we lived in my parent’s house, together with my maternal grandparents. Life was happy and full of promise.
The Edwardian house on my Christening Day, with me, my mother and Godmother in matching, self-made frocks with other friends
Then, in 1966, dad decided we should return to Melbourne, so he could save for a planned Austrian business venture and settle his affairs. However the proposition fell through, he rejected an alternative lucrative offer and my parents remained in Melbourne. Dad then continued to work 2 jobs. We sold the Pinkafeld house in 1970. Another plan to resettle in Pinkafeld was abandoned in 1972. Numerous holidays in Austria for my parents, living with dad’s brother, Alexander, followed. Epilogue Recently turned 89, dad and mum currently reside in supported aged-care in South Melbourne. Australia has been their home for most of their life, but Austria is where their hearts lie.
The three of us, sitting on dad’s self-crafted picnic furniture, behind his beloved FJ Holden: “Umberto”
I still have the red suitcase. It’s a testament to my parent’s journey of courage.
DEBORAH KLEIN We paid a man to smuggle us across the border in Russia. So at the age of four I became an illegal refugee. We travelled from Eastern Poland through Central Russia, to Siberia, then to Middle Asia near the Iranian border. There we lived in a small village with locals & fellow refugees until the end of the War.
An Interesting Life Sophie Maj My parents Maria and Joseph Grinberg were Polish Jews, teachers & quite left wing. I was born in Warsaw in 1935. My father had read Mein Kampf; when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, he rightly decided we should leave. We paid a man to smuggle us across the border in Russia. So, at the age of four I became an illegal refugee. We travelled from Eastern Poland through Central Russia, to Siberia, then to Middle Asia near the Iranian border. There we lived in a small village with locals & fellow refugees until the end of the War. We returned to a devastated Poland in 1946. My husband Marian Maj’s family were working class Polish Catholics who lived through the War in Warsaw. His grandparents perished in Auschwitz, and as a young child Marian witnessed and heard of many atrocities. When we returned to Poland, my parents found that their families had died in the Warsaw Ghetto. An anti-Jewish pogrom killing 42 people in 1946 drove us to leave again, again illegally, this time to France, where my mother had a cousin.
My brother Bernard was born in 1947. I was 12 years old, and SO HAPPY to have a little brother. My father was unhappy in France, however, so we all returned to Poland. After matriculating in 1953, I chose to study Aeronautical Engineering at Warsaw University. There I met the love of my life – Marian Maj. Marian was an engineering student, too, and we were always together. Meanwhile, my parents were worried about Bernard’s future in an anti-Semitic Poland and urged me to leave with them. I told Marian, “I love you, but I can’t abandon my family – if you love me, let’s get married and you come with us.” So we married in 1957 – a Jew and a Catholic – only possible in the post-War period! That is how my 22-year old husband left the country of his birth & his family to come to Australia. Although Marian wrote, he never saw his father alive again. Marian and I left aboard the Italian ship Roma in 1958. We left wintery Europe behind and travelled south into warmth. It was like a holiday. The ship was segregated by sex, so we spent our trip in separate staterooms. But it was our honeymoon!
An interesting start to our life together! We landed at Station Pier on December 18, 1958 and began a new life in the mysterious land of Australia. Despite very limited English, Marian and I obtained engineering jobs and family friends helped to sponsor my parents and Bernard’s immigration to Australia. We all lived together in a small flat in St. Kilda until 1962, when my first baby was due. Our second child – another boy – was born in 1967. My parents cared for my sons Andrew & Peter while Marian and I worked hard and took every opportunity. We were each appointed to academic positions – at Melbourne University and Swinburne University. Our life in Australia was not without problems, but we travelled the world with our sons, and spent many years enjoying our beloved holiday house in Jan Juc. Marian died in 2000 and I am now over 80 years old. Looking at where I came from & how I came to be here, I have to say it has been an interesting life! Sophie Maj 4 December 2015
Deborah Klein & Maya Grinberg, Sophie Maj - Living in Interesting Times, stretched canvas: ink, paper, photographs, 64cm x 94 cm.
ANNE LANE My parentsâ€™ arrival in Australia in 1952 on the Skaubryn, had been similar to thousands of European refugeesâ€™ arrival. They arrived at Station Pier in Melbourne with one suit-case and a two year old daughter and from there they were to be taken to Bonegilla, a migrant refuge in northern Victoria. Bonegilla was a dry country town with little to offer. The place was a former army camp converted to accommodate thousands of immigrants and refugees arriving at the time.
My parents’ arrival in Australia in 1952 on the Skaubryn, had been similar to thousands of European refugees’ arrival. They arrived at Station Pier in Melbourne with one suit-case and a two year old daughter and from there they were to be taken to Bonegilla, a migrant refuge in northern Victoria. Bonegilla was a dry country town with little to offer. The place was a former army camp converted to accommodate thousands of immigrants and refugees arriving at the time. Having grown up in in Dusseldorf, in West Germany, my mother had not seen such desolation, dryness and heat. The way people spoke; their familiarity, their strange sayings and lack of airs, made her mistake harmless gestures or colloquial references as specific messages against her, forcing her to retreat into herself. Even being called a “new Australian”, the popular tag of the time for emigrants, was a label she adopted reluctantly. It was easier than saying where she came from, but her love of her homeland vied equally with her shame of what had been done. This contrast was evident in her anger of people who anglicised their names in order to assimilate. Australia at that time was the only country prepared to take on German migrants, but the war had left deep psychological scars, which in my mother’s case, distance could not heal. With this mixed background of displaced parents, I wasn’t sure that I would ever be accepted. My parents felt that they had no choice but to be quiet and acquiesce—they had no voice. When I was a child, I dreamt of far-off places; places where life was happy, adventurous and different. I never realised these dreams were not my own. They were my mother’s dreams constructed by her sadness and self-doubt. Her regrets of having left her home in Germany, the country, customs and language of her identity, now no more than a war-torn replica of its former self were impossible for her to reconcile. All honour and respect for that once proud country had been lost and shattered by the atrocious crimes of an inhumane and unsta-
Roman Brychcy’s passport
International Refugee Organization Resettlement Movement to Australia Sailing Rotterdam on S.S. SKAUBRY, 5th January 1952
Wilhelmine Brychcy, nee Meurer passport 66
ble dictator. The entrenched German pride my mother had inherited was replaced with an unbearable shame and sadness, leaving her feeling as displaced in her own country as the Jewish people had been worldwide. But at least most German families remained largely intact without horrific stories of torture and continued barbaric neglect. The hatred of the German people was universal and understandable—the world had been violated. But my mother’s stories of starvation and deprivation, where fields were doused with kerosene to prevent anyone using the produce, displayed the regime’s disregard for all life. My mother carried the scars and insecurities of German war survivors who also had to face an unsympathetic world. Even though Australia was as far away as my parents and other war survivors could get, it was not far enough. Nowhere was. The atrocities of that time were forever too horrific to erase. My mother took on the burden of what the Germans had done as if she were responsible. But her horrors of that time were often unleashed at night when she and my father talked around the small much-painted wooden-framed kitchen table. Their combined stories of rationing, bombing, hunger and fear were a constant in our home. Stories of the terrifying noises from air raids and the memory of having to hold down her sister’s legs as she convulsed in terror were hard to erase. Having to clamber over dead bodies in her desperation to reach the shelters where partly delivered babies lay motionless between their dead mother’s legs, were stories she kept for our home only, as she knew those unaffected would not understand. The irony of these discussions was that my father, being Polish, and also having suffered, never held back in his revulsion of what the Germans had done. After Bonegilla, we shifted to a small country town in Gippsland where my father found work at the local State Electricity Commission. The town had an 80 per cent migrant mix, but I
knew of no other German/Polish combinations. Being even part German at that time was not easy to be proud of even though my mother’s regret at having left what she had loved was more than obvious through her tears. She always talked of the wonderful foods and customs that were now absent and misunderstood. A hot Christmas, where traditional roasts were prepared, seemed odd to her. Country life was odd to her. I sought Australian friends because they seemed more relevant than a place that I had never seen. The novelty I posed equally intrigued them and also created a distance from my heritage. When they met my mother who was older, bigger and rounder than their own mothers, their interest peaked even more. My background was all about Oom-Pah music, a language that was ridiculed because of its harshness of command and strange customs. But food was the focus. My father expected herrings, rollmops and polish-sausage while my mother’s friends were feted with liverwurst sandwiches topped with picked gherkins and sauerkraut and blue cheese smothered on chunks of rye bread. Food was discussed, a lot. It was the event, not the afterthought that it seemed to be in so many of my friend’s homes. My mother baked strudels, Blackforest and Gugelhupf cakes so regularly I came to regard them as commonplace, but my friends delighted at her baking and were always eager to visit. But I longed for the soft white cream-filled sponges that I saw in lunch-boxes or the fresh coconut covered sponge squares deliciously dipped in flowing chocolate that our neighbour Mrs Beech used to make. While my mother baked, and even when she didn’t, she wore large white homemade aprons and I was forced to wear similar smaller versions. It didn’t help that I had to wear big white aprons over my school uniform either. They were usually made from old cotton sheets that were starting to fray around the edges, but suited my mother’s re-invention purposes perfectly. We had aprons for everything - special aprons for going out and less special ones for home. Cleanliness 67
was a big feature; one I had trouble with, as we lived next to a large farm filled with everything from charging bulls to stagnant creeks - home to a wondrous array of wildlife, tadpoles, frogs and yabbies. Although I remember happy times with my mother making mud pies and bottling fruit, her crying left me bewildered. Other mothers did not seem to cry. We all knew it had something to do with the “Der Krieg”, or the war, but even though I had seen images of war on the ABC news, it wasn’t real enough for me to understand what it all meant. She always managed to wrap a blanket of sadness around us. Cheering her up became my mission. I grew up interpreting Germany through the songs my mother sang and the German fairytales I learnt. I always marvelled at the ridiculously long words such as Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, or the funny names that spilled off my mother’s tongue like Hildegard Baumgarten or Brunhilde Bohnenstiehl when she discussed childhood friends or neighbours. These were happy times as I felt her love and connection to a country now far removed and misunderstood, even by her own children. Her melancholy was something she talked about to anyone who would listen. She mastered the word “homesick” very quickly as well as “new Australian”, and used these terms unnecessarily to identify herself in her futile attempt to belong. If my friends found her melancholy odd, they never said anything, but I always felt uncomfortable. At these times I felt the weight of my difference. My mother’s strong accent proved to be a sad asset for me as it made her difficult to understand. I learnt this by peoples’ unusual responses to things she said, with them often smiling or frowning at inappropriate times. If I was ever asked to explain what she was saying, I could easily dismiss some of her idiosyncrasies by saying she was “homesick”. People usually seemed content and perhaps relived with that abbreviated response, especially
Wilhelmine Brychcy, nee Meurer with daughter Renate arriving in Australia
my friends who just wanted to get on with eating the cakes foisted on them. When Christmas gifts arrived from my mother’s family in Germany they always contained a big brightly-coloured Advent calendar that glistened with sparkles. The Father Christmases were always much more jolly and traditional looking in the snow covered scenes than any of the cards I had seen in Australia. When my father’s family in Poland were only able to afford to send a card, although bigger than the average card, they were never happy and colourful, but subdued and respectful. The card always contained a large wafer-type host. My school life and the friends I had, seemed to offer a normality that my home life did not. I wondered if it was possible to fit in anywhere properly and questioned what normal meant. Normal at that time seemed to be about being Australian and not wearing funny clothes or eating different foods. White bread was normal. Pumpernickel was not. My sandwiches were always Pumpernickel and although my friends thought I was lucky to be having “cake” for lunch, eating different foods and intriguing my friends was not something I wanted to do.
STELLA MICHAEL Before they left the village, a prickle of hedgehogs killed my grandmotherâ€™s geese. I had only ever known her through white granite etched with gold letters, and through the stories and memories of others.
A Biography of Stella Loupeti by her granddaughter, Stella Michael Before they left the village, a prickle of hedgehogs killed my grandmother’s geese. I had only ever known her through white granite etched with gold letters, and through the stories and memories of others. Stella and Panos, in their early 30s, with their daughters, Maria, 4, Helen, 2, left Greece for a new life in Australia. From Agios Petros, Lefkada to Piraeus, Athens, it took them 8 hours on the road. To get to Australia by ship – through the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean, stopping in Fremantle before finally reaching Port Melbourne – it took 1 month at sea. They left on the S.S Patris in August 1963. After WWII, Greece couldn’t provide for them and Australia needed migrants. Panos felt betrayed by his country and Stella did not want to leave her home, or her mother. She always said that even though they were poor in the village, they were happy. At the Port of Piraeus, Maria was collecting scraps of paper on the ground. A man observing her told Stella “your daughter will grow up to be a teacher.” During their ship journey, Maria somehow climbed on the rails and almost fell overboard, a fellow passenger managed to catch her. She has no recollection of this but, as an older child, would often wake up in the middle of the night fearing a pitch-black ocean. Stella never forgot it; she felt as though she had been exiled to the other side of the world and almost lost her child in the process. The only memory Maria has is an image of lots of young men and women running around, dancing, being happy and throwing spaghetti at each other. Some were dressed as Poseidon, God of the sea. What she remembers is the line-crossing ceremony, passengers celebrating making it over the equator. When they got to Port Melbourne it was land, car horns, lots of people, streamers and finally, their arrival.
The first time I went to my grandmother’s village, I walked the steep, narrow road, a ghost child of my namesake. I was 7-years-old and had a tendency to answer ‘ναι’ (‘yes’) to everything I didn’t understand in Greek. We were walking down the mountain path, my cousins and I, when a frail elderly woman (retrospectively, my grandmother’s aunt, Rono), wearing a black headscarf and black dress, stopped me. I have a memory of what she said, like a whispering vision, grabbing and hunching over me. «Στέλλα, που ήσουν;» “Stella, where have you been?” «Στέλλα, μου έλειψες.» “Stella, I’ve missed you.” «Στέλλα, που πήγες;» “Stella, where did you go?” «Στέλλα…» “Stella…” I was confused about how she knew my name and why she kept saying it. Later, I discovered I was not who she was referring to. The news blew in the thick summer heat; the ghost of Stella Loupeti roamed Agios Petros. When they first came to Australia, they stayed with Panos’ brother, along with two other families that had just migrated. They lived in a room in his East Brunswick house for the first few months of their arrival. Stella began work at a shoe factory; Panos worked during the day at the factory and nights at Repco. They wanted to buy a house of their own. Not trusting her sister-in-law to look after them, Stella locked Maria and Helen in their room, so they wouldn’t wonder off …... The Australian neighbours did not take to these new residents. Some of their children would knock on the girl’s bedroom window in the middle of the night, sometimes yelling profanities. When a rock was thrown and glass smashed, Panos put up bars on all the windows. Every night Stella would tell stories of the vil70
lage to her daughters. She told them about the time when she was young and a scorpion bit her. Her mother caught the scorpion which she crushed and boiled . She then gave the tonic to Stella and the other children. This is what the women of the island did, to prevent their children from getting sick or dying from the scorpion’s sting. It was said to build their immunity and to have lasted for life. Education was not for the girls of the village; their duties were in the home and in the fields. Panos got to complete primary school but started work at 7-years-old in the village oil mill. Stella only got to grade 3.
Stella and Panos on their wedding day
When Maria began primary school at Brunswick East, the teachers locked her, along with other migrant children, in a classroom until they learnt to speak English. They changed her name to ‘Marie’ and Helen’s to ‘Ellen’. “That’s your new Australian name,” they told them. They lived a double life, Greeks at home and new Australians at school. One night at Greek school the teacher sent Maria, 10, home for not bringing in a Mother’s Day card. The walk from Drummond Street to Park Street is twenty minutes. Stella was in the kitchen when Maria knocked on the door. She was shocked to see her on her own. They didn’t go inside; instead Stella took her hand and marched her back. She walked into the classroom and slapped the teacher across the face. He was stunned.
Family and friends who came to say goodbye to Stella and Panos when they were leaving for Australia
«Τι να την κάνω την κάρτα αν πάθαινε κάτι το παιδί μου;» “What am I going to do with a card if something happens to my child?” Stella waited outside the classroom until the lesson finished. For Stella, education was a priority for her daughters. Stella with her daughters, Helen and Maria 71
Passport Photos of Panos, Stella and their two daughters Stella would often volunteer Maria as the translator of the neighbourhood. This meant reading people’s letters, bills, going with them to the doctors. Stella sent Maria, then 13, with her friend, Nicky, to the hospital. Nicky was 3-months pregnant and had contracted German measles. It was up to Maria to convey to her that if she did not abort the child it could be born with deformities. Nicky was hysterical. In 1974, Panos and Stella’s brother took her to hospital for a mastectomy. When Stella came home, Maria caught her weeping in her room. They never mentioned the word ‘cancer’; they only understood that there was a lump that had to be removed. In 1983, Stella was diagnosed with secondary cancer. That was when Maria realised that the tumour was malignant. The second time I went back to the village was when my grandfather died. I was 19-years-old and on a mission to find a piece of him wherever I went: in the people that looked and sounded like him – in the first home of my mum’s, a pile of stones – in the church where he and my grandmother married, baptized their daughters and had his memorial – in the olive groves – in the cemetery where my great-grandparents are buried… I was longing for ghosts and desperate to hold onto them.
We visited my grandmother’s sister, Eleni, in her home. I was sitting amongst my cousins, my aunt and my mum, tuning out of the conversation, when I caught her staring at me. I smiled shyly and she smiled back, but her gaze was inexorable. Suddenly, everyone went quiet, confused by her lack of presence in the conversation, after all, we had come specifically to visit her. «Για δες αυτή,» “Look at her,” she said to us, «κοιτά πως μου χαμογελάει, πως με καρφώνει με το βλέμμα της αδερφέις μου.» “look how she smiles at me, staring back at me with my sister’s eyes.” I shuffled embarrassedly in my seat as everybody turned to examine me. The night she died, Stella told Maria that she had been a good and caring daughter. Stella was 53-years-old and the first in the neighbourhood to not only die, but to die of breast cancer. Both my cousin and I are named after her, the first daughters of Maria and Helen. Maria did become a teacher, for 6 years, until changing career paths. If you look her name up on the Internet, you’ll find the first Greek-born woman to enter the Australian Federal Parliament. But always and above all, she is Stella’s daughter and my mum. 72
CONCETTA NIKOLOVSKI For one hour each morning, upon rising, and one hour in the evening, before laying down to sleep, I recite the Rosary and daily prayers like I used to do together with my dearly loved husband Nicola, who passed away on the 23rd of June 1996. “Mi Rilascio quando faccio le preghiere” … Praying helps me to relax.
Amedeo Silverii Amedeo Silverii is my paternal uncle. The eldest son of 8 children, he was born in Arielli, Italy on the 28th October 1913. In 1941, Amedeo with his wife, Marietta, and their 2-year-old son, Cesare, left their hometown of Arielli to work in Popoli, where Amedeo was put in charge of a waterfall that served to generate electricity. Soon after taking this job, he was called to serve Italy as a soldier in WWII. Determined to keep the job in the family, Amedeo arranged for his brother Filippo (my father) to take his place. He also asked his sister Clorinda (unmarried at the time) to move to Popoli, to keep Marietta and Cesare company. While serving in the war, he was captured along with other soldiers and sent to Libya as prisoner of war (POW). Not long after, Filippo was also called-up to serve. They had to abandon the idea of keeping the job in the family, and this also forced Marietta, Cesare, and Clorinda to return to Arielli. Filippo was also captured and served as a POW in England. As POWs, Amedeo and Filippo continued to writing to each other and this kept up their spirit. Amedeo was then moved from Libya to Egypt, from there to Ceylon and onto Bangalore in India, and then, finally, in 1943, he was put on an American Ship called “The Washington” and brought to Australia. He claims he was treated well as a POW, however, being away from his home and family, and knowing the detriments that war presented, I asked him what it was like? He didn’t elaborate but said he felt male (bad) . During his term as POW, Amedeo drew divine comfort by having with him a Holy picture of Archangel Michele. One day he asked a fellow POW to copy the image of the Archangel
Amedeo Silverii Disembarkation Pass
Michele onto a piece of cloth, which he then embroidered by pulling out threads from pieces of damaged clothing that were being thrown out. With those threads he was able to stitch over the pattern. Prior to being commissioned as a caretaker of the waterfall in Popoli, Amedeo worked as market gardener and specialised in grafting trees and grapevines. As a POW in Australia however, they put him to work on a dairy farm in Swan Hill. It was not a successful placement as he had no skills in dairy farming, and he asked to be moved to another location with more suitable work. As a result, he was moved to Wood Wood (North of Swan Hill) where he worked as a market gardener. At Wood Wood, weekends meant some free time. On Sundays, the local priest would pick him up and take him to Sunday Mass in Piangil. One Sunday, an Italian couple, Ralph and Lucy Amitrano, had their son christened, and afterwards, Amedeo along with the priest, were invited to the Amitrano’s home for the Christening party. A friendship formed, and Ralph and Lucy Amitrano offered Amedeo weekend work on their farm. At the end of WWII, before leaving Australia to be repatriated to Italy, Amedeo gifted the embroidery of the Archangel Michele to the Amitrano family. 74
On returning to Italy, the financial reward Amedeo received for seven years of service as POW during WWII was L 20.000 Lire (ventimilalire). To put it into perspective, a bicycle that Amedeo bought at the time cost L 30.000 Lire. Sponsored by Ralph Amitrano, on the 29th of August 1949, Amedeo, leaving behind Marietta and Cesare for the second time, embarked on the ‘Ugolino Vivaldi’, and returned to Australia as a regular migrant, but classified as an ‘enemy alien’. Upon arriving at Port Melbourne, Amedeo was met by Ralph, and together they took the train to Swan Hill. When they stopped over in Bendigo, he was offered a meat pie for lunch but refused it, Australian meat pies did not appeal to him. They resumed their journey to Swan Hill, by road and on to Piangil to join the Amitrano’s household.
Amedeo at 102 years old harvesting garlic
The decision to apply to return to Australia afforded Amedeo good experiences at home. The Mayor of Arielli and the local Priest, Don Peppino, placed him on a list of people from the town declared to be of good conduct, thus vouching that he wasn’t a communist, and satisfying immigration law requirements at the time. As a regular migrant, Amedeo was now able to sponsor family members who wished to migrate to Australia (he sponsored 13 in all). First priority was Marietta, Cesare and Filippo. The three of them traveled together on the ‘Toscana’, arriving at Port Melbourne on the first day of spring, the 21st of September 1950. In 1951, Amedeo sponsored his sister Clorinda Silverii Stoppa and her husband Nicola Stoppa. It was conditional that those who migrated did so to work and make money to send back home to support their families. However, sometimes, as each became settled in their new homes, they began developing a new life focusing on themselves and their own family in Australia.
The Archangel Michele Embroidery Prior to Amedeo’s 100th birthday, in 2015, the embroidery was returned to him by Ralph Armitrano (son of the late Ralph Snr) with the notion that it should carry on as a Silverii family heirloom. That’s how I heard the story of the Archangel Michele that my uncle Amedeo hand embroidered as POW. Amedeo Silverii died in August 2016. Concetta Silverii Nikolovski – Paternal Niece (daughter of Filippo Silverii and Lucia Damiano Silverii) 2015 75
Concetta Nikolovski in conversation with her zia (aunt) Clorinda Silverii Stoppa Clorinda Silverii was born on the 18th July 1922, in Arielli, Italy. On Saturday the 18th of August 1951 she left for Australia with her husband, Nicola Stoppa, six years after WWII ended. She tells me: In 1951, Il paese tutto distrutto, the town was totally destroyed, bombed by the Germans and the English. There was no money ... no work ... my husband was suffering from war injuries â€Ś migrating was our only opportunity for survival. Sponsored to come to Australia by her brother, Amedeo Silverii, Clorinda and Nicola left with one suitcase between them and a spare set of clothes. At the Port of Naples they boarded the Oceania (one of the Lloyd- Triestino ships that brought thousands of migrants to Australia) to start the 32 day long voyage to their destination: Port Melbourne.
Certificate of registration in Australia, 1961
We left behind both sets of parents and all of our siblings, with the exception of my 2 older brothers, Amedeo and Filippo, who were already in Australia. They both welcomed us at Port Melbourne, and took us directly to their families in Piangil. During the trip I suffered from seasickness, every day for 32 days. I could not keep food down; I was confined to my room, and lost a lot of weight. In Piangil, my sister-in-law Marietta was concerned about my state of health and immediately got me back to good health with a zabaglione tonic consisting of egg yolks, sugar and marsala, followed by good wholesome Italian food. This is the memory I have. I am the fourth child out of a family of eight. Today, Only three of us remain: Amedeo (who
Clorindaâ€™s prayer book and rosary beads, 2015 courtesy of Concetta Nikolovski 76
celebrated his 102nd birthday on the 28th of October 2015), our younger sister Filomena (still in Italy) and myself. My brother, Filippo, sadly passed away at the young age of 55, on the 30th of January 1976; had he lived he would be now 95. I am devoted to my Catholic faith and God. My daily ritual is to read my prayer books, my favorite being, Massime Eterne. I still have the Italian Rosary beads - a gift from the Sacerdote/Maestro - parish priest/school teacher, Don Peppino, who, as he farewelled us for our voyage, he wished us: “Buon Viaggio...Auguri e non dimenticate il Rosario” (Safe Travels ... Congratulations and don’t forget to pray the Rosary). He then handed us a set of blue Rosary beads. For one hour each morning, upon rising, and one hour in the evening, before laying down to sleep, I recite the Rosary and daily prayers like I used to do together with my dearly loved husband Nicola, who passed away on the 23rd of June 1996. “Mi Rilascio quando faccio le preghiere” … Praying helps me to relax. I still live independently in the last house my husband and I bought in Box Hill. I have access to some community services such as home help on a fortnightly basis, which allows me to continue living in my own home, and gives me time to potter around my veggie and flower gardens, cook my meals, bake biscuits as well as do a little sewing and play the occasional game of Solitaire. There is never a dull moment. The Church is like a second home to me; it forms part of my family and is my central support system. I stay actively involved with two church prayer groups, and participate in social events and outings. We lunch, travel and pray together. I also stay actively connected with a range of family members and friends within my neighborhood and my community.
My only son lives nearby and always encourages me to live as my heart and soul desire. He and his partner are always there for me and include me in special family celebrations and religious events such as Easter and Christmas. When the occasions arise, my many scattered nephews and nieces include me in weddings, and other significant family gatherings and outings. I keep a calendar handy and update it as soon as an event is apparent. Many of my life passages have not been smooth sailing, but there are the good times; that’s life. I have been blessed by the Goodness and Grace of God. My over-all health is good. I attend regular medical checks, and at 93, I continue to look forward to more years to come. We had very few photos. When my brother Filippo went to war, he wrote and asked that a photo of our parents be sent to him. The photo in this collage was the very first one that our parents had taken together. We left our families and the quaint country town of Arielli where the lifestyle was among vegetable gardens, vineyards, olive groves and wheat farming, and were welcomed by family to Australian country, a lifestyle of citrus orchards, vineyards and vegetables. Piangil was our first home in Australia, where we eventually, jointly, owned a farm with my brothers. “Rural life there … rural life here” No difference. Some years later, after we had paid our debts, we sold the farm and with the money we bought our own home and land in Woorinen South. This enabled my husband and I to start sponsoring relatives from the Stoppa side of the family who also wished to emigrate. We first sponsored one nephew, and then another, and then my brother and sister-in-law.
The very first photograph that our parents had taken together circa 1940s
Clorinda at home, 2015
What did we bring with us? Farming skills, a suitcase, debts… that’s all. I left school when I was 12, going onto 13, to work on our parents land, planting and harvesting wheat, olives and vegetables.
Coffee…tea…carnation milk…chicken noodle soup…tea-towels… money...etc... and left the suitcase behind.
I no longer have the Italian suitcase. When we returned to visit our family years later we filled our suitcase with gifts for them. I check with Zia Clorinda what sort of gifts she took them, as I remember helping my mother pack parcels which she would post to her family:
Now that I no longer travel to Italy, I chat on the phone with my remaining younger sister, Filomena and look forward to visits to my brother Amedeo and his family, in country Victoria.
Concetta Nikolovski 2015
CON PAGONIS The family name “Pagonis” was in fact a nickname for my great-grandfather, Nicola Mihailas. He was a very proud man who whistled badly as he made his way to work in the fields and was dubbed “the Pagoni”, which means the peacock. Within a generation it became the formal family name!
The Story of Nick Pagonis By Con Pagonis (his son) My father, Nicholas Pagonis, was born in 1923 to Paraskeva and Lefki and lived his childhood in the village of Arathipou, near the Cypriot port city of Larnaca. The family name “Pagonis” was in fact a nickname for my great-grandfather, Nicola Mihailas. He was a very proud man who whistled badly as he made his way to work in the fields and was dubbed “the Pagoni”, which means the peacock. Within a generation it became the formal family name! When my father Nick was three years old, my grandfather Paraskeva immigrated to Australia seeking a better life for his family. He travelled alone planning to quickly earn enough to bring his family to join him Australia - wife Lefki and two sons Nick and younger brother Varnavas. The unanticipated Great Depression impacted dramatically on family plans and it was another nine years before they were reunited. National Archives of Australia records show Mrs Lefki Pagonis and two children arrived in Melbourne on the vessel “Viminale” in April 1936. They disembarked at what we now call Docklands, at Victoria Dock. The hardships endured by the family during these formative years had a life-long influence on my father’s values and philosophy of life, particularly his deep sense of social justice.
Con’s father Nick Pagonis’s RAAF photo; he served in the RAAF from August 1942 to April 1946.
Following the family reunion in Melbourne, brothers Jim and George arrived in quick succession as the family consolidated their new life in Carlton. Nick overcame the challenges of arriving in Australia with no English language ability commencing his Australian education at the former Faraday Street Primary School, located on the corner of Swanston Street. He continued his secondary schooling with energy and purpose at Collingwood Technical School. 80
Through their adolescence in the 1940s, the young Nick and Varnavas helped in their parents’ family businesses - first the Cyprus Cafe in Lygon Street which was later compulsorily acquired for the South Carlton Post Office; and then at the Limassol Cafe in Russell St, a few doors up from the Hellenic Community Centre in Melbourne’s CBD (now the “Little Lamb” Chinese restaurant). These were the first Cypriot Cafes in Melbourne. Many newly arriving Cypriots, of both Greek and Turkish heritage, stepping off the migrant ships at Princes and Station Piers back then will have memories of staying upstairs at “The Limassol” until they could find their own places to stay. For many in the early days of the Cypriot community in Melbourne the Limassol Café was their community social hub. At eighteen years of age, and following the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1942, my father joined the Royal Australian Air Force and was stationed at various bases around eastern Australia. His first overseas posting into the Pacific theatre in 1945 was cancelled abruptly with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In the RAAF, and through further study at the RMIT (which he continued in later life) he set out on what was to become his professional career in aviation electronics.
Left: My maternal grandfather – Kostas (Con) Diakakis - for whom I was named. This photograph was taken sometime after his arrival in Australia in 1924. Right: My maternal grandmother Argyro Diakakis nee Samara, sometime after arrival in Australia in 1924.
After WWII and an interlude working on the construction of the Kiewa Valley Hydro Electric Scheme, Nick resumed his aviation industry career working over 35 years with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) at Fisherman’s Bend by the Yarra River in Port Melbourne. In 1950, Nick married my mother Helen Diakakis. They lived for about four years in South Melbourne before moving to Chadstone where they raised their three children, myself Con and daughters Leigh and Catherine. My maternal grandparents had been displaced from what is now Turkey in the aftermath of the First World
My paternal grandparents and Nick’s parents Paraskevas (Peter) and Lefkothea (Lefki) Pagonis in Cyprus - circa 1922. 81
War along with over a million others of Greek heritage whose families had been living in Asia Minor over the preceding centuries. My maternal grandfather Kostas, for whom I was named, and grandmother Argyro resettled in South Melbourne in the late 1920s with a good number of others displaced from the township of Alatsata, in the province of Smyrna (now Izmir). My Australian-born mother Helen grew up in this Greek-Australian community in South Melbourne. I was born at the then Avonhurst Hospital in Queens Road opposite Albert Park Lake; and spent my first two years living in my grandmother’s house on the corner of Cobden and Kings Streets (now Kings Way). The family followed the typical pattern of moving out to the suburbs, in our case to Chadstone, just a street away from where the first “shopping mall” in the southern hemisphere would be built ten years later. I can still remember the Chadstone Shopping Centre site when it was just a large cattle pasture. Through the 1950s at CAC, my father Nick’s social justice values came to the fore. He became active in industrial politics and was elected the Electrical Trades Union “Shop Steward” in 1952; and later the Secretary of the Inter Union Area Committee representing the whole CAC workforce. He was also active in the Communist Party of Australia up until 1968 when increasing disillusionment with the Soviet Union’s oppression of Eastern European countries (particularly the invasion of Czechoslovakia) resulted in him stepping back from political activism.
Wood-carved bread stamp This came to Australia with my father’s family in 1936. Back in their Cypriot village – Aradipou – everyone used a communal oven and stamped their bread so they could claim it back after baking.
In 1956, Nick led a delegation of workers’ representatives to a Canberra meeting with Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Opposition Leader Dr Evatt and other prominent parliamentarians. The meeting was facilitated by MP for Melbourne Ports, Frank Crean, who was later instrumental in establishing the South Central Region Migrant Resource Centre, now known as New Hope. 82
Australian Naturalisation Certificates for Con Pagonis’s maternal grandparents Constantine and Argyro Diakakis - January 1938.
This was the Prime Minister’s first Parliament House meeting with a delegation of industrial workers. The delegation successfully advocated on behalf of Australia’s aviation workforce against the pressures of foreign imports on the domestic industry. This drew significant public attention at the time, including a front page headline in the Melbourne Age newspaper. Following this meeting the Australian Government extended the production run of the Avon Sabre aircraft fighter by 20 aircraft, tiding the domestic aviation industry over until they subsequently announced that the next military aircraft to be constructed at CAC would be the French-designed Mirage III. Nick continued post-secondary computer electronics studies at RMIT and was promoted to the position of CAC’s Electrical Superintendent. CAC sent him on a study trip to Boston to learn more about aviation electronics at MIT, and on to the Olivetti headquarters in Milan.
In retirement Nick took on volunteering work with the Australian Greek Society for Care of the Elderly (now Fronditha Care Inc.); he was a Board member from 1989–1994. In 1997 he was awarded a Life Governorship by Fronditha for his ongoing support and tireless commitment. His daughter Leigh (named for our grandmother Lefki), was an active Fronditha Board member from 1978 to 1990. Nick’s wife Helen was a long-term Fronditha volunteer and active fund-raiser. Both are also Life Governors of Fronditha. Nick Pagonis died from cancer in May of 2007. From humble beginnings in the Cypriot village of Arathipou, he went on to live a full and rewarding life in Melbourne, always curious to learn more; philosophical and steadfastly optimistic. Our family are all proud to have had him as a father, husband, grandfather and fatherin-law.
JULIE PAGONIS I am Louis and Eleni’s first child, named Kyriaki. I was born at sea on the migrant ship “Junmouriet “ in international waters en route to Australia in 1956. On its return journey, the Junmouriet was caught-up in the Suez Crisis and was sunk in the Suez Canal along with any records of my birth.
The Story of Louis Kyriacou By Julie Pagonis (his daughter) Louis Kyriacou was born on 2 January 1933 in the village of Komi Kerpi just outside of Famagusta in Cyprus. As a youth, he did his apprenticeship with a local tailor in the village, but this was not where he saw his future. At the age of eighteen he decided he wanted to expand his horizons; he was not keen on following his siblings who had all migrated to London. Louis chose to migrate to Australia; he sailed on The Corsica in 1951. He borrowed the money for his fare from his father and arrived in Melbourne with only one pound in his pocket, and half a suitcase of clothes. Like so many other new settlers he arrived with no English language skills. Louis’s early years in Australian were spent doing itinerant manual labour in regional Victoria. He became a “jack-of-all-trades” mainly with the (then) Victorian Country Roads Board; and he learnt to speak English in various workplaces along the way. On return to Melbourne he took-up shift-work employment at IXL, a prominent canned fruit and jam manufacturer. In 1955 he returned to Cyprus to marry my mother, Eleni Georgiou from the Cypriot village of Pano Lefkara. The village is famous for its lace embroidery. It is known that Leonardo de Vinci visited Cyprus and took with him embroidery to the Milan Cathedral for the High Altar. My parents had an arranged marriage, mum had a cousin who was living in Melbourne and dad happened to be boarding with the family. The cousin acted as matchmaker and wrote to my grandparents and an engagement took place here in Melbourne where dad was living and mum in her village, each of them had a photo of each other at their respective party. My grandparents were not happy with dad once he announced his intentions to return to Australia; their expectation was for them to live in the village where they had a very large extended family.
Julie’s parents at Pano Lefkara, Cyprus on their Honeymoon (1955).
Julie’s father in Country Victoria (second on left), 1951.
I am Louis and Eleni’s first child, named Kyriaki. I was born at sea on the migrant ship “Junmouriet “ in international waters en route to Australia in 1956. On its return journey, the Junmouriet was caught-up in the Suez Crisis and was sunk in the Suez Canal along with any records of my birth. This presented some difficulties especially when I applied for an Australian passport to travel London in 1977 to visit the extended family. I was deemed not to be a citizen even though I had arrived here a few days after I was born and had been voting in each Federal election since I was 18! On return I applied to become an Australian citizen. The Junmouriet was Egyptian owned and registered. Had documentation survived, I have been told I would have automatically taken on Egyptian citizenship! The three of us settled in South Melbourne. My mother enrolled me at Dorcas Street Primary School when I turned five. The teacher was unable to pronounce my given name - Kyriaki - and deemed I was to be known as “Julie”. That is the name I became known by outside of our home. My brother George was born three years later. As a youth in Cyprus, Louis had always wanted to be a carpenter, but his father did not support this and pushed him into an apprenticeship as a tailor. He did not pursue a career tailoring in Australia. In Melbourne during the 1960’s Louis started working for a furniture manufacturer called Gainsborough as a cabinet maker learning his trade on the job. He was a union activist and became a shop-steward for the Federated Furnishing Trades Society. He initiated and led a number of successful campaigns including equal pay for women who worked at his factory. This was the first such campaign by a Victorian union. The next major campaign he initiated and led was the fight for a redundancy package when the company decided to reduce the number of its employees. The strike lasted several weeks
and the negotiated package was for payment of three weeks wages for every year of service; employees who had been there for many years walked away with significant settlements. In the mid-1970’s Louis was invited to become an industrial organiser with the Victorian Branch of the Federated Furnishing Trades Society (FFTS) following his successful campaigns in the factory where he worked. Louis was elected State Secretary of the FFTU a few years later. The 1970’s saw Louis significantly increase the membership of the union and, through his hard work and campaigning, he raised the FFTS out of its indebtedness and into the black. There were reforms in the management and administration of the organization which led it to achieve a much higher profile in the broader Australian union movement. More industrial strikes and campaigns led to more improvements for the union members. These were unprecedented and led the way for things such as a 35 hour week at Pilkington Glass where process workers were able to earn up to $800 a week. This was unheard of at that time and was very much above what was the minimum wage of workers in other industries. The 1980’s was the time when Louis decided to focus on the Glass Industry and the employment conditions of those workers who had very little by way of health and safety regulations. There was a push to enhance the award conditions and workers on building sites led the way with the 36 hour week and the same conditions were then applied to those working on the factory floor. Sub-contracting, and the use of cheap labour through this loophole, was finally closed after a long dispute between the employers and the union. Technological change seminars were introduced by the FFTS in anticipation of global industrial change. 86
During this time Louis took on additional responsibilities after being elected by the membership to become the Federal Secretary of the FFTS. At this time the union was in the process of being incorporated into the broader Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). More changes were underway. Louis was determined to ensure all FFTS workers in Australia were covered by the same conditions as those won by the members in Victoria. New awards were made in the Australian Capital Territory and improvements made to the awards in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia. A new campaign was run in the Federal Court to ensure the use of cheap labour through sub-contractors in the carpet industry came to an end. This took a number of years to achieve. The lawyers briefed by Louis were impressed with his strategic thinking which achieved a historic decision to end this practice being handed down by the court. In 1998 Louis decided it was time to retire. He handed over the reins to a younger generation of officials and moved on. From the rented office accommodation and debt when he first became an FFTS official, Louis left the union in a building it owned with state of the art IT fit-out and administrative systems and enviable financial resources.
Engagement ceremony photos from 1955: Louis in Melbourne with a photo of Elleni to his left; and 2, we see Eleni in Pano Lefkara, Cyprus with a photo of Louis to her right. Julie was born at sea in international waters on their (Louisâ€™ second) voyage back to Australia.
Louis and Eleni still enjoy a quiet retirement between their Melbourne home and a holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula. For many years into retirement Louis continued an active interest in woodworking, and still greatly enjoys gardening. Louis made a great contribution to the betterment of the working lives of thousands of union members he represented; and a significant contribution to wider trade union politics. He and my mother have been wonderful parents who worked hard to give their children a good life in Australia.
Plaque presented to Julieâ€™s father, Lou Kyriacou, on his retirement as Victorian Secretary of the Furnishing Trade Union Division of the CFMEU. 87
ROSSELLA PICCIANI Both my mother’s and father’s family were of the land. They grew most of what they needed to survive, including flax. The flax was harvested, processed, spun and then woven into fabric on a loom. The resulting linen would then be used for sheets and pillowcases, as well as other household items essential for a young woman’s glory box.
SENDING KISSES As with most emigrants my parents left everything behind in the hope of a better life. My story is very simple. I was only two and a half when my mother and I arrived in Melbourne on The Roma in 1962, to join my father. He had arrived a year earlier to establish things before we got here. I only have a few memories of my time as a small child that remain vivid in my mind. As a small child I remember my mother Mafalda (Ginetta) Ciccolallo Picciani cried most days, missing the family and friends she had left behind. As very few of our relatives in Italy had telephones back then, my mother had the presence of mind to tape-record messages from us in Australia to send back to our family in Italy. We would send the tapes to them via friends, who were travelling back to our hometown. My mother used to console herself by praying on a daily basis to an elaborately-framed picture of the young Madonna that hung above her bed. An image of the Madonna was a traditional wedding gift in my motherâ€™s village. Young brides placed it above their bed for protection.
Mum, dad and Rossella,1964. Taken in front of the Northcote house
Nonna Teresa & Nonno Giuseppe
From this time, I have vivid memories of our house in Northcote that a kind Italian family rented to us. I would sit in the backyard filling up scraps of paper with little crosses. It kept me entertained for hours.
SYMBOLS I have vivid childhood memories of sitting in the back yard of a house in Northcote, that a kind Italian family had rented to us, while covering sheets of scrap paper with little crosses. It kept me entertained for hours. I drew crosses partly because they were simple to do, but the main reason, I believe, is because it was a symbol that was in my life from the first day I came into the world. I was born in my father’s family home, a blue baby. No doubt there would have been lots of praying going on. The Roman Catholic religion, with a little folk witchcraft mixed in, was a huge part of our lives. I was born in my father’s family home as a blue baby, so there would have been a lot of praying going on. From the day I was born, the Roman Catholic religion, with a little witchcraft mixed in, was a huge part of my life.
The protection sigil, which has been modified, is what I hide in all my art work as my signature. It’s based on Germanic Runes.
Fifty-two years later and not much has changed, although I am now an atheist and my repertoire of symbols has expanded beyond crosses to all manner of symbols. I don’t know if my upbringing is the reason for my fascination with symbols, but whatever the reason, my study of symbols has allowed me to explore the cultures, arts and belief systems throughout history and around the world. My studies have helped me evolve as a person, and as a multi-disciplinary artist. My work uses symbols from science, technology, politics and graphic communications, in addition to those found in religions, mysticism and folklore. I’m fascinated by the way people use symbols to communicate and bring meaning to their lives. The fabric for the silk scarves includes a symbol based upon an old hex mark that was believed to ward off evil. I have adopted this as my ‘monogram’ and it has become a motif emblematic of my Contemporary Art Practice.
Printed silk scarves
FROM FLAX TO LINEN Both my mother’s and father’s family were of the land. They grew most of what they needed to survive, including flax. The flax was harvested, processed, spun and then woven into fabric on a loom. The resulting linen would then be used for sheets and pillowcases, as well as other household items essential for a young woman’s glory box. Each item would be decorated with embroidery and would include the young woman’s monogram. Like most local young women, my mother was a seamstress, a craft she was taught back in Abruzzo. What you see here are a couple of pieces that she embroidered and was able to bring with her. Rossella Picciani arrived in Melbourne on 1962 aboard ‘The Roma’.
DOROTHY POULOPOULOS I asked mum how she felt when she first saw dad at the pier, and she said that she first laid eyes on the biggest bouquet of flowers she had ever seen and thought to herself, “Whichever girl gets those flowers is the luckiest girl alive!” Before long, dad emerged from behind the bouquet and offered her the flowers and a first kiss. Mum said it was “Love at first sight!”
My Mother’s Garden My Mother’s Garden is a poem based on my mother’s life. My mother, originally named Athanasia Mihelis, was born in Lepreon, a country town in Olympia Greece, in late December 1940. She prepared to leave for Australia, on The Queen Frederica, in 1958, to marry my father, Vasili. She needed to have been eighteen or over, and, because she was just short of her eightheenth birthday, her year of birth was changed in her passport to read 17th June 1939, becoming her ‘official’ birth date. Mum was the youngest of 5 children. She always spoke warmly of all her family members and explained that her family had always been a loving one. Nevertheless, she feared spending her whole life on the land as a farmer’s wife, and put word out that she wanted to leave. She did not fail to mention that she had many rich suitors keen to marry her, but that just meant more land and more work and a life lived in the same place throughout. Hence, she put out word that she wanted to travel to another place, and so, family friends and relatives arranged for her to marry my father, who was living in Melbourne at the time. Mum and dad wrote to each other, exchanged photos and mum became a mail bride who met her husband-to-be for the first time at Station Pier in Port Melbourne when The Queen Frederica pulled in, in January 1959. I asked mum how she felt when she first saw dad at the pier, and she said that she first laid eyes on the biggest bouquet of flowers she had ever seen and thought to herself, “Whichever girl gets those flowers is the luckiest girl alive!” Before long, dad emerged from behind the bouquet and offered her the flowers and a first kiss. Mum said it was “Love at first sight!” Mum said it was “Love at first sight!” She often spoke of the giant bouquet of flowers and it became clear over the years that one of my mother’s greatest loves was her garden at 21 Jackson Street, Northcote, where I grew up and where she lived from the early 60s till the end of 2015.
Mum at the age of 16 in the countryside of Olympia, Greece
When I had asked her what had attracted her to the house, she said “the garden.” As children, we found out that 21 Jackson Street had won prizes at the Horticultural Shows in the 1940s and 1950s and was renowned, not only in Northcote, but in the city of Melbourne as having one of the most beautiful gardens created and tended by Frederick Charles Munks, who was known as a very knowledgeable gardener at the time. Frederick had the latin names of all the plants on aluminum plaques on a stake next to each plant so that people could find out what they were called. Frederick’s grandson, Norman Munks, now aged 82, visited 21 Jackson Street about eight years ago, prior to having heart surgery, for sentimental reasons and shared a coffee with his wife Norma, mum and dad, and spoke about the garden. He later sent copies of photos to mum and dad. I spoke to Norman on the 13th December 2016. Norman mentioned that the garden of 21 Jackson Street was open to the public once a year, for a gold coin donation in the 1940s and 1950s, to raise money for The Royal Children’s Hospital. Norman now lives in Rosanna with his wife Norma and one of his four daughters.
My Mother’s Garden She is the soil that carried me into the break of day – part of the garden bed she tended next to the irises, gladiolas and roses from which I sprung after nine months of gestation but now we find ourselves here...in The Bolte Ward of St Vincent’s in Fitzroy, Melbourne. New Year’s Eve, 2015 and my mother is lying down dressed in white, motionless, eyes closed while the fireworks whistle and streak through her hospital window – keen to usher in The New Year breaking but for my brother and I who lie there waiting it is our hearts that are breaking as we each hold onto one of our mother’s hands.
21 Jackson Street 1907
Mum, what did you see and where are you going? As a baby you were born into similar thunderous sounds we listen to tonight – staples of the second world war and again in 1948 during The Greek Civil War between royalists and communists and you knew that out there in the firestorm was the breath of your father whose life you feared for plus your own. 21 Jackson Street October 2016
No wonder you loved nothing more than signs of new life – flowers, young children and butterflies. Sunflowers, jasmine, lavender and dahlias all connected with the scent of mint, parsley, tomatoes, citrus trees, and strawberries you grew and young children often played there and dug as another adult would occasionally try to rein them in. − Nancy, you need a landscape gardener, Christine said. − What for? You asked. − You’ve got gladiolas growing in with the parsley and more flowers growing beside the grapevine. − That’s the best place for them. Anything can grow if it has enough space and sunshine. And once, Sophie said, “Nancy, why do all the butterflies fly towards you?” − They know me. We hang out together. They may think I’m a blossom, you joked, and laughed. And when Tasoula said “Watch the little one, he’s going to get soil on his hands,” − That’s the idea, you explained and you had lots of ideas. Your garden was your canvas, as was your kitchen – places of creation and emotional exchange. The aroma of baking bread, orange Easter biscuits, spanakopita and lasagna along with coffee and a joke with you in the company of a small child seated on a bench – top, often one of the soux chefs, cutting out biscuit shapes were customary or decking out colourful pizza toppings which you pointed out as red, green, brown and white…along with the colours of the flowers or the pegs on the clothesline that you lifted a child up to pick before you got your pacemaker. Teaching came naturally to you.
As a young child in Greek School, you taught me how to read Greek as you tended the roses, tied the tomato stalks or fried some potato chips before the Greek school mini bus flashed its name at our front door, O Sofos Solon 73 Union Street Northcote. You had a way of relaying the essence of a story and making it appealing and I now write poetry in Greek as well as English and teach languages. I remember that you had once said that you would have liked to have been a teacher too or a nurse for young children. In my 20s, my friends were yours too and we called you “Naso” It was a short male version of “Athanasia” or “Thanasso” as Grandma called you although you preferred me to call you “Mum.” “Naso was light,” said our friend Mary who came to your funeral. “It was a happy time with her and there was music and fun and she was straight. And I remembered that time when I was singing that song in Greek that says “I am going to leave you, I’ve told you before” to get you started and you said “okay, but in the meantime, ring up 3XY for me so I can dedicate the song, Ola Thika Sou Matia Mou – They Are All Yours My Precious One, by Yannis Poulopoulos, to you for your birthday today. You never failed to surprise us and I feel guilty now because I did not know that you were going through cardiac failure. “You would have noticed a change in her behaviour because she has not been getting as much oxygen as you or I”, said Desiree, the nurse in The Bolte Wing. I confess that I did not know that you were preparing to leave us and I must confess that when you did not seem to remember something or became a little abrupt, I would move a little further away…just for a little while and found it easier to write a poem about dad’s life and What Happened at The Pier than yours because of the last couple of years. And when you asked, “Don’t I have a Poem?” because you knew my original intention had been to write about you, I felt guilty again as children often do and now I just want to say that “Yes, you do”. And if you hadn’t taught me Greek, I would not have any of the 68 poems in Greek that I plan to publish soon in a book. Ola Thika Sou Matia Mou – They Are All Yours My Precious One… and when I see white butterflies that greet me at the door or when I come out of the car, I no longer move a little further away but instead I lean closer in… for a little while and say, “I love you Mum.”
RITA PRICE My father, Salvatore Cilia was born in 1930 in a large city called Ragusa in the province of Ragusa. Itâ€™s famous for having been obliterated by an earthquake in 1693 that also destroyed 40 other neighbouring towns and villages and where the SBS TV series, Inspector Montalbano is filmed.
The cafe at the edge of the bay. Left to right: Antoinietta with Mario, and Salvatore with Rita c. 1960s
Based on a talk on “The Migrant Experience” at St Kilda Library during the Piers Festival, Thursday 22nd January 2015 I was born in Melbourne, Australia but raised by Italian parents. My mother, Antonietta Spada was born in a hilltop village called Sortino in 1935 in Sicily where many people made their living as sheep and subsistence farmers. After World War 2 much of Sicily was poverty-stricken and many people from the village came to Australia in search of work and better lives. My maternal grandmother, Sofia ran a small grocery store in Sortino and my grandfather Salvatore was a trader of agriculture and livestock. Because of the nature of these jobs, my mother said she was lucky as there was always food on the table for her family unlike many of her fellow villagers who had to scratch out a living on their
small, rocky plots of land and share their meagre dwellings with their farm animals to ward off the cold in winter. Many of these emigrants from Sortino flocked to Australia in the 1950s settling in Kooweerup in south east Gippsland where many grew potatoes and asparagus. On her voyage to Australia in 1954 my mother spent about a month aboard a ship called the Oceania accompanied by a married couple who escorted several single women from Sortino. My mother complained to me that she missed out on a lot of fun because her strict escorts wouldn’t allow her or her companions to go dancing at night so she envied the girls who were on their own and whose chastity wasn’t being protected. The ship docked at various exotic ports like Aden and Colombo as well as Perth before arriving in Melbourne on 8th July, 1954. My mother told me that numerous young women had been 98
married by proxy in Italy and that some would meet their husbands for the first time upon docking at Station Pier. Much to their horror, a few of these women came to discover that their husbands were not what they had expected and some, after pursuing shipboard romances with other men, refused to join their eagerly expectant spouses in Melbourne while others promptly returned to Italy. Antonietta had trained to be a seamstress but in Melbourne her first job was in a cigarette factory and then in the laundry at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Such was the need for workers to fill jobs in factories and farms in Australia at that time that many immigrants would show up at a factory with no English or useful skills and get employed the same day. So Antonietta commenced her new life in Melbourne and joined her sister and brother-in-law who were living in Lygon Street Carlton, opposite the General Cemetery. When she left her parents, little did she know that she wouldn’t see them again for the next 20 years, but aerogram letters went back and forth on a weekly basis and occasionally mother and daughter communicated by expensive telephone calls. My father, Salvatore Cilia was born in 1930 in a large city called Ragusa in the province of Ragusa. It’s famous for having been obliterated by an earthquake in 1693 that also destroyed 40 other neighbouring towns and villages and where the SBS TV series, Inspector Montalbano is filmed. My father’s family managed tenant farms in nearby Noto, a small town famous for its beautiful Baroque architecture and later they ran a haberdashery store until they came upon hard times. My father was quite a character and told me that as a teenager he and his eldest brother Giovanni and a friend took it upon themselves to use and destroy the weapons and ammunition that were left behind by Italian soldiers in a bunker in their town. The blasts could be heard
all over the town as the boys waged war and soon they were discovered by their horrified parents. Proudly they justified their actions and explained that they were only trying to protect other people from harming themselves. At one time my father and a business partner from Noto ran a trucking business that took them all over Italy but the lure of Australia was irresistible so he left on the ocean liner, the Castelfelice in 1956 to join his brother Giovanni, a law graduate, in Melbourne. My father worked initially at the Dunlop Tyre factory which used to be in South Melbourne and would fill the air with an acrid smell of burning rubber whenever we drove past it when I was a child. Then for a short time he and his brother ran a cafe in Glenferrie Road Malvern, after which they purchased Princes Pier Cafe in Port Melbourne with my mother whom he met through friends and married in 1957. The cafe was frequented by the local BP and Telstra (formery PMG) workers, passing truck drivers as well as painters and dockers from the nearby piers. My parents had limited English and had not completed high school but successfully ran the business for 21 years with the help of my father’s parents and his younger brother Enrico who arrived in Australia in 1961. My uncle Giovanni, was involved with the business briefly then became a real estate agent. My story, “The Cafe at the Edge of the Bay” published in 1993 in the book, Growing Up Italian In Australia describes the first 15 years of my life living in this cafe opposite Princes Pier in Port Melbourne where the high rise apartments known as Beacon Cove now stand. This was a unique, industrial landscape with Port Phillip Bay at our doorstep and where my brother Mario and I would have many adventures.
HELEN SAID 26th July 1956, at ten past ten, Nasser made the shock announcement that the Suez Canal was being nationalised as he spoke. I could hear his voice and the thunderous cheers of the masses of Egyptians on air as the BBC reported on the nightâ€™s momentous events. This was it â€“ this was the apocalypse for the Europeans of Egypt. From middle class affluence, we were about to descend into a nightmare of dislocation and loss in the face of senseless war and political upheaval. - George Said
In the sultry coastal city of Alexandria, a thick bare grape vine trunk snaked its way up to the third floor of No. 4 El Birawi Street, Sidi Gaber. Soaked in humidity and waving in the gentle sea breeze, its tendrils fanned out and clambered across the pergola, blanketing the rooftop by the kitchenette and adjoining rooms with thick green leaves and dangling bunches of lush grapes above the modest outdoor dining table. It had been ten years since my late grandfather and I had overseen the construction of the top floor of this building, the apartment block which my father had built, my earliest family home. The rooftop laundry and adjoining rooms now served as a family holiday retreat. Far from the arid desert heat of inland Cairo, the beach resort apartment, with its shady pergola, was a little piece of Mediterranean heaven. The fresh smell of the sea, the Greek cafés and fabulous beaches brought Europeans and wealthy Egyptians to Alexandria in droves every summer. It hadn’t occurred to me that 26th July 1956 was the fourth anniversary of the abdication of King Farouk. I knew that Egypt was edging towards a final showdown with its tenacious colonial rulers. But on that night, I could never have guessed that, just a few kilometres away, untold thousands of militant Egyptians were gathering to listen to President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s address from the balcony of the Bourse, the Alexandria stock exchange. At ten past ten, Nasser made the shock announcement that the Suez Canal was being nationalised as he spoke. I could hear his voice and the thunderous cheers of the masses of Egyptians on air as the BBC reported on the night’s momentous events. This was it – this was the apocalypse for the Europeans of Egypt. From middle class affluence, we were about to descend into a nightmare of dislocation and loss in the face of senseless war and political upheaval. Our fragile security in Egypt had finally been exposed for the sham it always was. As President Nasser heeded the cries of his hungry people, and Maroula tended to our crying baby, I was consumed by a wave of panic and nausea….
Baby Tassie Said sitting on the roof top dining table at No. 4 El Birawi Street, Sidi Gaber, Alexandria. Her grandparents owned this apartment block during the heyday of British colonial rule.
Maroula Said with her daughters, Tassie (left) and Helen, and her mother, Mrs Ivy Ginnis, at home in Kingsbury London, 1959. 101
George Said, his father Constantine and older brother as newly arrived refugees in Bayswater, England, December 1956.
On November 5th 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt and quickly took over the Suez Canal Zone….. As British Subjects, we were placed under house arrest. Within a few days, we received a knock on the door that we will never forget. An army officer and two soldiers entered our apartment with an official paper written in Arabic. We were being given ten days to leave the country. To prevent British Citizens taking wealth out of the country, all we were allowed to take with us, to start our lives in England, was five Egyptian pounds, our wedding rings, a suitcase full of clothes each and the clothes on our backs… At 8 o’clock on the night of 1st December 1956, we stepped into the foreboding freezing blackness of our new country…. Stiffening my body against my uncontrollably knocking knees and chattering teeth, I prayed that this strange shivery fever I was coming down with was only the result of a temporary viral infection and would not be life threatening. I was certainly in the advanced stages of this English knee knock-
ing disease when I slid in between the icy clammy bed sheets that night. I had no idea where this would all end, perhaps in hospital the next day or possibly even in death. “Come hell or high water,” I vowed out loud to Maroula through my chattering teeth in the darkness, “I’m getting out of here. I’m going to Australia!” But the Suez Canal, the migrant shipping route to Australia, was still blocked as a result of the war we had just fled from. Going to Australia remained just as unrealistic as it had ever been….. I made the approach to Australia House in late 1960 when Maroula’s objections to migrating finally petered out. I busied myself with the mountain of paperwork required by the Australian immigration authorities. Although there were a lot of questions about our background, it all seemed very straightforward to me, having grown up in a multicultural family. Not so straightforward according to Australia House! At the time, the Australian Government was openly operating a racist White Australia Policy. 102
My father had been born in Turkey and had an Islamic sounding surname. His ancestry was subjected to very close scrutiny by the Australia House authorities. I was sent an additional set of questions about the paternal line of my family. In Australia’s bid to maintain a white racial genetic pool, I had to prove that five generations of Saids were white by obtaining documentation from the registry at London’s Somerset House tracing them back to Malta. I was left with the sinking feeling that the racial snubbing we were experiencing in London would follow us no matter how far we moved. Always a hearty eater, I announced to the family that we needed to investigate Australian cuisine. Excitedly, we headed into London to sample the fare at an Australian café. I did not find one single non-English meal on the menu and ended up ordering bangers and mash. Finally we received the letter from Australia House that we had all been waiting for. The letter confirmed that we had been approved as migrants to Australia, but said that no travel arrangements had been made because Australia was experiencing a credit squeeze. 1961… I mentally marked off another English winter without word from Australia House. With the conviction that this would be the last big chill we would ever have to live through, we put our house on the market. Early in the new year we received our long-awaited letter: We were to sail from Tilbury, on board the P&O liner SS Orion, which had been a troop carrier during the Second World War. Our departure date was set on the 30th of March 1962, Helen’s fourth birthday. I went to Australia House to pay our subsidised ship fares – ten pounds each for Maroula, her mother Mrs. Ginnis and me, with the children travelling for free. The packing up and farewells began in earnest. We sold and gave away whatever household goods we couldn’t take with us. We were to leave behind my parents; my sister and brother-
in-law who by then had two sons, Maroula’s sister Pitsa, her husband Liam and their brood of children, my Uncle Rocco and his seven children and my Uncle Nicholas and his grown-up family, as well as my unforgettable Aunty Natalina and her latest husband. Australia was a one month’s sea voyage away and we left never knowing if we would see any of our English family again. When I handed in my notice at work, I told my foreman that the reason I was resigning was because I was going to Australia. “Tell me George,” he asked, “do you have a family?” I’d only been working there for five years and the snooty boss had never even spoken to me to find out if I was married and had children! With nothing to lose, I gave the foreman the answer he deserved. “Look it up in the employee records!” On her last day at school, Tassie had to give away all her toys to her class mates as there was no room to take them on board the ship. The only personal possession she took with her to Australia, other than clothing, was a book about kangaroos and koalas that her granny had bought her in preparation for the move. We repeatedly told little Helen, in excited tones to help her understand what was about to happen, “We’re going to Austra-a-a-a-lia! It is very far, far away!” Helen didn’t look excited, she just looked scared and years later we found out why – she thought she was going to have to walk to Australia! “Mass migration” was not the term to describe the crowds that surged onto the SS Orion, the vessel that was to be our home for the next month, that was to chart a course through vast and stormy oceans to the dream of a new life in Australia that each one of us nursed within our hearts. Maroula and I felt almost as numb about leaving England as we had been when we were expelled from Egypt. Dislocation and uncertainty had become the over-riding feature of our young lives. We had married and produced children in the shadow of Egypt’s political upheavals 103
and England’s icy indifference. For the past five and a half years I had struggled to provide for my family in a land where I was always on the defensive; constantly being judged, pre-judged and labelled on the basis of my colour and my birthplace; endlessly having to prove myself that I could speak English, that I could do the work I had been trained to do, that I was worthy of conversation, worthy of friendship, that I was a person like everybody else. Yet there was sadness and uncertainty at closing the door on the only life that we had known these past few years; apprehension at being tossed about on the high seas between countless lands that had had no place for us for generations. Our multicultural, multi-faith family had lived everywhere but belonged nowhere. Always the first to be rounded up or cast out in war or strife, we had become gypsies of the globe, forever unpacking our lives from suitcases and starting over with the zeal and resilience that had been instilled into us over generations. Yet we had never lost heart with humanity. Nothing had ever extinguished the hope that we would one day find a place to put down anchor and call our home. This ship was to be no Titanic – we were lined up on deck and given our drill in the use of life jackets and life boats as soon as we boarded. There were families being taken to huge shared dormitories below deck and others being taken down to the hold of the ship. When it was our turn to be shown our accommodation, we were pleasantly surprised to be led to a top deck cabin – first class accommodation! Maroula, Tassie, Helen and I shared a cabin whilst Mrs. Ginnis shared a nearby cabin with an unaccompanied English lady. We were to spend the next month in cruise style luxury, with silver service restaurant meals and a full program of on-board entertainment including dances, movies, competitions, children’s play equipment and activities and a swimming pool.
Helen Said crossing the equator on her way to Australia in 1962.
We spent our first night getting used to sleeping at sea in our bunks. Even when England was nothing more than an invisible dot beyond the horizon, we had still not escaped the inhospitable chill of Northern Europe. The Bay of Biscay was rough and grey. The ship had been rolling and lurching up and down on the choppy waves all morning. I hung onto the rope barrier that lined the hallway as I unsteadily walked to the men’s bathroom for my morning wash. Everywhere, I could hear a chorus of passengers retching and chundering with sea sickness. Despite the violent rocking of the ship, I felt on top of the world and ravenously hungry. Suitably freshened up and carefully keeping my balance as I climbed downstairs, I made my way to the huge empty dining hall. The table cloths had been wet, which helped steady the plates on the tables. I soon became acquainted with the family in the adjoining cabin. An English man, his Singaporean wife and their young son were headed for Queensland, where they were to be granted a parcel of land on which to grow pineapples. I thought our move to Australia was an adventure, but we were only moving from London to Melbourne, from one big city to another. Here was a real adventure, a couple who had only read about pineapples in a London library, who planned to clear the land and live in a makeshift garage until they established their livelihood and built their home. Their dream inspired me but, having a family of overprotected females, a life like theirs could only ever be a dream. I also met the ship’s radio operator, an 80 year old uniformed officer who, it turned out, was still as sharp as a razor and played a mean game of chess. We often played chess together to while away the time on our month long journey. The children played on indoor climbing equipment, attended sing-alongs and played ring-a-ring-arosies with other little girls for hours on end in the hallway outside our cabin. Maroula and her mother spent their time chatting to the ladies and supervising the children. We constantly
drilled Tassie in her responsibilities as a big sister to Helen, to keep an eye out for her on the deck of the ship, not to let her try and climb the ship’s rails that separated us from the infinite expanse of ocean. Our schedule of meals and organised entertainments filled in the rest of our time. Our spirits lifted over the next few days as the SS Orion charted its course eastwards through the Mediterranean. Basking in the glowing sunshine, we feasted our eyes upon the spectacular deep azure blue of the calm and friendly seas that lapped the shores of our ancestors’ ancient homelands. Just over a week into the voyage we could see Egypt on the horizon. The land mass grew steadily bigger until our ship docked in Port Said. We were not allowed to disembark but locals were allowed to come on board. We were overwhelmed to see Maroula’s brother John and his wife for the first time in years. They had made the trip by train from Cairo to greet us on board the ship. On April 8th 1962 we made the journey through the Suez Canal where I had once worked for the British Armed Forces. I had finally made it onto one of the migrant ships bound for Australia that I used to watch impatiently ten years earlier. I recognised the road in the town of Ismailia where I had often ridden my motor bike. Our journey through the Suez Canal brought back a lot of memories and mixed emotions. The sun continued to beat down strongly as the SS Orion sailed out into the Red Sea. We docked in Aden at ten o’clock on the night of April 12th. It was there that I had my next chance to practise Arabic. The local shops were still open for trade to take advantage of our visit, which lasted several hours. The passengers were allowed to disembark and I headed out to buy an 8 millimetre silent home movie camera. I had already done my research in London and had my heart set on buying a Cannon with a zoom lens. I went to several 105
shops and they mostly demanded 120 English pounds for the movie camera I wanted. But being back amongst Arabic speakers had brought out my haggling spirit and I was not prepared to cough up that much money without a fight. I was sure I could beat the price down. Eventually I went to a shop where a young shop assistant spoke to me in English. He too demanded 120 pounds. I replied in English that I would not pay that much. He lowered the price a bit and I pretended that I would walk away if he did not reduce the price considerably. The shop owner was there, sitting on a cushion, smoking his hookah. The young assistant said to him in Arabic, “This customer is not likely to pay the normal price. I want to drop the price a bit more to sell the camera. What is the lowest price that you will accept for it?” The owner replied “Not less than 35 pounds.” “It’s a deal!” I shot back in Arabic. The stunned owner pleaded, “Take the camera for 35 pounds but please do not tell anyone what you paid for it until the ship leaves the port.” I wasted no time filming our voyage and our family on board the ship. Once out into the open ocean I was keen to capture the breath taking sunsets on film, not realising that I needed special filters to do justice to Mother Nature’s fiery sky show. My photography however helped pass the time until our uneventful stop at Colombo a few days later. By the third week of April, Helen had succumbed to the SS Orion’s regular Rubella epidemic. It was said that the ship had never been rid of this virus and that it spread throughout the passengers on every voyage. Helen spent a few miserable days in special sleeping accommodation. She had to eat in the dining hall at separate times, with other infected children, in a bid to contain the outbreak. Helen can still remember recovering from her illness in our cabin and hearing her older sister with other
The view of the horizon whilst sailing across the Great Australian Bight
girls singing “ring-a-ring-a-rosies” in the hallway. She was crying in her bunk to be allowed to get out of bed and join them. On April 25th we had our first glimpse of the Great South Land of our dreams when we docked at Fremantle. I was asked to join others who were catching buses into Perth but I was too preoccupied with Helen being sick. I declined the offer and stayed on board. After lunch however I decided to go ashore. I left the ship and walked from the docks into the township. Fremantle was scary. There were no people about. It was totally deserted. I saw a large poster that said, “WANTED for MURDER – Reward £400 leading to the arrest of...” There 106
was no traffic whatsoever, not a soul in sight. The shops were shuttered. With their verandas, they appeared like the Wild West. I feared for my family’s safety in Australia. Panicking, I returned to the familiarity of our ship. I spread the story of the Wild West of Western Australia far and wide to the shocked passengers who had remained on board. Later I was told that it was ANZAC Day, a public holiday in Australia. I didn’t know what that meant. I hoped that Melbourne would be lot different! We were crossing the Great Australian Bight, swaying from side to side as the south side of our ship was monotonously slapped by the swell coming from the Antarctic. We sat out on the deck one night watching a British “Carry On” movie. The passengers were hardly less comical than the actors, with our chairs sliding from one side of the deck to the other as we laughed at the film. During the day, I held onto a railing post and, hanging over the side of the ship with my camera, I filmed the horizon tilting from one side to the other as the ship lifted and crashed into the rough sea. When our ship finally entered Port Phillip Bay on April 29th, we passengers impatiently lined the rail high up on the deck of our ship with our eyes trained on dry land as Station Pier, Port Melbourne came into view far below us. We scanned the crowds on the pier for the faces of our long missed loved ones who had already made it to Australia. We immigrants excitedly waved and called out as the hundreds of well wishers on the pier went wild with joy, waving and yelling back up at us. Through my zoom lens I could pick out, from amongst the crowds, my brother, his wife and their whole extended family, as well as Maroula’s sister Irene and her husband Alec waiting to greet us. Alec was holding a baby boy up high, grinning from ear to ear, pointing to him and excitedly calling out to us as our ship docked.
Melbournians cram Station Pier to greet their loved ones from Britain
Alec Vecris holds up his 2 year old son Stephen as he catches sight of the Said family on board the Orion. Maroula Said’s sister, Irene is also pictured, bottom right, smiling. In the exhilaration and commotion as hundreds of British immigrants rushed to embrace their family members, we could not hear Alec’s words but there was no doubting what he was saying to us all: “This is my son! This is my son!”
DESPINA SARIKIZIS The Dodecanese was under occupation by the Germans. As a business man, working in close proximity with the Germans, George was privy to information about the allies in Egypt. He risked his and his familyâ€™s life many times by passing on information he learned about German activities to the locals, which found its way to the allies in headquarters in Egypt. He also hid three English officers in his home until they escaped to Egypt via a submarine.
George Sarikizis Coming to Australia - his Story George Sarikizis chose to come to Australia to find a permanent safe home for his family after they became refugees from their birth home in Asia Minor (now part of Turkey). There was a political unsafe period for Citizens of Greek heritage from 1912-1920. The Turkish government wanted to purge all foreigners from the nation, and the Greeks were forced to flee leaving everything behind. Georgeâ€™s parents chose the Greek island of Kos as their new home simply because it was the closest island to mainland Greece. George was 13 years of age at the time. His family included: his parents Maria and Christos, two older brothers Manoli and Nick, and a younger sister, Evangelia. They began to renew their lives on Kos. His father Christos was an experienced and trained sea captain and his sons also were experienced seamen. Ships from the area carried cargo to places as far as Libya, Egypt, Cyprus and the surrounding Greek islands.
George as a young man
At the age of 16, with his parentsâ€™ permission, George applied for an Italian passport to leave Kos. Kos is part of 12 islands, known as the Dodecanese, which were under Italian rule. He did not succeed the first time. He then successfully re-applied with the support of an influential Italian officer, and stated that he was 2 years older than his actual age, in order to get approved. After family misfortune, George felt he had no future on the island. His father Christos contracted pneumonia and passed away; His older brother Manoli died due to effects of alcoholism. Both their boats were sunk at sea by bad weather. His brother Nick married and stayed on the island. 16 year old George decided to leave everything behind to start a new life on the other side of the world.
George with his wife, children and grandchildren
Georgeâ€™s journey took him to Athens first, then to Rome and from there to the port town of Brandisi to catch a ship for Australia. At this time, Australia was opening its doors to migration. George was at sea for nearly two months before arriving in Melbourne in the 1920â€™s. There were not many Greeks in Australia at this time. He first worked as a kitchen hand, studying hairdressing part-time, until he obtained his diploma. He worked for other hairdressers, and also worked for himself in established Greek clubs. A few years later, with savings of about 700 Pounds, he decided to go back to the island of Kos. There, he set up his own hairdressing business, built a house for his mother and sister, and after three years, again left the island for Canada. He worked for two years as a hairdresser in Canada, before leaving again for New York City in 1933. In New York he lived and worked as a hairdresser together with a friend of his, Nick Manoussis. This was the time of Al Capone, whose henchmen used to extort money from small businesses. George and his partner refused to pay the Mafia. One day, he arrived to open up his business and found his shop empty of everything - including the kitchen sink. After paying the extortion money, the mob reinstated everything.
George with his wife
George did not have a visa to work in New York, but banked his money every Friday afternoon. Unbeknown to him, he was reported to the authorities when he was taking his earnings to the bank. George was punished with three months jail. When he was released, he requested that he remain in New York as he was making a profitable living as a hairdresser. The Court told him that as an Australian citizen he had only three choices: (1) go back to Canada, (2) go back to Melbourne or (3) go back home to his family in Kos. He chose to go back to Kos as his mother was ill. The hairdressing business George started in Kos before leaving for Canada, was carried on by his cousins, and they welcomed him back. 110
George fell in love and married Despina in Kos. He would have left Kos again if it had not been for the outbreak of WW2. They had no choice but to stay. They had six children:- Christos the eldest, Katina, Nicholas, Michael, Maria and the youngest Steven. The Dodecanese was under occupation by the Germans. As a business man, working in close proximity with the Germans, he was privy to information about the allies in Egypt. He risked his and his familyâ€™s life many times by passing on information he learned about German activities to the locals, which found its way to the allies in headquarters in Egypt. He also hid three English officers in his home until they escaped to Egypt via a submarine. At the end of the war, George was congratulated with a certificate that recognised his heroic efforts by the then English General Alexander, formerly in charge of operations in Cairo. In 1953, George decided to leave Kos again and return to Australia. He arrived in Melbourne via Fremantle, Western Australia, aboard the SS Fairsea, in January 1954. He took with him Christos and Katina, his two eldest children. The rest of the family, his wife Despina and their three other children, remained on Kos until October 1954, when they too arrived in Australia for their new life.
Certificate that recognised his heroic efforts by the then English General Alexander, f ormerly in charge of operations in Cairo.
Melbourne was once again home. His eldest son Christos studied to be a hairdresser like his dad, whilst Katina worked in a factory. 12 months later, George had bought his own hairdressing business in City Road, South Melbourne. His son Christos worked with him. This was a successful business supported by local Greeks as well as many other people from different nationalities. With his family reunited and with close friends, Melbourne became his permanent home. George Sarikizis died in Melbourne on 30 June 1990 and is buried in Fawkner Cemetery. 111
ROSE STONE For the first time I relaxed, met people also going to Australia. Some were amazed at my youth and bravery - to travel all alone to such a distant land! But London was quite overwhelming. I decided not to go anywhere alone, and I began to understand my father’s words of warning – don’t trust strange men. Here, I would not even trust strange women.
Two zloty I see myself at four standing in a corner of the room crying. A plump little girl with bright ginger frizzy hair. My mother had taken my little sister to a wedding and I thought she left me behind because she was ashamed of my red hair. I ran away and cried myself to sleep. In my dreams my hair was black and wavy, like the rest of my family. It was the twenties in a small town in Poland. I heard stories of other countries because grandfather was often away. A master tailor, he organised all his trips in secret, not even telling his wife. He would just disappear and turn up in France, America, or Argentina and eventually Australia. Traveling by ship was quite dangerous then, and I remember a story about brave grandfather and a sinking ship en route to America. When my brother, cousin and I visited our grandmother, she seldom let us further than the kitchen, where she gave us a titbit to get rid of us. My mother told me not to annoy her because she suffered from headaches - perhaps not surprising given her frequently disappearing husband!
Rose (at left) with girlfriends Chipa (centre) and Sarah, Poland 1938
My youngest aunt, still single and at home, attracted many suitors - with grandfather in America there were rumours of a substantial dowry. When a suitor visited, my brother, cousin and I would seize our opportunity. With a beating heart I would go in first. Grandmother, aunt, the suitor and the matchmaker all sat around the table with tea and cake. Avoiding grandmother’s eyes I looked straight at the suitor. Grandmother wasn’t happy with me, but she couldn’t do anything but show pride in her grandchild. The suitor shook hands and complimented me. He then put his hand in his pocket and fished out a coin. Once, it was two zloty. He wanted to make a good impression and my aunt was also good looking. I took the money, said thank you and ran out quickly. My brother and cousin followed, then we would depart happy, leaving the poor suitor wondering how much he would have to pay to get his bride!
With boyfriend, Poland 1938 113
A near miss It seemed that the whole town’s population had come to see me off. I was the centre of envy I was leaving poverty behind me and going to the land of plenty. A country called Australia. We imagined life there was close to paradise; plenty of work and oranges cheaper than potatoes. There were stories told, that a tailor there earns more money than a doctor, and when buying a bag of potatoes, the bag is usually filled with oranges, with a few potatoes on top. My father repeated his parting admonition: not to trust strange men. On the train I waved my handkerchief until everyone had disappeared. Tears streamed down my face, strangers gave me consolation, and I cried myself to sleep to awake in Warsaw. All my papers and money were in a pocket sewn on to my underpants. I rushed to the toilet to check they were all there. A train trip to Gdynia, then a small vessel took me to London. For the first time I relaxed, met people also going to Australia. Some were amazed at my youth and bravery - to travel all alone to such a distant land! But London was quite overwhelming. I decided not to go anywhere alone, and I began to understand my father’s words of warning – don’t trust strange men. Here, I would not even trust strange women. At last I embarked on the big ship, the Orama, that was to be my home for four weeks. Though cramped in a cabin with five women, I felt comfortable and safe. I settled down to my new surroundings, enjoying everything. I sunbaked, played games and danced. But most amazing was the food. I had never seen such variety and quantity. Large bowls of oranges and bananas, and I could actually help myself… My first taste of pineapple, the delicious sweet and sour juice … I was sorry that I could not share this with my family. The waiter offered another piece, smiling. I said “thank you” the only English word I had learned.
In the backyard of Rose’s aunt’s house in Carlton, Melbourne 1938 Total strangers became my friends. We were ship’s brothers and sisters, including two men who sat at my table. In Aden, the two men offered to pay my fare ashore, and I stood on deck awaiting the vessel. Excited by the prospect of a night club, I suddenly heard my father’s voice telling me not to trust strange men. But they are not strange men, I said to myself, they are ship brothers. There was no-one to advise me, but my father’s voice got louder. I looked around to see if anyone else had heard. Before I could find other excuses I ran to change my clothes then made some apology to the men. The next morning the men were missing. To my surprise, everyone except me knew that those two men had planned all along to disembark. Why then did they keep it from me? For days and nights after, I had cramps in my stomach every time I thought about it. Did they plan to sell me on the white slave market, or just dump me on the streets? I shall never know. But it sure was a near miss. 114
Lice!!! I didn’t know that having lice was bad, until I started at the Polish school. We lived in poverty and congestion, without sewerage, electricity or running water and bugs were part of our life. The teacher in the Jewish school accepted the dirt and noise, but in the Polish school we Jewish children sat in the back of the room and were treated like second class citizens. Once a month a nurse came to school. We would then be lined up and she would examine us, one by one. I was glad then to be in the back of the line and I would pray to God to send down a curse, hoping she would drop dead before my turn came.
Rose Stone, at that time Raisel Birstein, arrived on the Orama in Melbourne in March 1938
She never touched the Jewish children with her hands. She used two sticks to separate our clothes, in order to see our underwear. We also had to take our shoes and socks off to show our feet. It was when she came to inspect my hair that I became terrified and humiliated. No matter how often my mother washed and combed my hair with kerosene, there were always lice. They obviously liked the thickness and warmth. For a long time I also believed that the colour of my hair was the cause. “Lice!” she would say. And I would be pushed to the side of the guilty to be taken off to the public baths, in disgrace. Actually, I liked going to the baths. Normally we could not afford it. There was plenty of hot water and it was fun under the shower, but as I was sent there in disgrace, the pleasure disappeared.
With paternal cousin Avrumka
JOHN ZIKA I also vividly remember the first impressions of walking into our building in Bonegilla. There was a line of metal army beds down each side of the army hut and a wood heater in the middle. Where the wall met the pitched roof there was a gap of several inches for ventilation. People were distressed; my parents comparing this to the other camps they had been to; I remember a lot of sobbing at night. Very soon blankets were strung up between the beds and men were joining their wom-
The Zika family story told by Memory Keeper John Zika My father married my mother, who was Jewish, in contravention of the Nuremburg racial marriage laws and partly for that reason ended up in a forced labour camp in Germany. He among others commandeered a train as the eastern front was collapsing in 1944 and they got back to Prague as national celebrities. This opened up opportunities for him to work for the restoration of the Czechoslovak Republic in the intelligence services. When the communist party won the largest number of parliamentary delegates in the 1948 elections and the Foreign Affairs minister- a national hero - was defenestrated from the top floor of the ministry, my father realised his days were numbered. Our parents, Miloslav and Heda, left Czechoslovakia in September 1948 as representatives of the Government to attend the first post war Mozart Festival in Salzburg, Austria. The festival was a symbol of the rebirth of a free Europe after the war. Hats and opera glasses were necessary accessories for attending such an event.
My brother Charles and I ages 3 and 6 respectively, were sent off for a holiday on a farm in southern Moravia. From there we were smuggled by the farmerâ€™s son across the border into Austria, handed over to professional people smugglers who got us into the Russian sector of partitioned Vienna to the hotel where our parents were staying as guests of the Soviet authorities. I was comforting my brother who had lost a shoe as we hurriedly crossed the square of St Stephanâ€™s Cathedral in the dead of night (St. Stephenâ€™s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, OP. Wikipedia)
We were then handed over to Caritas sisters, drugged and put onto the trains as Austrian war orphans - our parents were on the same train travelling to Salzburg, which was in the French sector of Austria. As the train crossed the sector border we were reunited with our parents. My father surrendered his diplomatic passport to the French authorities and we were given political asylum. During the winter, I became seriously ill with measles, which held up our movement south to the refugee disembarkation camps in Genoa and Naples. By the time we got to Naples my mother was six months pregnant and neither the Brazilian, Argentinian, Canadian or New Zealand recruitment delegations wanted to be responsible for her undertaking the voyage. The Australians did accept us â€“ the scene of us all standing in line, stark naked in front of a number officials sitting at a table and jabbering away in a strange language, was something that me and my brother played out for years to come. The last scene in this section is the four huddled together with our few cases around our wooden crate on the wharf at Naples while people were rushing past to get onto the huge ship â€“ because we were late in registering, we were on the passenger reserve list as 1 - 4. I can still remember my profound anxiety and then relief when over the microphone all our numbers were called.
Heda and Mila
The Mohammedi was a pilgrim ship that carried Muslims from the subcontinent to the Hajj in Mecca. It had an English captain and officers and Pakistani crew, who thought we were all prisoners being transported to Australia. It was basically a cargo ship with several open decks below where people slept on stretchers with their belongings around them, segregated according to gender. One night in the Red Sea a man rolled off his stretcher and fell to his death at the bottom of the cargo hole – we all watched as his body was taken by naval yacht to Aden. There was a lot of seasickness and people arguing. Food was scarce and bad – I remember having to pick the weevils out of the sugar bowl. Some sympathetic crewmen let it be known that the Captain had sold on the bulk of the foodstuffs provided by the UN; he was arrested and taken off the ship by police in Fremantle, where we got our first look at Australia and Australians. My mother couldn’t get over all the men wearing hats. During the voyage my mother, being pregnant, suffered a lot in the heat and humidity. Somehow, my father was able to get her into a small vacant cabin up on deck, where she could be more comfortable. Another significant event on the journey was buying fresh fruit hauled up the side of the ship in baskets from the small hawkers boats in Colombo. I had never seen bananas before. The fruit was good for my mother too. As I have recounted elsewhere, we arrived in Port Melbourne on my 7th birthday, in the very early morning of the 14th May, 1948. As we looked towards the hazy outline of the pier my father hugged me and said: “This is your birthday present – we are in Australia”.
Family in Blackburn, early 1950s
Life as I remember it in Prague was calm, secure and comfortable. The city had not suffered much aerial bombardment during the war and my memories of air-raid shelters and other aspects of the war were very faint. My parents were city people and as professionals, were relatively well off. We lived on the second floor of a free standing suburban villa with a garden that I remember exploring and enjoying. I particularly remember the small enclosed veranda, or winter garden, where my father had exotic flowers and display tanks with fish and frogs, which I, from time to time, would release from their captivity. I also remember lots of books and the paintings of Van Gogh. The house still stands, in its new life as the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa. For my parents of course, the war had had far more distressing impacts. My mother’s mother and most in her extended family and friends had been transported to concentration camps and were destroyed in Auschwitz. The few survivors were scattered around the world. My father had experienced first-hand in the forced labour camps what cruelty human beings were capable of. He didn’t believe that the Czech communist party would operate within a democratic left alliance and the subsequent Stalinization of the party and the imprisonment of so many of his former colleagues bore that out. So leaving was the only option. There were no welcoming parties on Station Pier in those days. My memory is that we moved straight onto the waiting train and off to Bonegilla through a countryside that looked very different to the one we had left. My father, a keen amateur botanist, always remembered that first confronting acquaintance with the Australian bush, which in time he came to love. I also vividly remember the first impressions of walking into our building in Bonegilla. There was a line of metal army beds down each side of the army hut and a wood heater in the middle. Where the wall met the pitched roof there was a gap of several inches for ventilation. People were distressed; my parents comparing this to the other camps they had
been to; I remember a lot of sobbing at night. Very soon blankets were strung up between the beds and men were joining their women at night – a lot of squeaking metal bedframes! Migration to Australia in those days was built around a two year work contract after arrival. The men were sent to Cooma to work on the Snowy Mountains Hydro or further north to the Murrumbidgee irrigation scheme. The women and children were placed on farms as domestics. My parents set about to do it their way, hitchhiking to Albury and then to Melbourne. Years later every time we travelled along Sydney Road in Fawkner, the story would be told about how my mother, eight months pregnant, stopped a hearse when trying to get a lift up the Hume Highway. My father used his letters of introduction from various religious organizations and refugee agencies and the advantage of a classical European education which enabled him to converse in Latin, to get the parish priest in Box Hill to advertise our family’s need for a home and his for a job. That’s how we came to live in Blackburn and my father to work in the Daniel Harvey foundry making agricultural machinery. The same strategy of hitchhiking, Latin conversation with the parish priest appeal from the pulpit occurred in Albury to get a family to take me in. It worked – I became a member of the Russell family and started at the Catholic primary school in Albury. I spoke no English and the nuns had no idea about how to deal with that – so I just sat at the back of the class and gradually learnt English by a kind of osmosis. Because the all the new arrivals were hermetically sealed away at Bonegilla, I was the only ‘refo’ boy in the whole school, and I copped it every day. It was a very rudimentary process of sink or swim.
In post war Europe the most reliable form of currency was gold and jewellery. This was especially the case for displaced persons (DPs) moving from camp to camp, country to country. I have some memories of instances where the sale of items of my mother’s jewellery was critical. In early 1949 while in the DP camp in Kufstein, I contracted measles and became very debilitated. A pig had been slaughtered in the camp quadrangle and my parents were able to buy fresh meat and sausage to build my strength up for the next stage of our journey to Italy, where DPs were embarking for a new life in countries of the new world. My parents had applied to migrate to Argentina, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand. In the end the Australian authorities in Naples were the only ones to accept us with my mother being six months pregnant. The ship on which we travelled was the Mohammedi, usually a pilgrim ship for Muslims from India making the Hajj to Mecca. The lack of amenities, poor food and searing heat affected my mother very much. I remember my father being able to purchase exotic fruits like bananas as we berthed in Colombo and my mother moving into a berth on deck as we crossed the equator in the Indian Ocean. The jewellery box helped out again! The sewing box is a reminder of how we had to make do with clothes. Patching, altering, darning, stitching are activities I associate with my mother from this time, particularly after a big box full of clothing arrived on St Nicholas Day from our ‘Auntie’ in America. Once altered and adjusted, we were fitted out for winter in the Austrian Alps.
APPENDIX BY PATRIZIA BURLEY
Impressions of an unwilling migrant who discovers herself indelibly connected with a major page of Australian history. 2015-2016 WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PIER #2 - recalling the journey. On the 15th of December, 2015, I accepted an invitation to the opening night of the exhibition: 20152016 WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PIER #2 â€“recalling the journey, on at the Emerald Hill Library & Heritage Centre, 195 Bank Street, South Melbourne. I happen to like opening nights more than parties, so, I went along without expectations or pre-formed views. My motivation was some mild curiosity about the exhibition and to engage over a glass of bubbly with an intelligent audience. What I found most interesting in the exhibition were stories, generously told by people who were kind enough to write about their cultural origin, and the circumstances of how they got to come to Australia and why. When it comes to the history of migration, we know too well that migration like racism will continue to happen, and it has only quite recently been recognized not only as an important part of history, but as a deep cultural contribution to the receiving country. Not only to Australia, but also worldwide. Over 12,000 Syrians have been granted refugee status in Australia and, as the tragedy unfolds, many more will feed the statistics of over 60 million people wandering around the globe as they continue to flee wars and persecution. In the face of these current events one could rightly wonder if the past has taught us anything: people are still leaving their countries of birth and their heritage to look for somewhere else to reside safely. The causes for migrating, regardless of which continent people are leaving behind, may be war, persecution, economic, or elective migration. But are the results all positive or do they cause more widespread unrest? Are the protagonists going to settle down peacefully, wherever they may end up living, or will the rupture from their cultural roots cause them suffering from depression, isolation and a sense of not belonging? These are still open questions, and the exhibition does not set out to provide answers to them. It simply tries to put together as many pieces as possible of the intricate history and cultural heritage of immigrants who came by ship from all over. They are linked, in a close or complicated way, but nonetheless, laid the foundation for recognition and celebrations of the diverse intercultural milieu between people of different cultures and different religious practices that make up the fabric and history of contemporary Australia.
On opening night, one of the participants – ‘Memory Keeper’ John Zika- actually stood up and gave us his own oral account of how his family, who feared extermination by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, was able to flee. This proved to be adventurous and breathtaking, and we were all quite absorbed by the story about a pair of opera glasses, which may seem out of place in the context of migration. The underlying theme of this exhibition is to encourage people to bring objects which have a deep meaning in the individual journey and, as John explained at the launch, his parents had to pretend they were going to the first Mozart concert after WWII, in Vienna when they were actually planning to flee through Hungary, Austria and Switzerland, where they officially became refugees, then finally to Italy, where they were put on the shipping list for resettlement to somewhere else in the world. So these opera glasses and a hat box were part of the “camouflage” which facilitated their escape. We have all accepted and approved of the notion, long since, that the history of the holocaust and other large-scale atrocities needs to be documented and that as many of the survivors as possible ought to tell their painful memories of it. This also works as some strange kind of atonement for the perpetrators, and the reason for all this is usually given as: ‘least we forget’ or ‘so it will never happen again’. The overall assumption and platitude is that people embarked on a long and perilous sea journey to come to Australia to find a better life and, on the main, that has been the case. But this exhibition shows us how much we assume and by the same token how much we miss. Naturally, some of the-story tellers are also holocaust survivors, and like the Zikas, post WWII refugees. While others from the Mediterranean basin, for example, came looking for work they could not find in their own countries. These stories tell of risky escapes, of forced choices and, in spite of whatever success one might have achieved in Australia, the stories talk about loss and remembrance of happier times. Underlining security and success, there surfaces a sense of nostalgia and the inevitable question: “Where would I be now if I had not come here? Where are the other members of my family? Were the ones who remained there, happier, better off than me?” There are some poignant reminders in this exhibition: The urge to express nostalgia creatively, and the women who had to reinvent themselves. One exhibit struck me: a childlike but very effective drawing of the family home that was left behind and a poem next to it. As the Post-WII migrants age, they are irreversibly reaching the age when memory reverts to scenes of childhood, so we can expect memories of arrival to Australia to surface, and also recall what it was like before leaving one’s own country. This is the right time to collect as many of their first-hand stories as possible, before they leave us forever. Immigration is an important part of the history of Australia, a big and generous country, which developed thanks to the immigrants, but where the people who migrated may sometimes seem ungrateful because of the culture shock they experienced on arrival, their lack of English language skills, possible discrimination on the job, all experiences which can lead to comparing the before and the after realities of their lives. 123
The exhibition achieves exactly this: it is a micro historical document testifying to a turning point in Australian history, one that gave this country diversity, a more colorful lifestyle, and both extraordinary manual and intellectual inputs from different ethnic backgrounds. However, I feel this to be only the very tip of a huge iceberg which needs to be further explored, explained and discussed. There is a lot more to migration, forced or otherwise, than meets the eye. So if I may dare to criticise an otherwise impeccable presentation owing to the skills of the indefatigable curator, Lella Cariddi, and of those who assisted her, I would like to see more input by more people willing to share their stories as this is the best way to insure that their piece of the puzzle will become part of our history, and occupy an important chapter in the official history of Australia for future generations to learn and understand what it takes to build a great country. The exhibition leaves one with a sense of wanting more and is by no means boring; in fact I cannot recall another example of so few objects conjuring so many stories. The South Melbourne Library & Heritage Centre is only one of the several venues where objects, artworks and artefacts from memory keepers and artists from different countries are on show across Victoria as part of Multicultural Arts Victoriaâ€™s 2015-2016 What happened at the Pier #2 project. The RECALLING THE JOURNEY exhibition closing event on Saturday 13 February 2016, included a reading and storytelling by Marietta Elliott- Kleerkoper. In 2017, stories from RECALLING THE JOURNEY & other WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PIER exhibitions will be published as an E-Book. Praise to this timely project and praise for Recalling the Journey.
Patrizia Burley, 2016 Patrizia Burley arrived in Melbourne, the Italian bride of a 5th generation Australian in 1969. She is lecturer in Italian Studies, and Techniques of Interpreting and Translating, Author and journalist. Patrizia worked mainly as an academic, interpreter, translator and radio journalist with SBS (in the 90â€™s). Her experience as a migrant was one of loss of identity and a yearning for her roots.