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How and why my grandfather migrated

John Smith

on 19 June 2013

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Transcript of Migration

To get a good job and a good wage you had to be part of the communist party. To become part of the communist party you had to deny your religion. My grandfather refused to do either of these things. That's when my grandfather thought about leaving.
Getting caught
In Wodonga they caught up with some of their friends who were working by the road. Their friends gave them shovels and they worked for the afternoon. They earned 2 pounds each and my grandpa thought he was the richest man alive. That afternoon the police found them, picked them up and took them back to the camp.
My grandpa (Stara Ati) migrated to Australia from Yugoslavia in 1954 because the post WW2 conditions he was living in were horrendous. Yugoslavia was ruled by a communist government, there was political and religious oppression, poor economic conditions, low wages, high unemployment, harsh conditions, you couldn't go to church and work didn't pay enough for food.
The person I am interviewing is my grandpa. He was born on the 22nd of May 1932. He migrated to Australia when he was 22.
Migration By Joel SS
Every day in Bonegilla they would line the people up like cattle in a market and some fancy-looking people would come and point at the people they wanted for their jobs.
My grandpa and his friends didn't like this so they knocked down the fence and ran. The road was flooded up to their waists so they had to walk through the water. On their way to Wodonga a truck driver drove past and offered them a lift. They said no because they didn't understand him and didn't trust anyone. Not far out of Wodonga the same truck driver drove past the other way from Wodonga, saw them still walking and burst out laughing.
Getting a job
Back at the migrant camp the police asked them why they ran away. They told them they didn't like being treated like cattle in a market. They asked what skills my grandpa had and he told them. They then got him a job with the railways in SA.
SA railways
The railways owned lots of houses and grandpa's job was to fix up cracks in the houses and broken fences. His boss (who was Irish) didn't like "new australians". My grandpa said the boss fired 3-4 of them a week for no reason other than he didn't like them.
When my grandpa had saved enough money and bought a block of land his boss said, "You b##### new australians! We fought for this country and I couldn't buy land for 2 years and you got it in a couple of months." Grandpa replied, "We both fought the same the war, right? You were given your boots, trousers, jackets and guns. We had to sneak up and take the enemies boots, trousers, jackets and guns." From then on his boss was quiet. A few months later the company had lost too much money so they decided to fire all single men, and my grandpa was fired.
My grandpa had his far share of ups and downs in life. He fought for survival as a boy and stood up for himself. He must have been pretty brave and courageous to do all the things he did and still be with us today at the age of 81. He married my Grandma (Stara Mama) in the church of Saint Francis of Assisi in SA. He has lived in Australia for 58 years.
Yugoslavia's flag
There was no emigration from Yugoslavia because it was a communist government. There were no passports as they would not allow people out of the country. So my grandfather had to run over the border. You could be shot or put into prison if caught. He and his friends made it into Trieste and claimed political asylum. They were put in a displaced persons camp called San Sabba. He spent 11 months in the camp.
Not enough money for food
Grandfather in San Sabba
After 2 months on the 'Skaugum' they arrived in port Melbourne in 1955. They had to go through customs. When they asked to open my grandpa's suitcase, they laughed as it was nearly empty apart from 2 pairs of underwear. They were taken to Bonegilla (a refugee camp).
Bonegilla 1945
Yugoslavian flag with communist star
Even though my grandpa came to Australia he had wanted to go to Canada because his brother had gone there but Canada wasn't taking in migrants. He applied to come to Australia and was registered under the Australian 'Aliens Act'. He then boarded the 'Skaugum', a french army ship on the way to Indonesia to pick up the french army.
Remembering Bonegilla - Claymation DVD
Reference from 'The Bonegilla Migrant Experience': http://www.bonegilla.org.au/education/remembering/
Difficulties and letting go
The difficulties my grandpa faced when he was leaving was, leaving his family. He had to be so secret that couldn't tell them he was going. He just had to leave! There was no family in Australia so he was on his own with his friends. When he was in Australia some people treated them like insects or bugs, they hated them that much. In a couple of years though, they were accepted by everyone. My grandpa never wants to go back and live in Slovenia. He says it's safer here and he's happier too. Plus, he believes this is the best country in the world. To learn the English language, he would listen to conversations and then practice the words. He found it was hard to learn. My grandfather liked it here as there was work.
Skaugum in port Melbourne
One day on the job at APIA his boss gave him ten shillings and told him to go to the shop and buy some tobacco and a newspaper. He gave the lady the ten shillings and she gave him back the change as well as the ten shillings. He tried to tell her she had counted wrong and she needed to keep the ten shillings but she became upset. My Grandpa had to run out of the shop so people didn't think that he had robbed her.
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