“We are in the best country in the world.”
So says Maudesta Litwinowicz, a Carinity Home Care client who lives in Brisbane.
The 92-year-old, better known as “Maud”, arrived in Australia from the former Yugoslavia 70 years ago last week.
She migrated to Australia after Pula, the city in Yugoslavia in which she lived, came under communist rule following World War II.
“We were occupied by Germany right through the war. The town was bombarded and nearly every home was damaged,” Maud recalls.
“I lost two cousins who were fighting the Germans… young men who will never come home.”
Speaking ahead of International Migrants Day on December 18, Maud says her boat journey from Italy to Australia took five weeks.
“I didn’t know where Australia was because at school they never told us about this part of the world, only Europe and Scandinavia,” Maud says.
“We knew New York and London by name, but they never taught us about these parts.
“I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean coming to Australia… when a message came through Morse alphabet that the communists had let my mother go and she went into a camp in Italy.”
Maud arrived in Port Philip Bay in Melbourne on 9 December 1950 following a five-week journey across the seas, which included a brief stop in a “very hot” Fremantle.
“The ship arrived with the people and we had to wait for the immigration officials to check all the documents and the Australian doctor checked us all,” Maud says.
“I was very young, no mother or father to protect you. It was only me in a strange country and I didn’t even know the language.”
After arriving in Australia, Maud lived in a migrants’ camp in rural Wagga Wagga, where she met her future husband Theodore, a war veteran from Belarus.
They worked for two years on the Snowy River hydroelectricity scheme in the Blue Mountains, as many immigrants of the time did.
Before moving to Brisbane, the couple lived in Melbourne for six years and attended the 1956 Olympic Games.
“I wanted to see Lorraine Crapp – she was a beautiful swimmer – and John Landy running. But my husband bought two tickets for boxing and soccer, so that’s what I saw,” Maud recalls.
Maud says she is “very grateful” to live in Australia.
“We are in the best country in the world. I know communism and I know other regimes. People in Australia don’t know lucky we are,” she says.
“I’ve been through war, three camps in Italy – from north to south – and two camps in Germany.
“God bless Australia. Freedom of speech. Back home you were frightened to talk to your own family. Your own brother could put you away.”
Maud lives in her own home and has received assistance from Carinity Home Care for eight years.
“They are very good to me. They come twice a day to tidy up and make the bed because I can’t bend over. At lunchtime they come to do the cooking for me,” she says.
“I can’t manage without Carinity by my side.”
Contact Carinity Home Care via the website or phone 1300 109 109.