Excerpts of his Autobiography (Part 2)
Greta Refugee Camp - Australia (1950)
From Darwin it took us 7 hours to get to Sydney. In Sydney, there was a rail strike so we had to take a bus. We did not know where we were going, but four hours later we arrived in a place called Greta. Here, there were shortages of everything; we even had to sleep on collapsible beds. I lay down and the whole world was spinning before my eyes.
It was November 1950, the heat was stifling, everything was baked dry and the sky was full of red dust. I found that this refugee camp was called Chocolate City, that it was administered from Queensland, and that I had to go there to work on a 2-year contract. I had already had enough of this Australia!
In the camp, we were required to pay 11 pounds for accommodation, food and linen. We were located in barracks built by the American Army. I had no money and I was told that I could live on credit, but when I got a job I would be expected to pay back the debt.
I went to school to learn English. I could speak German fluently but knew no English. I was seeking employment in the camp. Jadwiga was pregnant with Edward. Luckily, I got a job as a security guard before Edward's birth.
One month after arriving in Australia, I got a letter from my brother Joseph telling me that our mother died in Lichtenfels. He told me that on the morning of her departure for America, mum went to the showers where she slipped and hit her back. She was unconscious for 15 days and then she died.
In 1951, Edward was born. Eddie was born in the Greta refugee camp. He was a big baby and everybody was very happy. During this time, there were 1,500 births amongst the refugees.
I was transferred from the North Group to the Administration Group. I worked shift work as a security guard on the camp gates. Later, when the chief of police (Mr Clark) was transferred, my friend Sikorski got the job and he transferred me to the office. I thought this was the end of my work as a part time security guard, but I was advised that whilst there was no work for me as a security guard, there was a position as patrol officer. I was very pleased because this meant that I would not have to go to Queensland.
Work as a patrol officer was very busy. There was a lot of walking involved. Weekends were particularly busy because there were always arguments and fights. Young men would visit the camps from surrounding areas, seeking out the young women and wives whose husbands were on labour contracts in Queensland. The husbands could only visit their wives once a year.
I had to buy milk to supplement their diet because the camp canteen provided the same food for a child as for an adult. There were Australian cooks in the canteen, the food was not fantastic; mainly, mutton, rabbits, marmalade and honey. Things got markedly better when these cooks were replaced with 'foreigner' cooks. The Australian cooks had not wanted European food in their kitchen.
We lived approximately 30 meters from the Police Station. We had a Police officer as a neighbour, Janek Sajdak, his wife Stasia and daughter Jolanta. One day Tadzio was playing in the backyard. Jadwiga was inside doing something with Edward.
A Czechoslovakian woman lived in our block and young men from outside the camp were visiting her. We think that it was one of them that tried to kidnap Tadzio. Two men took Tadzio, one on each hand, and were dragging him along the footpath; his little legs were barely touching the ground and he was crying.
Thankfully, Stasia our neighbour, was returning from the camp canteen and saw this. She took Tadzio from the men. This was risky for her because there was no one nearby and they were about 300 meters from the barrack. She brought Tadzio back to Jadwiga and told her the whole story. I was on patrol at the time. Janek Sajdak, the chief, organized a search party and we scouted the barracks, the camp, and surrounding areas, but found nothing.
For a long time after this, the police were observing camp visitors to ensure that the suspects did not return. To this day, I don't know who these people were or what they wanted with Tadzio. It truly was a huge blessing that Stasia came upon the situation and rescued him. I am always grateful for her bravery. We kept in touch for a long time after the camp at Gretawas
I bought a plot of land in Garden Suburbs for 350 pounds. It was 100 feet wide and 1000 feet deep. Jadwig's sister, Ludwika, came from Menindee with her family and put up a tent on this plot. Conditions on this plot were very primitive.
We lived for a year without running water or electricity. I erected a shed. We had to walk 300 meters to the neighour for water. For bathing, we and the children went to the river and used buckets to fill a metal bath tub. I bought a frame for a double bed, and we used a quilt to make a mattress. The four of us slept across this. There was no stove in the shed but eventually I bought a wood burning stove. There was no ceiling nor were walls lined, because there were no building materials to be bought. There was no metal for covering the roof. Eventually I got some tar paper but only enough to do three quarters of the roof, the rest was open to the elements. We used kerosene lamps for lighting.
Ludwika divided the plot in half and connected running water to her piece. This was good for us as well because we could get water from her rather than walk 300 meters. Gradually we improved the plot. I cut out the bushes, I built a toilet and dug out gardens. I bought floor boards for the shed. I bought asbestos sheets for the roof that were second-hand from another shed. I paid ten shillings per sheet, but I had to take the sheets off myself and transport them to my plot. Thankfully, I was able to bring all the sheets without damaging any. As it was, there was one sheet too few and there remained a hole in the roof.
Work at BHP
I found work in Newcastle in the BHP steel works (Broken Hill Propriety Limited). I got a two-year contract to work in the Yard department. I was given a pick and shovel, but I was not too pleased because this work was not consistent with my qualifications. During this time most of the work in BHP was carried out manually. Even iron ore was thrown into the furnaces with shovels. There was very little machinery or technical devices.
I was pleased that I got work outside. No one wanted to work here because the work was hard and you could not rest. It was forbidden to stand idle. However, the supervisors were not too bright, and we were able to sneak in a bit of a rest here and there.
BHP had about 1300 employees. The wages were very low and there was no overtime. Pay was only 14 pounds. New people were coming all the time. One day Robert Janicki arrived. I was pleased I had someone to talk to. We could not stop for a chat, but we chatted whilst shoveling the slag from in between the railway sleepers.
He told me all about his history and asked me about a young woman called Aniela. I told him this was the best young woman in Newcastle. I grew up with Aniela and knew her throughout the refugee camps. After a few days, Robert was put to work on the weigh-bridge. This was very difficult and hard work. You had to manually arrange 10 tons of 20 pound weights onto a weigh bridge, then take the weights off again. This was repeated all day. Robert did not last and resigned from this work..
I worked there for about a year, finally went to the supervisor, and told him I was leaving. I told him I have a young family and the pay is not enough. He suggested that he could transfer me to be a 'dumper' on three shifts. I agreed to give it a go for 12 months.
I worked on a stream train that took slag, dust and other waste to the dump. It was my job to empty out the wagons, but this was done by hydraulics and was not difficult for me. I stayed on as a dumper for a few years. Whilst working, I was also being trained as a crane operator. I was being trained to operate a 10-ton crane on rubber wheels. This was difficult because I had limited English skills; nevertheless, after six months I passed the exam on my first attempt. I kept working the 3 shift roster, I had many hours overtime and sometimes my wage would exceed 100 pounds per week.
Being a crane driver was very responsible work because the Yard Department was responsible for the whole steel works. The steel works had about 1000 kms of railway tracks. If there was a breakdown anywhere in the steel works, spare parts were delivered by crane. I had a lot to learn; where everything was in the steel works, how to get there in the shortest time, and the best way to present spare parts for processing.
Everything was changing at BHP, even the toilets changed. A lot of private firms carne onto the scene. I was assigned to a 20-ton crane. During night shift, if there was a derailment, we would even use 60-ton cranes to clear the blockage. By this stage I had 5 certifications - crane driver, bulldozer driver, overhead crane driver, steam crane driver, slings man, and forklift driver.
During night shift I could be anywhere in the entire complex, so they gave me a pager and when a department needed my services all they had to do was to page me. When I was inside the Depot, they could get me on the phone. I enjoyed working in the Yard Department, getting the various sections out of trouble. It was fortunate that I liked my job because I worked in the Yard Department for 38 years.
WE BUY OUR OWN HOUSE
In 1953, Ludwika Marszał (Jadwiga’s sister) sold her half of the plot in Garden Suburbs and bought a house in Mayfield. My in-laws went with her. We were left without any water because the water supply was on her half of the plot.
Jadwiga did not want to stay in Garden Suburbs either. Tadzio was already going to school at Cardiff. He had to be walked to school every day and he had to cross the Newcastle-Sydney railway track which was quite busy.
Later in 1953, we sold our plot for 750 pounds. We decided to buy a house. I went to a real estate agent who told me there was a large house for sale at 102 Robert, Islington, but there were about 12 boarders living there. He said I would have to wait at least three months before the place would become available.
We inspected the property from the outside and decided to buy it. One week later we saw the inside and this made us sure that we wanted to buy this house. We were told once again that we would have to wait three months until the house was vacated. I paid the agent the full amount of four thousand pounds. Our in-laws loaned us one thousand pounds, and I borrowed the rest from the bank and, after two months, we were told we could move in. We were all very happy to finally be in our own house.
This was a very large house with a large garden. It was 31 squares. One square is10 square yards. We were told that at one time it was a Maternity Hospital. After we moved in there was a lot of work, cleaning and painting, etc. We rented some rooms to lodgers who were mainly Greeks. This income helped us pay the mortgage, which we were paying at five pounds per week.
My two boys, Tadzio and Edzio, were going to the Sacred Heart School in Hamilton. In August of 1953, our third child, Joseph, was born. In 1954, I finally finished the house the way we wanted it. Our in-laws came back to live with us; they lived with us off and on for about 12 years.
Home was a delightful place to be and everyone was very happy. We followed Polish traditions for Catholic feasts, like Christmas. On Christmas Eve we would sing Christmas Carols and break "opłatek" exchanging blessing and good wishes
I bought a cow, which we kept in the grounds near where I worked at BHP We also got a dog Loma and a cat Kubus. We also kept rabbits. I traveled to and from work on a pushbike. I would take a bucket to work with me and on the way home, I would milk the cow and bring back the full bucket. We had this cow for 6 years.
WE BUY A SECOND HOUSE
Sometime in 1958/59, I was walking along Phoebe Street not far from home, when I come upon an auction. The house was in very poor condition and the grounds were overgrown. No one wanted to bid, but for some reason I did. I bought the house for 750 pounds. I had only 35 pounds in my pocket, I borrowed some money from Robert Janicki, and the rest I had in the bank. When I got home, I decided I had done a foolish thing.
The house was a 3-bedroom house and I think the address was, 3 Phoebe St, Islington. For nearly a year, I spent every spare moment refurbishing this house. Finally it was finished and we put in tenants to help pay for the mortgage.
Jadwiga complained that she had took much work and suggested that we take Tadek to boarding school at Star of the Sea in Newcastle. We went to inspect the school. We saw that the conditions were not fantastic and that the fees were expensive, but there was no discussion on the matter.
Tadek cried terribly when we took him there. I was upset and I told the priest. Tadek was not settling in and after a week, we had to bring him home. After a few days, we took him back and he cried and cried. He disliked being there so much that eventually he ran away. A teacher caught him about half a kilometer from the convent and took him back and locked him up so he couldn't escape.
My Son Edward Dies (1959)
It was the first day of school holidays. I had returned from a double shift of 16 hours and both Jadwiga and I were in bed asleep. About 8:00 am Edward came in to ask if he could go for a ride on the bicycle. I would not let him, so he went off to play. After half an hour or so, he came back with the same plea and this time I agreed, but I told him to stay on the footpaths. He went round the block on the footpath up to Albert St.
About 9:00 am I got up and could not see Edzio. The baker came by and I told him Edward was missing. The baker went pale and told me I should go to the Police Station. So I went to Hamilton Police Station where the Sergeant told me that my son was dead. My legs collapsed from under me and two detectives lifted me to the chair. They told me that Edward was crossing the street at Albert St. and that he was run over by a truck and was killed instantly.
I was in shock. I did not know what was going on, I asked them to take me home. They took me home in the Police car and Jadwiga came out of the house where I told her of the tragedy. Edward was only 7 years and 8 months old. Tadek came home from the boarding school.
After the funeral, I did not want to meet or speak with people. After a week, I went back to work but I didn't tell anyone anything. Father Williams, the Parish priest, visited us regularly, but I hardly knew what he was talking about and cared even less, I was totally overcome. I couldn't do any work at home. The priest kept coming back and talking to me but all I could do was think of Eddie.
Home was a desolate and sad place now. Everyone was distressed and mourning Eddie's death. I knew that things would never be the same again and I could not stop thinking "How could this have happened". I stayed at work putting in extra hours to avoid friends and acquaintances who kept visiting with their well wishes and sympathy. I know their intentions were friendly but I couldn't speak with them or even spend any time with them. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. It took a long time for me to realize that life must go on, and even longer to be able to get on with life.
Christine, Our New Child
After the death of Eddie, Jadwiga suggested that we adopt an orphan. Father Arciszewski in Maryong had taken five children from a large family whose father had died tragically, causing the mother to have a mental breakdown. We heard that the family had five children who needed a foster home.
After a few days, I went to the orphanage with a friend called Surjan. He had a car and he took me to Sydney to Maryong to see these kids. I saw the children and I told the nun that I would like take one. She told me to pick one and I picked Christine. She was two years old at the time. I took the child into my arms and took her home. Tadek and Joseph accepted Christine as their sister. Some joy returned to the house as Christine was growing up as one of us.
Life Goes On
We bought a car and started to go on trips. The car was important not only for general transport and for trips, but Tadek had started secondary school at St Pius X College in Kotara. This was about 6 kms away and was difficult to get to.
Tadek and Joseph, spent their time going to school, learning to play the piano and organ, taking part in Polish Theatre Group plays and, on weekends, they went to Polish School. Sometimes we took them on picnics or to the beach.
New Polish House at Broadmeadow
In 1960, I pitched in with many volunteers in the Polish Community to work on the Polish House in my spare time. There were many willing hands and we built it from the ground up and in a very short space of time.
We used the hall for dances, lunches and for showing Polish films. There were many youths and they formed a dancing group "Kujawy". The Polish Association expanded its portfolio and many committees were formed. There was Committee for the Welfare of the Children of Laski, there was a Church Committee, there was a formal Polish School Program conducted on Saturdays, there was a Theatre Group. The Hall had a capacity of 400 and it was always full
Teresa is Born
In 1964, Tereska was born. There were now four children in the house. The in-laws were living with us again. Joseph, Jadwiga's father, worked in BHP for 10 years. When he retired he suffered from chronic asthma, a condition he contracted in his younger days in Europe. He was 75 years old when he died. We all missed him terribly. We got on well and I liked him a lot. I thought of him as my father. We used to have many deep and meaningful conversations. My mother-in-law, Kornella was also very good to me.
Tereska started to walk before she was a year old. We had a beautiful German Shepherd bitch called Loma. She was a very intelligent dog. She even helped Tereska leam to walk. She had other skills, like looking after the children, opening the door, she could play the piano, she would go to the shops with a basket in her mouth and a note, and she would go with the children when they went swimming. She did not tolerate drunks; even if she came upon them in the street, she would menace them.
Once one of the lodgers, came home quite inebriated and Loma would not let him into the yard. Another time, a neighbour complained to the Police that we had a dangerous dog. When the police arrived, we told the dog to shake hands. The Policeman was impressed with the dog's manners and intelligence and left with no further action.
We had a happy home. Jadwiga and her mum were always busy with the kids. We were visited by friends. Then in 1968, the harmony broke down. The family was breaking up because Jadwiga wanted a divorce. Christine, who had been like one of the family, was made to return to the orphanage.
One day Jadwiga told her mother that she is moving out. Her mother did not believe her and told her "You are doing yourself and your children harm by moving out". I know this because my mother-in-law told me so. I did not say anything to Jadwiga, I did not know what was going on and I was very upset.
One day I got home from work and the house was empty. Jadwiga had taken everything. I was overwhelmed by this great loss. I was on my own in this huge house, only the car stood out front. Then Father Feruga came. He told me he had been here in the morning and tried to discourage Jadwiga from leaving. However, she would not listen. A big removals van arrived and everything was loaded in and off it went. But where? The Priest did not know. The Priest urged me not to do anything I would regret. I said that she is the one who has harmed both the children and herself. I was extremely distraught but I did not know what to do or where to go.
After the priest left, I wandered around the house like a lost soul. I found a quilt in a cupboard. I threw this on the ground and, despite the fact that I was tired, I tossed and turned for many hours before I eventually fell asleep.
The next day I went to work and Father Feruga was waiting for me when I returned. He told me that Jadwiga had gone to her sister's place in Mayfield. He said he was there but that Jadwiga did not say anything. The priest then left. My first impulse was to go to Mayfield. When Jadwiga told my mother-in-law that she was going to leave, the in-laws left our place and went to Jadwiga's sister's place in Mayfield.
On the next day, I went to visit Jadwiga. I went in through the backyard and found Jadwiga sitting at the table. Neither of us said anything. Ludwiga and my mother-in-law carne out and my mother-in-law told me to take Jadwiga home. Ludwiga said Jadwiga is already here with the children, you should move in as well. I became very upset; I said I have a house for my family, why would I want to move in to your house. I begged Jadwiga to come home, but she would not. The kids wanted to come home as well, but Jadwiga would not let them come. I went home alone.
The priest carne around and I told him I had been to visit Jadwiga. The priest said to me, “I thought I told you not to go there”. Over the next few days, I was very restless in the house. I went to visit Jadwiga again and again, and I asked her to come home each time. We had an argument and I left. Before I left, she asked me for money. I replied that even though you have taken everything from me, I will give you money, but you will have to wait for payday. So when I got paid, I went there and gave her all my pay, but I did insist on a receipt, which she gave me.
Janicki and other friends found out about our separation and they were all surprised. No one could believe this happened. I have to admit that for a good while before Jadwiga left, we argued at home all the time. About six months after moving out, Jadwiga moved to Sydney, into a house that Ludwiga bought in Cavendish Street, Concord.
This was a very difficult and stressful time for me, but I am not going to describe the legal battles that we went through. I got on with life and every two weeks I went to Sydney to spend time with the kids. I started to refurnish the house and bought other things I needed. After four years, the High Court granted a divorce.
My Life After Divorce
I started to travel around Australia to fill the time. I traveled 120 thousand miles. I met friends everywhere I went and when I was at home, I would meet friends at the church and the Polish Club. I was on my own for 10 years..
I was most at peace when at work. I worked in the Yard Department driving cranes. This was outside work and there was always something to do. After work, I was heavily engaged in community work either with the Polish priest or with the Polish Association. At the Polish House, I helped build a retaining wall and later we built a double garage.
In 1974, I started to travel the world, seeking out and visiting family and friends. In 1974, for the first time in 30 years after coming to Australia, I left to visit America, and then I went on to visit Poland, to visit my brother Anthony.
My brother and I visited Cieplic-Zdroju, which is a health resort with natural hot springs and is very popular in Poland. In fact, people from all the surrounding countries come here for treatment and enjoyment. It is a Sanitarium where they provide hot baths, massages, physiotherapy and exercise. I met a certain lady here, who I became very fond of. For the next few days, we would meet and go bathing together and attend massage sessions together.
I Meet Bronia
Helen and her husband Stanley, were going to "Ustki" for holidays. I went with Stanley to a bookshop to buy records. Helen said that a lady called Bronia works there, and was a widow with two children. After buying the records, Stan introduced me to her as his cousin from Australia. Bronia was a lovely young lady, and she told me she had a boyfriend.
On the next day, I returned there and bought more records. I looked up Bronia and spent some time with her. I invited her to a concert at the Sanitarium and Bronia agreed to meet me up there at 8:00 pm. In the meantime, I was criticized for the way I was dressed, particularly that I was wearing shorts. This was playful banter and no offense was intended or taken. I went with Stanley and Helen and we met Bronia at the concert.
After the concert we all came back together.
On the next day, I went back to the bookshop. I met up with Bronia and after some conversation I asked whether she would be willing to leave Poland. She replied that she has two children and a mother therefore it would not be possible. I suspected that I was being given a major knock-back, but I appreciated her honesty and the situation that she was in.
I had misgivings going back to the bookshop but I went anyway. I found out that Bronia, her mother and her kids were going on a holiday to Kołobrzeg. At the same time, my hosts Helen and Stanley were also going on holidays to Ustki, which is in the opposite direction. Well that's the end of that, and off we went in different directions on holidays.
In Poland, there is a practice that every company has its own holiday resort for its employees. When employees wish to take advantage of the resort's facilities, they make a reservation. Strictly speaking, I could not holiday at this resort because I was not family. However, Helen and Stanley registered me as their child and no one checked our documents, so I took advantage of the resort. I felt obliged to make my hosts feel that I appreciated their good will and the arrangements they had made for me.
The next day was Sunday and a group of about 7 of us, including the captain and his wife, went to mass. After mass, we went for a walk and later we played draughts in the hall. Despite these distractions, I was thinking of Bronia all the time. So I decided to visit her and, on the following morning, I caught a bus to Kołobrzeg, the resort she was staying at. I found her on the beach minding her boy who was swimming. She was surprised to see me and asked what I was doing there. I told her I had come to visit her. She told me that her mother had been hospitalized.
I spent the night at Kołobrzeg and returned to Ustki. On the next day we then left for Siedlec to visit Staszka’s family for a few days, after which we returned to Jelenia Gory. In the meantime, Bronia and her children had also returned. Her mother remained in the hospital at Kołobrzeg. l went to visit Bronia and found her in the attic hanging her laundry, she was upset about her mother's illness and was crying.
She said she was going to return to Kołobrzeg to visit her mother in hospital. I had one more week of holidays remaining and I told her I would go with her. At first she did not agree but eventually she did. On the following day, we went there and, after making arrangements for accommodation, we went to visit Bronia's mum in the hospital. We found out that she was very sick.
On the next day, we went back to the hospital. Bronia went to visit her mother while I waited outside. She was gone for a long time and when she carne back she told me that her mother had died. Bronia decided to take her corpse back to Jelenia Gora rather than have her buried in Kołobrzeg. So we started to make arrangements.
Here we struck a problem because her mother had been in an isolation ward and the hospital did not want to release her body. Finally, they agreed, provided we would seal the coffin in a plastic cover. We arranged for the coffin to be transported to Jelenia Gora and traveled with the body. We arrived on the following moming and made arrangements for the coffin to the placed in the chapel at the cemetery. We buried Bronia's mum on the Wednesday and on the following Saturday, I left to return to Australia. Such was my meeting Bronia.
Falling in Love Again (1975)
After I returned to Australia I could not stop thinking of Bronia. I told my mate Janicki about her and that she had two kids. He asked me what my intentions were and I said that I would like to bring them over to Australia. I was concerned there might be problems because the eldest, Margaret was 15 yr old and her younger brother Darryl was 10. Nela, Janicki's wife, said that I should try to make this happen; otherwise, I might be on my own forever.
I wrote to Bronia, asking whether she would immigrate to Australia. She told me that she did not know me well enough to make such a decision. I suggested that I should come back in a year's time and stay for longer to give ourselves time to get to know each other. I had to wait a year to accumulate more holidays. She agreed, and in six months, I returned to Poland. At this time, I put my house at 102 Robert St., Islington up for sale.
In Poland, I bought Bronia a large Fiat car. Bronia objected but I said that buying the car will not make me poor but it would make life much easier for her. I was thinking that I would be stuffed if she would not agree to come to Australia with me. I also bought her a unit at number 1 May St., in Jelenia Gora. I paid the balance of the loan on the apartment.
Spending time with Bronia paid off because she agreed to marry. I was delighted and thrilled that I would get a ready-made family. However, the whole matter was complicated. We had to have a civil marriage ceremony. We went to the registry bureau where the litigant sent us off to the local court. Here I was told of a lot of regulations we would have to comply with in order to get married. I returned to the registry and bribed the litigant who promised to have the matter resolved "tomorrow".
So on the next day we went back and the litigant tells us that we will have to wait for 3 months. I replied that I am returning to Australia in one month. I gave the lady a "present" and she went into the office to do whatever. She carne back in half an hour and told us that it would take one month to process our marriage application. We thanked her and left.
Everyone was pleased for Bronia, her two aunts Mary and Julie and Bronia's two children also agreed to emigrate. We were wed September 6, 1975 and I left for Australia and started to make the immigration arrangements from Australia.
During this time, I was buying a new house and I was experiencing problems. I was buying from a bloke called Ostrowski. He had made special arrangements with a person who was living in the house for a very low rent. Of course, the tenant did not want to move and at the same time, I did not want to buy a house with a tenant who did not want to move out. The agent wanted to return my deposit but I would not agree. While all this was going on, I lived with Janicki.
We were going to go to court over this matter but then the tenant moved. It was mentioned that the tenant was given 4 months free rent to entice him to move. I am not sure how this worked and I don't care, the place was mine now. I borrowed the balance of $15,000 and paid it to the agent.
When I moved in, the agent told me that whatever was inside the screens was mine. The house had a yard large enough to hold three houses. I moved into my new house even though it wasn't finished yet. It was huge, 170 square yards and five bedrooms. Friends helped me finish off the inside and the gardens. This house is at 41 Gunambie St., Wallsend, and it is still our home.
I wrote to Bronia every day. She wrote and told me that she resigned from work and that she was getting rid of everything in the house. She also mentioned that she sold the car. It took seven months for Bronia and the kids to arrive in Australia. Tadek and I went to the airport and we went back to his place in Emu Plains. This is a long way out of Sydney but at least Bronia and the kids got a chance to have a look at the city of Sydney and its suburbs. On the next day, we went to Newcastle. Aniela Janicki and friends prepared a welcome party for us in our own home.
Bronia was fascinated with Australia. Everything was different, even the traffic was on the left hand side. However, Bronia was homesick for a long time and missed work where she had spent 20 years. The kids took a liking to me and to Australia.
My New Family
After 20 years, I resigned from the Church Committee. Bronia in the meantime had become well liked by my friends and by the members of the local Polish community. We took every opportunity to socialize with everyone in the Polish community.
In 1978, my ex-wife Jadwiga made application for our marriage to be annulled. At that time there was some technicality which allowed for this. I believe that this option no longer exists. Even at that time it was a unique situation. So much so that after I was given the church document which annulled our marriage, local priests were curious and wanted to have a look. Thanks to this document, Bronia and I were able to get a church wedding. On 21 November 1978, we were married at the Sacred Heart Church at Hamilton. One week later Margaret, Bronia's eldest child, married John Tczynka also at the Sacred Heart Church, There was a large reception at the Polish House and 160 guests attended.
Right from the start, Bronia insisted that my children share their lives with my new family. Our home at 41 Gunambie St. is a five-bedroom house but at times like Christmas, Easter, and some birthdays, when both sides get together, the house is full. Once there were 18 kids, (our kids and their kids) in the house. Bronia's kids and my kids live together like brothers and sisters. We spend time together and often we go on outings together. We go on fishing trips and camping trips.
Each year I tried to show Bronia different parts of Australia. Every time I had a few days off, we would go on excursions exploring Newcastle and Sydney. We also worked at finishing off the house.
After four years in Australia, we all went back to Poland for a 3-month holiday. We had a stopover in New Zealand and in Hawaii. Then we went to America, before stopping in Paris, and going on to Poland.
We carne back to Australia on 13th September 1980. Bronia stopped being homesick and life was taking on a routine. I would go to work, we would spend time in the garden and at the Polish House where there was always something going on.
When we had some extra time, we would go to Moree. This is an inland town about 4 hours northwest of Newcastle by car. There are thermal springs there where artesian water is brought to the surface and swimming baths have been made around the bore. Many people come here to bathe in the healing waters. We have been going there about twice each year for the last 30 years.
Bronia conducted a part time travel agency from home. She worked for a company called "Odra", its main function was to send money and parcels to Poland and make travel arrangements for those wishing to visit Poland.
In September 1989, I retired from work at the BHP. There is an old saying which says "you have finished working in the factory, so now start carrying bricks at home". What it means is that when you retire you have so many things to do at home there are not enough hours in the day to do them. We have a large yard and large gardens. There is something to do every day. I prune the trees and fix the roof because to get someone in to do this type of work can cost a lot. Thankfully, I can do most things around the house, repairs, painting, buildings and extensions. From time to time, the kids ask for help with repairs, maintenance, and building projects.
Despite being busy, we make sure that we include some fun in our lives. We go overseas regularly and stay as long as three months. We have visited a large part of the world. It has been 18 years since I retired. Time has flown by.
Since Bronia and the kids carne to Australia, we became involved in many activities relating to the Polish community.
I am not going to mention all the charitable works I got involved in but, we donated a considerable number of hours of our lives to these causes. I am very proud to be a member of the Polish Community here is Newcastle because despite being relatively small in number they have generous hearts and deep pockets. All our efforts would mean nothing if it was not supported by my fellow Poles.
In 1999, Bronia turned 60 years old. Margaret and Darryl, Bronia's children bought her 300 roses. There was a large reception and both sides of the family attended.
In 2004, I had my 80th Birthday. I got 80 red and white roses. Margaret and Darryl took us on a holiday for four days to a resort in the Hunter Valley, in the wine growing region. Tadek, Joseph and Tereska paid for a holiday for us in Tasmania for one week. There was a huge birthday party at our house and the whole family attended. There was singing, dancing and of course we had a few beers.