Benalla Migrant Camp 1949-1967

Michael and Anna Lemega

LEMEGA Michael and Anna

Germany 1962

Lemega Story

Collection items belonging to the Lemegas are Mr Lemega's original suitcase and Irene Lemega’s little sewing basket:

Irene wrote the story of the basket in January 2014: "On my first Christmas in the camp, there was great excitement amongst the children that Santa was coming. We all gathered down near the Boys' Club behind the mess hall and then Santa came with his cut-out sleigh and his cut-out reindeer being pulled by an old tractor - it was wonderful! Myself and my friend Velta each received one of these beautiful sewing baskets and over the years it has always been a reminder of that first wonderful Christmas at the camp."

Sabine Smyth interviewed Anna Lemega at her home in Benalla in 2015. The following was written from notes after that visit:Anna Lemega originated from the German “Sudetenland”, today’s Czechoslovakia. In 1946 she was displaced from her home and had to go to Bavaria. She said there were no jobs, huge queues in front of the employment offices, and lots of refugees. Refugee accommodation was basic: beds were crowded into a pub’s dance hall, so tightly, that “to get to your bed you had to walk over other people’s beds.”

Anna remembers that she decided to go to England because there was work. “I was not sad to leave because we were not liked in Bavaria, we were treated like ‘gypsies’. She stayed for 8 years and got married to a Ukranian man, Michael Lemega. They returned to Germany with two kids, Irene and Roman.

Anna remembers reading about Bonegilla in the ‘Stern’ (well-known German Magazine). We decided to take a risk and go. The Australian Foreign Office was very interested in us because we spoke English. We departed from Bremen on the Castel Felice. On 27th December 1960 we arrived at Station Pier. We were only allowed to debark a full day later, then travelled to Bonegilla by train, via Seymour.

“In Bonegilla I had a job on Day 10. First they asked me to help serve lunch at the camp, and then I got lessons on how to give injections and became a nurse at the camp hospital. I thought that was funny because as a small child I dreamt I was going to be a nurse, or a bee keeper, or a nun. “

“Because we spoke English well, Michael was then employed in the camp management at Benalla as administrator. We arrived there in September 1962. As an administrator Michael dealt with complaints, registrations and so on. I relieved other staff when they went on leave, such as Val Zintschenko at the hospital. “I also worked at Latoof and Calill. I felt sorry for the women that worked at Latoof and Calill who spoke no English, the Australian bosses used to yell at them to work harder. They were often in tears. I could at least help myself and speak up.” “People from town used to come to the camp for social functions, they were always very popular.”

Michael and Anna LEMEGA
Michael and Anna Lemega - Germany

Benalla Migrant Camp School Pupil Register

Name Date of Birth Parent Camp Date
Roman Lemega Wednesday 10th September 1952 Michael 17/09/1962
Irene Lemega Wednesday 13th May 1953 Michael 17/09/1962