Wladyslaw and Janina Janas, both from Poland (Rudno and Jankow near Krakow) arrived in Australia on 14th January 1950 with their small daughter Barbara. First they were sent to Bonegilla and then to Rushworth Holding Centre, because presumably, Benalla Migrant Camp was full.
When they finally arrived in Benalla the same year, they stayed until August 1952 (about two years) and their second child, son Peter was born in the camp in March 1951.
The chest was kept all these years Barbara reflects, as a memory piece "Because it held all our family's worldly possessions at one time."
Written down by Sabine Smyth after a phone conversation with Barbara (nee Janas) in late 2012
Sent From Denmark via Email Dec 2019 from Margit:
We arrived from Denmark on 12.11.1956 with the ship "Castel Felice" . Sailed from Cuxhaven, Germany to Freemantle Perth and then to Melbourne. Our family: Svend Jørgen Jespersen, born in 1927, Marie Jespersen, born in 1931, Margit Lillian Jespersen, born in1952, Johnny William Jespersen, born in 1956, (all of us born in Denmark).
The 2 first weeks in Australien we lived in Bonegilla Immigrant Camp.
At Benalla my father Svend worked first at the sawmill J.A.Terrett & Co. Ltd., Benalla and later supervising by the Benalla railways, building the new railway in Victoria. My mother Marie Jespersen worked first a few months at Latoof & Callil Ltd., Benalla. Then about 3 years at Renolds Chains Ltd., Benalla.
I, Margit Lillian Jespersen went about 3 years to school in Benalla Immigrant Camp.
My brother Johnny William Jespersen was in the kindergarten in Benalla Immigrant Camp.
We left Australia/Melbourne on 10.03.1960 with the ship "Flamingo". Sailed from Melbourne to Sydney and then to Perth.
Arrived Bremerhaven, Germany and then the train to Denmark.
I am so sorry to read that the Benalla Migrant Camp is closing down now. But I am happy to read the history, things and photos will be sent to the Immigration Museum Melbourne or Museum Victoria.
Thank you very much for all your done for that the history in Benalla Migrant Camp will be left in the future.
Sorry my english is not so good.
Kind regards from
The Klopsteins Family (Latvia)
Emma Gotleib Klopsteins (nee Bruvers) arrived in Freemantle, Western Australia with her two sons, Harijs (Harry) and Elmars (Jim) on 5th January 1950 aboard the Skaugum. Residents of the Latvian capital Riga, Emma and 6 year old Harijs had fled Latvia in 1944, making their way across Poland, into Germany and eventually into a British managed Displaced Persons’ Camp in Germany, where Elmars was later born. The family spent five years there before migrating to Australia.
At this time the Australian Government had agreed to assist with the resettlement of Europe’s Displaced Persons. At the same time, for the security of the country, the Government had adopted a policy of increasing Australia’s population. The Government was happy to accept entire families as well as widowed or single women with children. The war had torn families apart and many of the women who came to Australia with children had little information about the fate of their husbands. Emma was one of these.
The Klopsteins’ voyage to Australia started from Naples on the Anna Salen but this ship broke down in the Indian Ocean and all passengers were taken to Aden. They were subsequently collected by the Skaugum, empty on a return voyage from Australia, which was diverted to Aden. When the Skaugum docked in Freemantle it was carrying 1,543 displaced persons, of whom 477 were children. The newspapers reported that 56 of the children had been treated for measles and 30 children were hospitalised for other health issues, but that generally the health of the passengers was good. The other newsworthy issue had been the concern of customs officers who had to gather up cigarettes thrown from the ship by exuberant passengers, excited at their arrival in this new land.
Emma Klopsteins and her two sons, together with 1400 other passengers, were taken by train to Northam and then by bus to Northam Migrant Camp. An insight into camp life comes from The West Australian, Friday January 6 1950
“From the time the first train is due a continuous meal will be available at the camp. This will consist of cold meats and salads, mashed potatoes, fruit, bread and jam. Iced tea and coffee will be provided to the adults and the children will be given equal parts of iced milk and water. Scrambled eggs and bread and butter will be prepared for children under three years.”
Emma, Harijs and Elmars lived at Northam and later at Cunderdin Migrant Camp until, after two years in WA, they were moved to Benalla Migrant camp. The reason for the move to Benalla is interesting. A condition of migration to Australia had been an agreement by Emma to work for two years in whatever job was found for her. “Unsupported mothers” as they were referred to posed problems for implementing this practice because childcare was an issue. Benalla Camp, with its two factories in close proximity, offered a solution. Schooling and childcare was provided in the Camp and mothers were placed in jobs at the factories.
Emma worked at the Latoof & Callil factory for several years and then in private service. She remained a resident of “the camp” until shortly before its closure in 1967. Emma passed away in Benalla in 2000, aged 88.
Harry made his life in Benalla, marrying local girl Andree Arnott and raising his 4 children there. Harry passed away in 2012 aged 74.
Elmars (Jim) initially worked with the State Electricity Commission in Benalla but then moved away to Melbourne, married and raised 3 children. The family moved around Australia with Jim’s work, eventually settling in NSW. Jim now lives in Sawtell, NSW.
Emma never again saw her family in Latvia. It was many years before she could correspond with them. Whilst this loss was great she felt safe in Australia and considered herself lucky.
The Mackowski Story (sent in by mail by Wendy Gray nee Mackowski early 2018)
THE JOURNEY TO BENALLA
Sometime during the Spring/Summer of 1948, Cecylia Kazmareck aged 25 took her five year old son Aleksandr and boarded a train which was traveling to the border between Poland and the American sector of occupied Germany. They were fleeing the advancing Russian Army.
When the train stopped at the border, some people disembarked and started to run across the border. Cecylia joined them. Darkness was falling and the shooting started. They were told to keep running and not to stop no matter what happened, even though people were falling around them, shot by the Russian border guards.
They arrived at a former German Army Barracks which was being run by the American Red Cross as a centre for Displaced Persons. Here they were clothed, fed and kept safe. Shortly after their arrival, Aleksandr’s appendix ruptured and after an operation he was hospitalized for a few days.
France, England, the US, Canada and Australia were some of the countries which offered refugee status to these people Cecylia chose Australia. After a long train trip through Italy they arrived in Naples where they boarded the MS Fairsea bound for Australia.
The ship went through the Suez Canal and headed South. When they crossed the Equator there was a mock ceremony to mark the occasion (enclosed is a copy of the certificate that was handed out at the time).
Passport photos were taken on board.
The adults attended English classes on board of the ship and were coached in order to pass the obligatory dictation test (taken in English) before being allowed to disembark in Australia.
Included is the English/Polish dictionary used by Cecylia.
Passengers left the ship at Freemantle and Adelaide. When they arrived in Melbourne, Cecylia and Aleksandr boarded a train at Station Pier bound for Bonegilla. On the afternoon of their arrival at Bonegilla, they were put on one of two busses and taken to Benalla Migrant Camp.
The last photo, taken about 1950, at the camp in Benalla, shows Cecylia seated in the foreground and Leon Mackowski is sitting behind her to the left. Cecylia married Leon on the 19th of August 1950. He adopted Aleksandr and the moved out of the camp to live in the town.
Enclosed are the certificates from that time granting them Permanent Residency in Australia. They became Naturalised Australians in 1956. Their daughter Wendy (me) was born on September 24th 1952.
Leon and Cecylia built a house in Benalla where they lived happily for the rest of their lives.