“We are in the best country in the world,” says Maudesta Litwinowicz of Everton Park.
The 94-year-old, better known as “Maud”, arrived in Australia from the former Yugoslavia 72 years ago. She migrated ‘down under’ after Pula, the city in which she lived, came under communist rule following World War II.
“The town was bombarded and nearly every home was damaged. I lost two cousins who were fighting the Germans… young men who will never come home,” Maud says.
“We were occupied by Germany right through the war. I’ve been through three migrant camps in Italy – from north to south – and two camps in Germany.”
Refugee Week 2022 (June 19-25) aims to highlight aspects of the experiences of refugees. Maud was a refugee after she fled Yugoslavia. Following five weeks at sea, she arrived alone in Port Philip Bay in Melbourne in December 1950.
“I was very young with no mother or father to protect me. It was only me in a strange country and I didn’t even know the language. I didn’t even know where Australia was because at school they never told us about this part of the world, only Europe and Scandinavia,” Maud says.
“When I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean coming to Australia a message came through Morse alphabet that the communists had let my mother go and she went into a camp in Italy.”
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, then lived in Melbourne before relocating to Brisbane.
Maud, who lives independently in her own home with support from Carinity Home Care, is “very grateful” to live in Australia.
“God bless Australia and freedom of speech. Back home you were frightened to talk to your own family. Your own brother could put you away,” Maud says.
“I know communism and I know other regimes. People in Australia don’t know how lucky we are. We are in the best country in the world.”