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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Grandma - Babushka

My Grandma was a special person. She had her own unique ways. Whilst she had times of great hardship and sadness, she also loved her family, enjoyed her garden and built a life with her family here in Australia after many years of difficulty in Russia, and during war times in Germany and through to their departure for Australia.

My mum shared with me this week some notes she made when my grandma had just passed away. I remember mum being particularly affected, having already lost her dad two years before.

Mum shared with me some of her most intimate memories of her mum, she talked about moments that she was proud of,like the adventures they went on as a family with Grandma as children. Times when she was embarrassed by her mum (as a teenager) along with some difficult things like helping deliver breathtakingly bad news when my cousin died in an awful accident rockclimbing,  and some that were much more recent about the shift into being the adult child that needs to provide care for a parent.
I read mum's stories feeling a bit like I was reading something from someone's diary that they wrote for themselves.

Here is my Mum and my Grandma.

It got me thinking about some of the things I remember?

I remember staying over at my Grandparent's place and having breakfast there. Grandma cooked a stack of pancakes that would have been thirty deep. I must have only been about 5-6 years old and stayed with my younger sister. We hardly made a dent in the pile and Grandma kept saying 'eat more!! eat more!!'

I remember Grandma having a beautiful garden, she loved her roses and had so many beautiful colours. I remember calling in during the daylight savings period in Summer whilst I was working at the bank and found Grandma watering her plants in the back yard, the hose connection was spewing water high into the air and up onto their upstairs balcony. I came out to say hello to Grandma and said, 'Hold on hold on, let me fix it for you, the fitting needs to be replaced'

She said, 'no no, it's always done that.' I bought a metal connection for the tap back with me the next day, Grandad helped me. We pulled it all apart and put a new fitting on, He was about 85, he pulled out a knife from the kitchen drawer that he'd sharpened himself and started hacking away at the hose so that we could put the new fittings on. I said 'be careful that looks like it could take your hand apart, he laughed at me and said ' you be careful. . . with a wry smile. ' Grandma tested out the hose, and low and behold, no spewing water.

When I married my husband, I took my wedding dress over to show my grandma. Mum came with me. I tried it on for her. I thought it was a beautiful dress, she said 'No, not finished. . ' wandered off to her room and rifled through some of her things. She reappeared with a brooch my Uncle and Aunt had bought grandma years ago. It was very special to her. It was a Cameo brooch in a gold setting. She held it up to my dress and declared 'Beautiful!!' I wore it to my wedding proudly.

When I fell pregnant with my son, I was about 7 weeks along when I found out about our news. We were heading overseas at 9 weeks. Grandma had been moved into a nursing home as her illness progressed and was very very down and particularly uncomfortable. My mum and I went to see Grandma to share my news that next visit. It was a truly special experience. She was so very excited for us. She had a very excited and surprised look on her face, and said with a broad smile 'Mladanek' 'Mladanek' 'Mladanek'.

She passed away only a few days into my trip overseas. It was so special to be there with my mum to share that news. Grandma had a special place for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She had 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren when she passed away with another on the way.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Family Gatherings

My mum and dad have shared with me some special photos lately. Whilst there are many to choose from.

Here are a couple that are especially cute. A family reunion on my Dad's Mum's side (Nan H's family). My Dad's two sisters and one brother picture here have passed away.

I remember the family reunion, there was a big old tree on the property. The kids( including me ) were hell bent on knocking down the nuts in the tree to eat them, My memory isn't that great, but I think they were macadamia nuts. We collected, climbed and cracked open as many as we could.

The house that we all met at was one of Nan's relatives, as it turns out, she was one of twelve children. Hard to imagine in this day and age when we often have either none, one or two kids and pull up there. I understand that this house is Nan's sister's home. I'm guessing this photo was Circa 1988ish

Can you guess which one is me?

The other special photo I'm sharing is of a celebration for my grandparents wedding anniversary. I love that my Pop (Dad's father) wore a tie. It was the mid to late 70's. My mum is holding my sister on her lap. They'd become a family of three by then, I hadn't even been thought of.

It's funny to draw a parallel, Mum and Dad were at about the same stage as where I am in my life, I'm blessed to have my husband, my son, and both of our parents are here to chat with whenever we like.

Celebrations are lovely at the time, but I'm beginning to appreciate that looking back at things like this can capture more than just that event.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Immigration from Naples

Today I've been searching through the records at the National Archives.

What an interesting day!!

Here is the ship my Grandparents arrived on from Naples, Italy, as displaced persons in 1949, 1219 persons were on board.

It's the General Blatchford and was the first voyage of many that this ship completed in relocating thousands of people from war affected areas in Europe.

I remember talking to my Grandma in hospital about 7 years ago about their time in Italy just before they relocated.

She described it this way,

'I put our name down for America, and Australia, Our name came up on the list for Australia sooner, so that's where we went.'

They departed Naples on 16th October 1949 arriving in Sydney on 11 November 1949. They travelled with my Aunt, about 3 years old.

Having travelled to Naples in 2004 as part of a holiday, it strikes me as a huge coincidence, I didn't know this information at the time but I went to that port. I have a photo of me there.

Friday, 13 April 2012


What makes for interesting memories? I'm starting a list of questions.

If you have any ideas, I'd love some input.

Here is where I am starting. .

  • Tell me about your earliest memory of your parents?
  • Who did you knock around with when you were growing up and what did you get up to?
  • Who taught you how to drive?
  • Tell me about your first job and what did you get paid?
My mum and dad scanned me in a copy of a recipe my nan used to make all the time. In Dad's words, he lived on it.

It's Carnation Milk Ice Cream.

Today is the beginning of a crazy idea.

An idea to stop the erosion of stories and memories in our family

Not in the same way that a family tree records the births deaths and marriages, but on a level that delves a little deeper into the wrinkles of my family, into the laugh lines, and glassy eyed moments before a tear. The glint of cheekiness and the sense of remembering a great moment in your life.

The inspiration

About three and a half years ago I was pregnant with my first child, my dad emailed over an old program from a motorbike event from his collection. The scanned image was the program from a night when my Dad was racing and the reverse side with some handwriting on it. My Dad lost both his parents by 33 years old. So to find these handwritten notes after 30 years is just precious.

Dad described in his email how it really moved him to go through some old photos and programs and to find his Dads hand writing on the back.


How do you catch that moment? How can I steal time back in years to come?

And how do you ask your family to contribute to building something that could end up being a project for the rest of my life?

The plan starts today

I've recorded my first audio recording of my Dad, talking about his first car.

I'm hoping to record some excerpts in video, some audio, some handwritten notes, some typed, a range of scanned photos and memorabilia to tell our story.

There are so many layers to a family, parents, grandparents, siblings, marriages, in laws, ring-ins.

I'm aiming to maintain this till at least my next birthday. I just had a birthday on the 30th of March. So I hope I am still going by 30 March 2013.

Wish me luck!!