“We escaped communist occupied Czechoslovakia in 1948. We had found a man that knew what part of the barbed wire fence on the military guarded border was loose and could be crawled though. We fled in the dead of night, through heavy rain, to increase our chances of not being seen. I told my parents I was going to flee with my fiancé, but he didn’t tell his parents. My Mum and Dad were sad and cried but they understood that we would have better chances if we left. My Grandma said it would be the last time I would ever see her. That was very hard for me, she was my everything and I loved her so very much. She had lived with my parents and myself, in our one bedroom apartment, for my whole life. She died two years after we fled and I never saw her again.
We originally wanted to go to America but the quota was full, we ended up on a flight to Australia in 1949 after some time in a German refugee camp. We were placed in the migrant reception camp at Bonegilla and from there we went to Sydney. We liked it so decided to stay. My husband and I could have retrained and worked in the same fields that we had back at home but we were 29 and wanted a family and needed money, it made sense to have our own business and open our own cake shop. My husband had done his bakers training alongside his university degree. His father was a baker and insisted all his sons get their baking qualifications.
I was pregnant not long after arriving in Australia and had my first daughter in 1953. I didn’t know all the things I needed for a new baby but our next door neighbour, an Anglo Australian woman, who had two teenage daughters, said she would organise everything for me. She knitted me lots of outfits and brought lots of baby things into the cake shop for me. They were very lovely people. I had my daughter at the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington. They took very good care of me, except at one stage, they were so full they put my bed out on the verandah. It was a completely open verandah with no fly screens or protections from the elements and it was cold at night. I had to tell them I needed a bed indoors, I had bad bronchitis, I couldn’t be out there all night in the middle of winter.
I didn’t drive so didn’t meet the mothers at my daughter’s school much. I stayed and worked in the shop. I had one day out a week to the city, that was nice, I would do my shopping and go to David Jones. I enjoyed it. We had Sundays off and we would see our other Czech friends we had met once we had settled in Sydney. We had one dear friend from home that we met by complete chance in Sydney. We knew he had escaped Czechoslovakia but heard he had gone to South Africa. We were walking down George St in the city and suddenly saw him in a camera shop window. It was unbelievable. We were so happy to have found each other”. (Sydney, Australia)
Woodstock migrant reception centre, Sydney 1949