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Eastern and Central Europe in Tasmania

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177 Nations of Tasmania
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Many of the migrants who have come to Tasmania from countries like Poland, Czechoslovakian and Hungary, came from behind the Iron Curtain in the Cold War era, or as a result of displacement because of World War 2. Many of them have fascinating stories that have become part of the fabric of our social history. Although many are of the older generation, you'll still here a few more recent migrants from the region offering new perspectives Continue Reading >> Many of the migrants who have come to Tasmania from countries like Poland, Czechoslovakian and Hungary, came from behind the Iron Curtain in the Cold War era, or as a result of displacement because of World War 2. Many of them have fascinating stories that have become part of the fabric of our social history. Although many are of the older generation, you'll still here a few more recent migrants from the region offering new perspectives << Show Less
Gergana : Bringing music from Bulgaria to Tasmania Bulgarians are probably the least represented of the Balkan peoples in Tasmania and Australia. For many in Australia, Bulgaria is a land of dark mystery more commonly associated with burly Olympic weightlifters than classical concert pianists. . In this episode, find out about how a Bulgarian ends up studying at "the end of the world" and how she sees life in Tasmania and hear about a unique and rather surprising Bulgarian custom.
Music extracts played by Gergana Yildiz from "Spring Caprices" by Lubomir Pipkov.
Teodor : Escaping Communism in Romania and finding "A Luminous Future" on the other side of the world. The story of Teodor Flonta's life could easily make an intriguing film script, beginning in a small Transylvanian peasant village surrounded by extended family and old men with moustaches who would fascinate him with their ghost stories. When he was young his father declared an "enemy of the people" by the communist regime and throughout the 50s was arrested, imprisoned and tormented. With an aptitude for languages, it seemed Teodor was destined to leave Romania and eventually did after meeting his future Italian wife, Ariella. After 7 years in Italy they moved to Australia to teach Italian in Adelaide. Teodor arrived in 1978 with no English but by the 80s was running the Italian department at the University of Tasmania.
As Teodor has had a long and eventful life, this episode is longer and divided into three chapters. Part 1 will give you a real feel of peasant life in the Romanian village, but also understand the personal impact of the communist dictatorship that ruled Romania on peoples' lives. Part 2 focuses on how his interest and aptitude for languages was the first step in a journey out of Romania, meeting his Italian wife Ariella. The third part is how he came to Australia and then settle down in Tasmania as a lecturer in Italian.

In many ways it's a personal story of particular place and time, but it also touches on universal themes that continue to effect new arrivals to our shores fleeing repressive regimes and political or personal persecution.

Teodor also reads several passages from his book, "A Luminous Future" , which focuses on the experiences of his father in Communist Romania.
Olga and Yuri : Getting out of Russia and finding freedom The Cold War and the Soviet era can feel like ancient history for some people, but for Olga and Yuri to oppresson of Soviet Russia is still part of their lived experience. After being involved in political activities in Russia, they were subject to threats from the KGB, job loss and imprisonment, and then experienced a wait of many years to get out of Russia and discover the West. They eventually chose Australia to migrate to in the 1980s before moving to Tasmania in the late 1990s. They brought with them 3 children, who have stayed and settled in Tasmania as well.
Olga has written a book about her family's experience of living in and esaping Soviet Russia, titled "Let Me Out Of Russia"
Helena from Czechia : Small twist of fate and a life changed forever Helena and her husband were living an idyllic lifestyle breeding horses in rural Czechoslovakia and looking forward to buying a rustic old property to set up their own horse-breeding farm, when a fatal accident triggered a series of events that would change the course of their lives and lead them to Tasmania.  After their manager was killed in a car accident, his replacement, an ardent Communist party member, did not approve of their activities and their chances of getting their property disappeared.  Later, as they had some success breeding horses, they attracted the attention of local Communist members who tried to coerce them into joining the party, this soon lead to regular harrassment and ultimately the decision to get out.. a decision which could mean never seeing their homeland again.  
It was no easy job to get out of the country even for a holiday, but Helena had an aunt and uncle in Tasmania and they decided they would try and migrate there in the mid-1980s.
After some dramatic moments escaping Czechoslovakia and Europe, Helena, her husband and two boys , ended up in Tasmania. But with little English and few job prospects, it was tough to adjust at first.  However, like many migrants, Helena persisted through adversity and has had several interesting careers in the meantime.
It's a story full of both light and shade with a healthy bit of humour too…and some interesting experiences of cultural differences, including on her return to Czechia.
Darya from Ukraine : From landscape architecture to magazine publishing to helping migrants in Tassie Ukrainians have a long history of settlement in Tasmania, being amongst the earliest groups of post-war European migrants to settle in Tasmania. But nowadays, this migrant community is relatively small and elderly. However, Darya is one of the new generation of Ukrainians to now call Tasmania home, after coming here on a Prospective Marriage visa.
Darya's childhood was spent mainly in Kiev in the 90s, a dark time in the country as the economy crashed and criminality was abundant. But by her high school years, the future was looking much brighter and Darya had the opportunity to go to the vastly different culture of Japan and study a 4- year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. After returning to Ukraine, Darya pursued a number of different and varied jobs, before eventually working as a tour guide, mainly in Kiev.
She met her Australian husband at a friend's wedding in Ukraine and she would eventually come to Tasmania multiple times, before moving here permanently last year, just before the international border closed. She now works at the Migrant Resource Centre in Hobart as an intern Project Officer, helping run programs to help other migrants.
Jenny from Slovakia : An escape to Australia after the Soviet tanks rumbled in Jenny or Yenni was born into a Hungarian family in the eastern part of Slovakia, then Czechoslovakia. Jenny was a child when Soviet tanks occupied her home town of Kosice, and then grew up as part of the first generation of "socialist youth" in post-war Czechoslovakia. Things were going well until the "Prague Spring", initiated by the Slovak President of Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubcek, an exciting period of unprecedented freedom and possibility for the people of Czechoslovakia. This was crushed in 1969 when Soviet tanks and army rumbled into Czechoslovakia and when arrests started at her work, Jenny made the decision to get the family out of the country.
The family was able to get to Vienna and eventually apply for asylum to Australia and Jenny and her family arrived in Hobart in 1969 with just a few suitcases and very little English.
Although it took Jenny several years to become truly proficient at English, she was eventually able to write several books based on her life experiences.
Anna : A Hungarian with memories from before WW2 Anna's story highlights how complicated defining "nationality" can be sometimes, and though I'm trying to use a standard based on the Australian Census's "Country of Birth", there is a category "Eastern Europe, not fully defined", showing that many people in Eastern Europe throughout the 20th century were displaced or found themselves within changed borders.
Anna was born in the 1920s in what was then Yugoslavia ( today it is Croatia), but only a few years before it had been part of the Hungarian area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In fact, as a result of being on the wrong side in WW1, Hungary lost 60% of its territory, leaving many Hungarians living within the borders of different countries. In Anna's case, she would grow up in Burgenland, Austria, on the border with Hungary, and the majority were Hungarian speakers and her early schooling wasin Hungarian.
Of course, WW2 and the German annexation brought some shocking changes and Anna suddenly found herself at high school where instruction was suddenly only in German. The Nazi occupation was a hard time, but after the war, she met a Hungarian emigre in a refugee camp and married him two weeks later.
They emigrated to Australia in 1950 and settled down for a time in country Victoria. Later they moved to Sydney. After her husband died, she would visit her son, who had moved to Tasmania, initially to pick apples…and eventually she moved here.
But this is the briefest of summaries of a long life. Listen to the episode to hear about life in rural Austria in the 1930s and 40s and more about the migrant experience from a member of a generation of which fewer and fewer remain.
Dana : A pianist from Poland Migrants from Poland came to Tasmania in large numbers after World War 2, many coming to work on the large dam construction projects in the 1950s and 60s. Others came here for different reasons, bringing new skills and different customs, and raising families in Tasmania to become on of the state's most successful and prolific migrant groups.
Dana, though, could probably not be regarded as a "typical" Polish immigrant to Tasmania. She was drawn here by love you could say, rather than fleeing a war-torn country or escaping Communist repression as others did. In fact, she had been enjoying a good life as a successful concert pianist in Poland. Coming to Tasmania was in many ways a big change in both lifestyle and culture and her piano-playing took a lower place in precedence, as she focused on helping her husband in his business and being a proud mother.

Davor : Croatian by birth, Tasmanian by choice Davor is both a passionate Croat and a proud Tasmanian. Shortly after he finished his school in Zadar, then in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, his family decided to move to Australia, via Italy. Like many young migrants, Davor was able to adjust to the initial culture shock relatively quickly and from a fairly young age became involved in different activities with the local Croatian community, starting with the local Croatian football (soccer) club not just as a player but also helping with administration.
Davor has also spent many years as a broadcaster on local Croatian-language radio, which has received national recognition, and has a lot of knowledge and passion for the culture, achievements and history of his country of birth, as you will hear in this episode.
Peter and Rebeka from Slovenia : A jeweller and an opera singer Somewhat like Croatians, many Slovenians fled the former Yugoslavia to escape conscription and many found their way to Tasmania in the era of mass hydro-industrialisation that occurred in the 50s and 60s.
Peter and Rebeka though are a new generation of Slovenians, who, thought they spent some of their childhood under Yugoslavia, have mostly lived in independent Slovenia. Before deciding to settle in Tasmania, Peter had been to Australia many times before due to a family connection in Sydney, and Rebeka had toured in her role as an opera singer.
3 years ago they decided to start a new life in Tasmania, with the small city life and an environment not too dissimilar from their homeland being a big part of the appeal, and Peter was able to secure work in Hobart as a jeweller. The transition to this new life has not been without its challenges both practical and cultural , and I'm sure that migrants from other backgrounds will relate to some of their stories.
Rebeka also performs as a part of a Slovenian-Tasmanian folk band, and excerpts of the music can be heard during this episode.
Music is Kaj ti je deklica? ( What is wrong my dearest ?) by Slovenian/Tasmanian folk band Lastovke (Swallows)