Felicia Kiryk’s journey to Gawler is intriguing as much as it is fascinating, and a proud local historian is making sure it and more like hers are being kept alive.
Felicia, a resident at Southern Cross Care’s Gawler based Bellevue Court Residential Care site, was born in Ukraine in 1924 which was then under part of the Soviet Union.
She endured time a in a slave labour camp in Siberia, and in World War Two, worked in an ammunition slave labour camp when Ukraine became occupied by Nazi Germany.
But thankfully, her life took a better turn when she met up with Husband Roman in the Victorian country town of Bonegilla in 1949, and her response to what coming to Australia felt like says it all.
“When I first saw Australia I thought, heaven!” Felicia said.
Her husband Roman was then moved to the Gawler Migrant Hostel, and had to make an appeal in the local paper, The Bunyip, for an accommodation room, a prerequisite for allowing Felicia and her then five-year-old son to join Roman in Gawler.
Thankfully Felicia and her son arrived in Gawler shortly after, performing house duties with her husband in return for accommodation.
There may not have been a refrigerator and the pay may have only been seven pounds-sterling per week but it was the start of a new life.
“I like the happiness of Australia the most but the language was hard as I wasn’t good at learning a new language,” Felicia said.
“But the people were lovely and very friendly.”
Felicia was able to enjoy the cultural traditions of her homeland with fellow Ukrainians, regularly socialising in either Gawler or Adelaide.
This fantastic story and many more are coming to life thanks to enthusiastic Gawler Historian Jeff Turner, who happens to be the father of Bellevue Court Residential Services Manager Michelle Turner.
He and fellow history enthusiast Anne Richards, have put them into a book, “This’ll do” Post-Second World War Migration to Gawler, which has sold over 100 copies, and hopes to be used for educational purposes too.
“It’s very important to Gawler because these are historical events where you can interview the people who were in the story and they can articulate it very well,” Jeff said.
“The stories we put in here were researched over seven years, then we put a display on in the (Gawler) museum.”
And after a recent fall at home, Felicia’s determination and some help from her Southern Cross Care Carers, helped her walk again with the assistance of a walker while remaining in her home town of Gawler.
“It was very important for me; I walk if I can lots of times. I love being in Gawler and the people are very nice,” she said.