Ingham, or “Little Italy”, is the heart, and the mighty Herbert River the artery, of the Herbert River Valley. Discover the absorbing history of the town of Ingham, the Valley, and its surrounds that span seemingly endless fields of sugar cane, rivers teeming with crocodiles, swathes of thick jungle, cloud dappled mountain ranges, and beaches misty with salty air.
I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.
Thursday, 5 May 2016
"The Uprooted Survive"
The displacement of people is a
consistent result of war and today media coverage and accessibility means we
are bombarded with images of the people being displaced as a result of current
conflicts. Their dilemma is one that Government agencies and Australian
citizens alike, grapple with, on a daily basis, as we are confronted with
images of, and hear accounts of atrocities, perilous journeys, sorrow, loss and
Today the story and travails of
the displaced survivors of World War 11 is long forgotten, yet at the close of
the war between nine and 12 million non-German displaced people comprising
soldiers, forced labourers, political deportees, prisoners of war and fugitives
were dispersed throughout Europe. Between the end of war and December 1951
Australia accepted 572 300 immigrants, of them 170 000 were displaced persons.
The anonymity of this passing
group is well illustrated by the story of one Estonian displaced person. He was
employed to complete in poker work, a
picture of “Our Lady of the Moon”. This panel was inserted under the Altar in
the new Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima at Cardinal Gilroy College. As well he did
similar work on the Stations of the Cross. This Estonian artist’s name was
never recorded. It was only in 2009 with the restoration of the Chapel that
some astute research by a teacher on staff with considerable expertise in
family history research, Cheryl Gossner, that the man and his story was uncovered.
He was Herman Ilves. He studied medicine
before the war but his abiding passion was photography. Captured towards the
end of the war he was sent to a prison camp. After the war, with the help of an
organization created especially for this purpose, the International Refugee
Organization (I.R.O.), he managed to be selected for migration to Australia. He
travelled on the ship, the “General Black”, in March 1948. It was the third
I.R.O. transport to Australia, and carried the first displaced persons destined
for the sugar fields of the Herbert River Valley to cut cane. Australia
accepted the displaced persons, not only as a humanitarian gesture but because
they would fulfil the scale of labour required for post-war industrial recovery
and expansion which could not be met by the Australian populace alone. The
labour shortage was critical, particularly in occupations that Australian
labour found uninviting like cane cutting. The displaced person had to agree to remain
for two years from the date of their arrival in whatever occupation and
locality was determined for them by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
On rainy days in the barracks he
would do craft work. His particular skill was decorated wood craft. This skill
was noticed and it was then that he was released from his two year cane cutting
contract to work for S. Messina and Son in the Chapel. When his two year
contract expired he worked locally in a photographic studio for a couple of
years and then moved to Sydney and later to Canada where he died in 2000.
Lithuanian cane cutting gang and cook, Balanzategui farm
Incidentally, Juozas (Gedas) Zemaitis and
Milos (Mike) Milanovic also had travelled on the “General Black” with Herman Ilves and
they, unlike him, did make the Herbert River Valley home. Australia was rarely
the first choice of destination of the displaced persons. The U.S.A., Canada
and South America were the most common first choices. A common dream too, was
that when they made good money and their country was free they would return
home. The sad reality is that few if any ever could or did.
POST TITLE: Borin, V.L. The Uprooted Survive:
a Tale of Two Continents. London: Allen & Unwin, 1959.