Stories of the Northern Beaches – Refugee Week Human Library
To celebrate Refugee Week (16 to 22 June), Council is hosting a Human Library on Saturday 22 June at Warringah Mall Library featuring real people going ‘on loan’ to the public to share stories as ‘Human Books’ about their experiences of settling in Australia.
The 'books' in the Human Library are all local people with a refugee background, willing to share their story with you, the 'reader'.
The event aims to challenge stereotypes and recognise the great contributions refugees make to our community.
For more information please call Sandra Faase on 9976 1562 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Beryl’s story: My Boat Refugee Story - Coming Out the Other Side
I want to help shed some light on what being a boat refugee is like. I was born in war – fled in the middle of the night with my family – fear, multiple pirate attacks, thirst, hunger, unwanted and stateless, competing for survival in a refugee camp, before coming to Australia. I grew up in Cabramatta in Sydney’s west during the height of the rough gang and drug wars. But you wouldn’t know it looking at me now - I’m a pretty normal Northern Beaches mum now living a middle class lifestyle and have worked in some successful corporate jobs. For 40 years, I have not felt ready to publicly share my story. I’d like to now help bring a human face to a story that maybe some people have wondered about, but not known the details of.
Marija’s story: From adversity comes strength...
Background: Yugoslav – Bosnian Serb
I was one of two kids growing up in a loving household. Life was pretty easy. My favourite past time was playing with my friends. My life changed when I was forced to flee my home and my country at the tender age of 9. It was the early 1990s and it was the beginning of the Balkans War. My family and I left our home with nothing but our clothes on our back, fleeing on foot to the safer parts of the country ... our lives were in danger and there was no looking back. Fast forward 12 months and our journey led us to Australia and we settled on the Northern Beaches as refugees. Life wasn’t easy and I stood out not because of how people saw me but how I saw myself. There were parts of me that I wanted to hide as it was difficult to articulate my pain and my identity. Fast forward 28 years, my life in Australia as a refugee has shaped who I am today. My story is about triumph and embracing adversity.
Vivianna’s story: Bordertown skirmish – fleeing Trieste in the dead of night
Background: Italian but born in the Free Territory of Trieste
It is amazing that after calling Australia home for the past 64 years how first settlement memories can still be vividly recalled. Especially as a six year old, being torn from one country to another. To be woken in the middle of a particularly bitterly cold night and dressed very, very warmly and told to be as quiet as possible by a tear filled mother was a bewildering experience. To be taken to a special train and have sobbing grandparents and other relatives hugging and waving their goodbyes was quite unsettling. Being born in the city of Trieste – on the Adriatic Sea with Italy on one side and what was then Yugoslavia on the other – made for some ugly political wrangling after the Second World War. Unrest broke out as both countries claimed Trieste’s citizens as their own. Some rioters died and police were blamed and targeted. The press singled out police for public contempt especially if they had helped the allied forces after the war. My policeman father, along with other colleagues and their families, was included in the transfer to England with the Anglo-American forces when they left in October 1954. Over 200 letters had been received at police headquarters threatening to murder them.In the following years a mass exodus occurred. After three cold winter months in the south of England, a 30 day boat trip lead us to sunny Australia in February 1955. The process of learning another language and culture, and becoming an Australian, made for an interesting and sometimes challenging life. Nowadays, as a grandparent, I marvel at the serene years that I enjoy on the peaceful shores of Pittwater.
Koko’s story: Generations of Dispossession
Background: Armenian – Armenia, Syria and Lebanon
My journey to Australia began in the 1970s. I was 18 and my family were granted humanitarian visas to flee the civil war in Lebanon. However, being dispossessed from our home is a common theme in my family. From life in Aintab Armenia, now known as Gaziantep in Turkey, to seeking safety in Syria and Lebanon and finally settling in Australia. My family fled genocide, persecution and war to find a peaceful life in Australia. My story is one of many Armenian stories about survival. But there is more to me than that. My life in Australia has had times of tragedy, heartbreak and challenges, but I have had a great life here and have no regrets.
An’s story: Tears on the Page
Background: Vietnamese, French
The ground shook as rockets rained down from the sky. The smell of smoke and dust filled the air. Terrified and bewildered, I clung tightly to my father’s neck. My family and I scrambled with other refugees into the dark, hollow belly of a recently landed Chinook helicopter. My heart raced inside my chest as if I were running, running, running. The body odor and sweat of scores of people, pressed together in the helicopter, filled the air. Fear, most assuredly, has a smell. My tiny, clammy, four year old hand continued to grip my dad’s hand with the intensity and strength of someone much older. No one spoke, cried or even whimpered. We were waiting; expecting that at any second the helicopter would be blown to pieces by a Communist rocket. Glimpsing out the small, round windows of the Chinook, I saw bright, orange flashes punctuate the horizon as Communist rockets and mortars continued to blast Saigon. Large, black plumes of smoke, all around the city, from burning houses, cars, and buildings rose up into the night sky. Saigon, the beautiful city of my childhood, the place I believed to be peaceful and held all my earliest memories, had become total chaos; a place of panic, terror, confusion and war.
Gompo and Choezom's story
Escaping Tibet via India
Choezom was born in Chamdo, Tibet. She left her home and family members at the age of 6 and went to Lhasa to stay with her relatives. She escaped to India in 2001 at the age of 14, crossing rugged mountains and rivers on foot with a guide for six very long weeks, living in fear and hunger. After a lengthy search, she found her sister in India in 2002. Choezom and her husband, Gompo, settled in Australia in 2018.