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Leaving in darkness, they found a new life

HAPPY COUPLE: Andrej and Olga Mrjana spent a year in German refugee camps before arriving in Australia in 1950, where they settled in Killara.
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A LINK to Killara’s multicultural past has been broken with the death of Olga Mrjana, 89, last Saturday.

Mrs Mrjana was the last remainingEuropean migrant in Australia’s intake of displaced persons from 1949 to 1953 who settled in the hamlet on the outskirts of Wodonga.

FAMILY SNAP: The Mrjana family in the 1950s – Andrej, Olga and their children Anna, Peter and Maria.

Born Juliana Olga Sirova in then-Czechoslovakia on August 22, 1926, Mrs Mrjana worked as a young girl in Prague as a domestic at a solicitor’s residence.

In 1947 she married Andrej, a Ukranian farmer.

The couple, now with two-year-old daughter Maria, later escaped the Russian occupation by smuggling themselves into Germany at night in the back of a horse and cart.

An encounter with armed border guards added to the danger.

The family spent about a year in German refugee camps before arriving in Australia in 1950.

“Olga was initially reluctant to settle in Australia because of its isolation from Europe but gradually grew to love the land down under,” her family recalled.

They sailed to Melbourne and then travelled by train to theBonegilla migrant reception and training centre.

Mr Mrjana was employed at first as a boiler maker and eventually on the construction of the Hume weir wall.

The couple’s second daughter, Anna, was born at the Uranquinty migrant centre, where Mrs Mrjana had been transferred. Her husband visited the family every three to four weeks.

Buying a house block in Killara, the Mrjanasinitially shared a backyard bungalow with another family while they established themselves.

Fruit trees were planted, a cool room constructed and an extensive vegetable garden begun.

“Prior to a well being dug, Olga could be seen carrying two buckets of water at a time from the nearby swamp,” her family said.

She milked two cows, making and selling cottage cheese, milk, butter and eggs, planted a potato crop and worked for a time at the Albury woollen mills.

The family expanded with the birth of Peter, butan infant daughter Helena only lived a year.

Killara or “Little Russia”was a melting pot of multiculturalism with many nationalities intermingling, “staunch lifelong friendships born in the struggle for establishment, fuelled with the zest of youth, hope and freedom”.

Mrs Mrjana was described as a confident, wonderful person, accepting of everybody;a person who didn’t like clubs, preferring a quiet home life.

Mrs Mrjana is survived by two daughters, a son, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Research supplied by family friendPeter ByrneThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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