The Pursuit of Living in Harmony

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The Pursuit of Living in Harmony

March 21, 2023

 

Harmony Day was first celebrated in Australia in 1999, but its roots go back hundreds of years. It is a day for us to come together and celebrate all our differences and diversity in Australia, as well as across the world. The day as a whole encourages us to continue to build bridges between the many wonderful cultures and ethnicities that make Australia what it is today.

Abound Communities has so many wonderful residents, staff members and volunteers with diverse backgrounds and cultural differences . We are proud of the harmony and peace we all live by in our villages.

One resident who has had an incredible journey is Rushall Park resident, Veronica. She is from a Hungarian Jewish background.  Veronica’s parents fled from Hungary in 1939 and were among the very early Asylum Seekers. She and her older brother grew up in a multicultural environment before Australia was known as a multicultural country. They had struggles, they were young, and they had to adapt to a country that was not used to Europeans. Like many, they lost a significant number of their family in the Holocaust. They didn’t know anyone else who was from a Hungarian background, so life in Australia was far from easy. Only after 1956, following an uprising in Hungary, did they see more Hungarian migrants. Veronica explains how her father and mother knew very little English when they arrived here but had to quickly learn the language as they were extremely busy trying to form a comfortable life here for their family.

There is a lack of childhood normality and often, stability when your family are Asylum Seekers. Veronica remembers how hard her parents use to work, and unfortunately how little time they got to really enjoy family life together. Her parents worked extremely long hours, so Veronica was alone with her brother a lot in the late 40s and early 50s. Their way of life was extremely hard due to financial struggles to establish themselves in a new country.

Her father was a printer and worked for The Argus Newspaper and her mother worked in a clothing factory. In the early 60s her father brought a printing press and that little company grew bigger and bigger and became very successful printing company, printing most of the country’s calendars and postcards. Veronica looks back at her life and all the ups and downs that came with being a first-generation child of migrants.

The struggles were hard, but the wins were always appreciated by her and her hardworking family. She thinks when it comes to diversity and acceptance, Australia has certainly come a long way from where we were, but we still have work to do. It is a work in progress.

She believes even now there would be many young families who are working hard, like her mother and father, to begin to call Australia home. There is always an enormous amount of pressure.

Veronica talks about her Jewish household where there was no sport but lots of music. Her dad was Orthodox Jewish and her mum was Liberal Jewish. Her family felt the need to drop Judaism and kept it hidden to fit in. The family almost lived double lives where one was the side of being strong and trying to create a life in Australia and the other was a lot of grief and loss due to the Holocaust. It was also never easy when people assumed they were German. Veronica has 5 children, and incredibly even decades down the line, 4 out 5 of her kids are open to the Hungarian culture and 3 out of 5 practicing the Jewish religion.

Later in her life, Veronica pursued a nursing career and worked at Kalgoorlie hospital, in the late 60s. She worked as a casualty sister and a  supervisor on the weekend. Working closely with the Indigenous community was certainly not easy, especially before Indigenous support and advocacy.

Veronica remembers many people from the Aboriginal community who permanently lived in the bush but would be exposed to sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes when they came to town. It was not easy to watch the decline. It was a time of no welfare and no social workers. She however was always a shoulder to lean on, an ear to lend, and a lot of hope for acceptance in Australia. She prayed for a time in society when there would be harmony.

She became an Asylum Seeker advocate in 2013 and whilst being a Volunteer at Rural Australians for Refugees, she met a young mother and two little girls who were in detention. The two girls were 7 and 9 and from a Tamil/Indian background. There was an instant connection, so much so that they lived with Veronica in Castlemaine for 3 years. The mother was so fond of Veronica, she claimed Veronica was her own mother as she was beyond appreciative of all the support she had. A special family bond was formed. 10 years later there is still contact, and they visit Veronica at Rushall Park regularly (photos below).

It is safe to say Veronica has lived an incredible life. She moved to Abound Communities 6 years ago at the age of 73. Rushall Park has been a great experience. She feels settled, she feels content and she feels at peace. There is a feeling of harmony and acceptance here. Prior to her arrival, Veronica gravitated to Buddhism. What drew her to Buddhism is the core foundation of peace, calmness, and human acceptance. She says we are all equal just like they teach in Buddhism.

This is why harmony and acceptance are important. Beautiful things can happen if we open our minds and hearts. We thank Veronica for sharing this special insight into her incredible life.

   

"I love the fact that Rushall Park residents and volunteers are so active – contributing to life in the village. The sense of the community is strong which is why I put my name on the waiting list" - Maggie Birkett.

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