They kept vanishing into the glassy ice. I was fascinated on this first-ever voyage, on a ship of aliens, most babbling in foreign languages, though I doubt I would have cared at that time, as I was only eight years old, and on an adventure. With my brothers Terry and Roland (ages 9, and 7) we three ran amock on the Flotta Lauro ‘Sydney’, on our way to Australia. Last stop was Austria, my mother’s homeland. The place was pretty bombed out still, and we had lived for a few years in a bombed out factory, with no windows, though there were wooden boards there to keep out some of the weather. I loved that place.
Still people jumped into the pool. I didn’t recall ever seeing a swimming pool, just ice rinks (usually rivers and creeks in Winter). I do remember looking at the shimmering surface, then being in it. No shock, just amazement, and exhilaration. I recall easily the immediate sound and vibrations of the ship’s engines through the water, and the flickering lights from the surface. Probably the sunlight.
I watched the bubbles float upwards, and enjoyed them changing sizes. I really was at peace then, till someone jumped in and dragged me out. A few hits to the back of the head from someone, and lots of noise, then remembering vomiting on walls. I think the next day was my eighth birthday, which I had on the ship. Then a bus ride to Bonegilla, where I remember a blazing fire (one of the cabins died) and some days later I recall vividly an ambulance ride with sirens, then having a mask held over my face, and seeing a lady with a mask dripping fluid onto the mask and asking me to count backwards. Ether was so wonderful! Ruptured appendix and peritonitis left me with that large scar!
My mother had been a nurse in Vienna, and her limited English saw her work for about 7 years as a seamstress and other non-nursing jobs while she taught herself English. Eventually she landed a job as a nurse at the old Lidcombe Hospital in the late 1960’s. In 1970 she kept trying to get me to work as a nurse, and I ignored that thought. But in 1971 on February 22nd I started there as a nurse trainee. She loved to show me off. She is responsible for my 4 decades in this game. Bridget (really ‘Berta’) lives at Urunga.
I frequently see new migrants working at hospitals eg Westmead, and talk to them all. I ask what they did in their last homeland. So many are professors, or doctors, or nurses, yet here we have them going through exactly what my mother and father had to go through over 50 years ago. Progress?