Oral history of Anka Radalj (née Glamuzina) recorded as part of the Voices of the Women project. Audio and transcript



Edited transcript of an oral history of Anka Radalj (née Glamuzina) recorded by Denise Cook on 18 September 2017 for the Voices of the Women Oral History Project: City of Cockburn (Azelia Ley Museum) and Dalmatinac Club.

Denise Cook (interviewer): Would you like to start by giving me your full name?
Anka Radalj: Anka Radalj.

DC: And where were you born and when?
AR: I was born in the former Yugoslavia, in Dalmaćia, that’s what they are calling that place.

DC: Whereabouts exactly?
AR: Near Makarska, somewhere in the hills. That’s why I’m dreaming hills. (laughs)

DC: What is the name of the place?
AR: Stilja. The town is Vrgorać . Between Makarska and Dubrovnik.

DC: And when?
AR: I’m born 1935.

DC: What is your mother’s name?
AR: Manda, née Vukmir.

DC: When was she born, and where?
AR: Stilja, 20th of March, 1906.

DC: And your father?
AR: My father was born in Stilja and I don’t know the exact date when he was born but he was born in 1910.

DC: And his name?
AR: Maté.

DC: What was your mother like?
AR: Oh, she was lovely, a lovely mum; a good lady. Yes, Mum and Dad, the both of them were lovely people, hard workers and they have three daughters. They tried hard to give them life but just before the war started, we were supposed to go to school but then the war started and there wasn’t any school around.

DC: There wasn’t any school – is that what you said?
AR: Well, we’d never been in a school because it was war- time for six years there was no school. After the war, it’s very hard, not much teachers have been left to teach children, because most of them died through the war time. That was a hard time for all of us. Anyway, we survived, all three of us, Mum and Dad survived and I left through the war time, I stayed with my grandma and grandfather, because they have a little bit more food to give me, more than Mum and Dad had and that’s where I stayed for eleven years.

DC: And where were they?
AR: In Stilja, not very far from where Mum and Dad were living.

DC: What were they like, your grandparents?
AR: Oh, they were wonderful; wonderful grandma and grandpa.

DC: Were they your mother’s parents or father’s parents?
AR: My mother’s parents. My dad lost his parents in the first world war; he was only five years old when they passed away. It was in the war time when they passed away from Spanish flu and that’s when he had a hard time to live. Anyway, he survived that.

DC: Who looked after him when he was so young?
AR: His auntie and uncle looked after him. They were lovely people, I remember them both. That was a hard time when there is war in the country. After then I decide to come to Australia; I had my twentieth birthday in Australia and I went to Boulder, Boulder/Kalgoorlie.

DC: When was that?
AR: That was 1954, I went up there and I stayed with my aunt, my mum’s sister and her family. She had four children and they’ve been like my brothers and sisters; we still the same together, all of us. They are wonderful people, I had a good time there.

DC: What did you do there?
AR: Nothing much there, because there were no jobs for a woman in Boulder and then I came to Fremantle and I started working in a brush factory in South Terrace .

DC: What was that called?
AR: It was the brush factory, that’s all they called it. I was there for a while, I went for a holiday to Boulder and I find my husband, or he find me up there; we find each other. (laughs) We got engaged and soon get married, and then I went to Boulder again, went up there again to live.

DC: What’s your husband’s name?
AR: Anté; they used to call him Tony, or Antony but his name is Anté. Then I was up there for five years, then coming back again down here. We have four children, they are wonderful kids and my husband passed away twenty years ago. That’s how I’ve got the friends with the Villa Dalmaćia, because he passed away in the Villa Dalmaćia and I’ve been a volunteer there since then, since 1996, I’ve always volunteered.

DC: What do you do there?
AR: Well, first I started with these ladies with the Friday Bingo and then I started in the Day Care Centre. It’s still called the Day Centre and I’m in the kitchen there preparing meals. That’s what I’m doing every Wednesday.

DC: What kind of food do you make there in the kitchen?
AR: All different food, it’s never the same.

DC: Croatian food?
AR: It’s mixed. It’s not just Croatian, it can be Chinese and it can be English, it can be anything; we mix them up. But they like, I think they like it this way, these ladies they never complain. (laughs)
VINI KENDA: Anka makes the most gorgeous soup. You lick your fingers.

DC: What kind of soup is it?
AR: I don’t know the name. When I make the soup, I mix in different vegies, different meat, different things depending on what ingredients are available. It’s easier to make soup.

DC: How many people would you be cooking for there?
AR: It’s always over twenty; you can get thirty, thirty-one, it all depends on how their health is going and how they are sort of going.

DC: Would you be the only one in there cooking?
AR: You always have someone, a lady come in and help, two of us, average two of us, in the kitchen. It is lovely, I enjoy every bit but that’s how I belong to the Spearwood area and that’s how I start dreaming this beautiful place. I’m really surprised why I dream it. Dreams come true.

DC: Do you want to tell the others?
AR: Well, they can hear it. I dream lake, beautiful greenery around here, old house which is we’re in it now and hills and all green, it’s beautiful. I dream beautiful mulberry tree – I don’t know if you ladies know where is the mulberry tree here and I dream of the beautiful mulberry hanging down, like a bunch of grapes; it’s all black and dry. There’s an old lady on the side of me and she telling me which mulberry I’m to pick and eat, it’s good for cancer and I thought okay, I’ve been eating some mulberry from that tree. When I start walking through this area for a walk, I always try to find a mulberry tree. And I did find it not long ago, nice and beautiful and green in the corner near the fence around the corner here, in Manning Park near the ruins. I walk with a lady and I said to her, “Wait here, I’m going to see that tree over there, what it’s like”, and when I walk over there, it’s a mulberry tree, and I thought yes, my dream come true.

DC: And your dream was back in 2010?
AR: Yes, on the 28th of May 2010; that’s when I dream it and I awoke from that dream and recorded it immediately. There was also a lake in my dream. I never even think at that time I’m going to come and live this side of Fremantle. I used to live in Fremantle for nearly sixty years.

DC: Whereabouts in Fremantle did you live?
AR: 15 Dorothy Street, Fremantle, behind the signal station. That’s where I been living all my time when I come to Fremantle. When I bought that house with my husband, I thought that’s going to be my house till the day I die. But there was only day when I didn’t feel good and I’m in the Villa and I said, “I’m going in the office there and I’m going to ask for a form, I want to fill up the form and give it to them. If anything happen, I’m ready to go into the Villa.” And the lady says to me, “Oh, it’s hard to get in a nursing home now. Why don’t you buy a house there and you would straight away belong to the Villa? I thought okay, I’m going home and I think overnight, take me twenty-four hours to think and I said, “Yes, I’m going to buy it.” When I said to my kids, they think I’m going into the nursing home, they getting upset, “Mum, you’re not ready for that.” I said, “But I’m not going in the nursing home, I’m going in a house next to the nursing home.” Anyway, they have to come and see it to make sure I’m not going in the nursing home and that’s when I decide to sell my house and buy the house here.

DC: And have you been pleased with that decision?
AR: I love it. I love it where I am, especially having my good neighbours and I’m close to the Villa Dalmaćia, I don’t have to ask anybody to drive me there because I’m not driving. That lady over there [indicating], she used to drive me sometimes.

DC: Donna?
AR: Yes, and another friend but now they don’t have to worry about me.

DC: So have you ever driven a car?
AR: No.

DC: Why was that?
AR: I tried to learn it but I was too old when I started and I was scared and I thought no, that was not good. If I was driving when I was younger, that’s fine but when I was old, it was not good.

DC: Why do you think you didn’t drive when you were younger?
AR: Well, my husband, we only have the one car, and he think he can drive and why I have to drive? That’s why he didn’t let me learn.

DC: What about with your children?
AR: My children, they’re all right, they all drive, they’re all right, but they’re all working. I can’t expect the children to drive me around when I want to go and that’s why I make my decision, I want to do this and that’s it. I’m going to the Dalmatinać Club every Friday night for a meal, that’s our nightclub. (laughs)

DC: What do you do on Friday nights?
AR: We just sitting and eating and drinking and these couple of ladies here, they’re very nice to us and it’s beautiful. It’s a full beautiful company, it’s beautiful and it’s really lovely and I enjoy it, yes, and that’s it. Thank you very much.

DC: Can I take you back a bit to when you were younger? You were saying you couldn’t go to school because of the war. Did you get to go to school at any time?
AR: Well, after war time, I think only three years they have a school and that’s it.

DC: And what did you manage to learn in that time?
AR: Well, I learned to write, to read and you know, the main things and that’s it.

DC: Did you feel the need to learn any more later or was that enough?
AR: When I get older, I was shy going to school and it wasn’t much to choose, because it was hard after war time. That’s why I don’t like to watch on the TV when is the war time, it just takes me back to my childhood and it was hard. That’s why I didn’t learn any more. But I learn hard way, I learn hard way everything up what I know; I learn hard way. But that’s okay.

DC: So what were some of the other things that happened during the war? Were they any kind of happy spots?
AR: In the war time, it was hard for us, no food, no drink. We can’t sleep in the house, we have to sleep in the caves, under the bushes and hide there. We have to keep hiding from the army, because there was not just one army there, it was all different armies and we used to hide from all of them. There was no chance to work in the garden, or plant any seeds or anything and that was a hard time. It was a hard life. We eat grass and all different things just to survive but anyway a lot of us survived and a lot of us didn’t.

DC: Were you with other people?
AR: We always have the company with people, we always sort of get together and hide together and sharing what we have, that’s all that we had to do.

DC: Do you know the names of the places where you used to hide?
AR: Well, it was only the places in the hills, it was the caves and bushes and that’s all what we used to have, it’s not sort of any special name for it.

DC: Were you with your grandparents then or with your parents?
AR: For a while I was with my parents, then later I was with my grandparents.

DC: Were they hiding together?
AR: Oh yes, we all; could be in the night-time we have to run out or could be snow, could be wind, rain; it doesn’t matter what weather is, but we have to go and run out from there. Our places, a lot of them been burnt down but if there was anything left in the village we all get together and whatever is left there, you know, the village people, we always try to help one another. That’s our life through the war time.

DC: It was a very tough way to grow up.
AR: Very tough; that’s why I’m the tough woman. (laughs) I think that’s all what I can tell you.

DC: So you said you came out to the goldfields – when was that?
AR: First I come up there to stay with my auntie, I went straight when I come from the ship.

DC: When was that?
AR: That was 23rd of August 1954.

DC: How did you feel, leaving Yugoslavia to come to [Australia]?
AR: Oh, no worries because I’m young. We always, young people, think it’s green grass on the other side of the fence and that’s why I didn’t worry about it, you know, I thought oh, I’m going to Australia and I love it. I had good company on the ship and my auntie wait for me in Fremantle and on the train and to Kalgoorlie, Boulder.

DC: So you took the train with her up to Kalgoorlie?
AR: Yes.

DC: How did you get to Boulder?
AR: Well, it’s only three miles from Boulder to Kalgoorlie; it’s a taxi from there, or buses. They always used to run buses there. Three miles, we used to walk back home, miles and miles, three miles is nothing but a taxi, that time we catch the taxi. Anyway, when we come up there, Kalgoorlie was a very exciting place because August and September is the Kalgoorlie Cup and Coolgardie Cup and Boulder Cup and God knows what other cup and you have to get dressed to go in there. To get dressed – I always laugh when I think of that – I never wear the hat back home but my auntie said that I have to get dressed properly and I have to have a hat, I have to have the gloves and I have to have a handbag and all these things and high heeled shoes and anyway, okay, we go there. We come in there and we can see those horses, poor things, running round and I didn’t like them sort of running round and I thought, why did they make them to run round for no reason. But anyway, it was a windy day and I have a very wide dress, and I have a white hat, and my hand, one of them up there holding my hat and another one down there holding my skirt; otherwise I’m going to fly away. (laughs)

DC: What did you think of Kalgoorlie and Boulder when you arrived?
AR: I think it was lovely and when there’s lovely people around you don’t care what’s to like other things and Boulder was a lovely little town and Kalgoorlie a lovely little town. When I come to Fremantle, Fremantle absolutely lovely but when I went to Fremantle the other day, I got a shock, it’s not Fremantle like I used to remember. Fremantle was the lovely place and same in Kalgoorlie and same in Boulder. When I went to Kalgoorlie for a holiday a couple of years back, I got a shock up there too.

DC: How had it changed?
AR: It’s completely changed. It’s only two shops in Kalgoorlie, in Boulder, honestly there’s not one shop you can say it’s really nice. It’s all little bits and pieces and one little supermarket. It’s different and this is it, I enjoy it before because it was lovely. Wherever you turn, there was beautiful things to see, the people lovely, walking around, stopping and talking to each other. How many people stopping on the road now and talking to each other? Not many of them and not walking through the town. You see the car just pass one way or the other. I love it before and I was in shock now to sort of see what’s going on. In Fremantle, there’s only South Terrace. That’s where is everybody sitting there, eating and drinking, the rest of the town is dead. It’s nothing.

DC: So what was it like when you came down? Which were the busy parts of Fremantle?
AR: Oh, Fremantle is a place, I love it. I love it.

DC: What do you remember? Which bits did you really like?
AR: Everything. I loved everything. It was beautiful, everything close, nothing too far away, I didn’t have to catch the buses, I didn’t need to driving, I walk everywhere, it was beautiful. When I walk around, I see a lot more than if I did drive. I love it.

DC: So why did you come down to Fremantle?
AR: My husband found a job; we were coming for a holiday and he went to town and he met a friend and he said, “Why don’t you shift down here? I’ll find you a job.” So he said, “Yes” and he said, “Come with me” and straight away on that Saturday morning they went and he find a job and he came home and he says to me, “Oh, I’m not going back to Kalgoorlie.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I’m going to start work on Monday” and I’m the one who had to go over there and pack the things and come down here.

DC: What did you think about making that – it’s quite a big change?
AR: It didn’t worry me. No. Whatever comes, you have to be – – – I knew I never going to stay at Boulder up there, because he worked in the mine, the gold mine, and you don’t want your husband to work all his life in the gold mine and that’s why I sort of knew we were going to shift one day, but I didn’t think I want to shift that quick.

DC: What work did he do in the mine?
AR: I don’t know. I don’t know what they doing underneath.

DC: What did he do when you came down to Fremantle?
AR: He work on the BHP.

DC: Building it or on the refinery?
AR: I’m not sure what they were doing over there. I never been over there and I said to my husband, “Don’t bring work home, because leave it over there” and that’s it.

DC: When were your children born?
AR: All of my four children were born down here; two of them in the King Edward and one in North Fremantle [Hillcrest] and one in – – – [Woodside?] Now I forget the place, it doesn’t matter, all four of them born in the Fremantle way and Perth.

DC: What kind of things did you do as a family down here in Fremantle?
AR: What I do? I’ve been doing just looking after young kids and sick old people.

DC: Relatives, the old people?
AR: Yes. My husband’s uncle, because he paid the ticket for my husband, then he got old and he didn’t have any family and he come to stay with us. My uncle he paid the fare for me and he didn’t have any family and he come and stay with me and that’s why I have the old people and the young people to look after.

DC: Very busy.
AR: Very busy. (laughs)

DC: What school did your children go to?
AR: My boys went to John Curtin and my daughter went to Our Lady of the Mission and they started school in the Catholic school, Our Lady of Fatima.

DC: Is that in Fremantle?
AR: No, the Lady of Fatima, she’s in Palmyra and John Curtin school and the Lady of the Mission in Fremantle.

DC: How important has the church been in your life?
AR: I believe it, I am sort of a believer. I believe in God and my kids all been baptised and been in the school, what they believe in after that, that’s up to them. Yes, I believe it and you can see I believe it because I believing in the dreams and my dreams come true. (laughs)

DC: So when you look back on your life, what are the things you feel most pleased about?
AR: I love my life, I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love it.

DC: It’s made you who you are now.
AR: Yes. I think what I went through, I think it make me stronger and I understand hard life and easy life, a bit of everything. I love it.

DC: And it sounds like you’re very flexible about accepting what comes.
AR: I am. I am. (laughs) Well, sometimes we have to be very flexible. I hope you can understand everything what I’ve been saying.

DC: It’s lovely. Thank you so much for talking to me, Anka.
AR: Thank you to you, darling.


Anka Radalj at Azelia Ley Museum, 2 October 2017

Anka Radalj at Azelia Ley Museum, 2 October 2017