Paul F. McCann


With the second war over and the soldiers back home things were resuming back to normal. That is what ever normal was and ever could be again. The post trauma syndrome effect had never been mentioned. There were no therapy groups or support. People just resumed back into what they considered to be a normal lifestyle and tried to forget about what they had been through.

It was 1946 when people started to arrive in boat loads to Australia from countries that had experienced the deprivation of their human rights in prison camps in Germany. From out of a great depression they arrived in Australia. Like refugees from war-torn Europe, about half a million people flocked to the shores of Australia hoping to rebuild their shattered lives. What we now call the baby boomers generation had emerged.

It was three years after World War II and the Czubara’s arrived in Sydney from Poland; Mother Maria and her husband Tat. Within a year of their arrival they had their first child, Catriona. Then one after the other children arrived – Christina, John, Donna, and Albert.

Tat never spoke any English and often had times when he flew off the handle. It was hard to say what triggered his temper outbursts but when it happened, the kids all became very frightened. Things were thrown around the room and you got hit if you got in the way. He started to drink a lot and often had late nights after knocking off work.

Tat was not a tradesman and the only job he could find was digging ditches for the water board. He worked six days a week and Maria stayed at home and looked after the children until they were old enough to look after themselves. Maria couldn’t cope with Tat’s behaviour problems and they began to argue and fight most of the time they were together. Tat usually stormed out of the house. One night he left and never returned.

For a while Maria got a job stitching jeans in a factory in the back of suburban Melbourne. The children were left at home to look after themselves.

It was about 1960 and times were changing. The music and fashion scene made a big impact on most young people who were changing with the times. Everyone was hip or trad except for the Czubaras. Since Tat left them, and Maria took on a full time job the household was being run on raw nerves and poverty.

It must be said that since the war many people couldn’t adapt to peace time. Tat hadn’t really fitted in to his new way of life in Australia. Maria was isolated and the memories of a war that never really ended had hung over their heads like a noose.

People around the neighbourhood often regarded the Czubaras as a different and unapproachable. Some kids would tell Maria to go back to where she came from. If only: but Maria had forgotten where that was.

Maria worked long hours to earn just enough to feed her family and pay the bills. She hoped that one day soon the kids would be old enough to find work and help out with the household expenses.

Too long were they regarded as poor.
Too long were they the scourge of the community.
Too long did people look down on them.

The Czubaras never had a TV.
The Czubaras never had new clothes or new shoes.
The Czubaras never owned a car.

They walked to school and ended up like lost children in a school somewhere in Port Melbourne.

Maria sometimes spoke of what happened during the war years. Now and then something would slip out about the work camps in Germany and how guards would randomly kill young and old alike. She forgot that in the background children were listening.

As the years passed the baby boomer generation had become part of the Australian fabric. But here and there it was fraying and tattering at the seams. By 1966, apart from eating together at dinner and Mass on Sunday, the Czubaras never spend much time together.

The Czubaras kids were now old enough to make decisions for themselves. When Catriona was 21, in 1967 she left the family and got married.

Maria accepted the fact that one day she would be left on her own. Being aware of her family situation she pretended to be brave. She even seemed content about the ways things had turned out in her life and blocked out the memories of a war torn history. She hid away everything about her past and eventually she had made sure her life could continue quietly and without interruption.

That’s when, out of the blue, Tat returned. Like a bolt out of the blue he decided to make contact with her. Now things started to fall apart for the whole family again. Tat needed them but they never really needed him.

Tat eventually broke the news that his life was coming to an end. He had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and only had a short time left and wanted to give his family a new beginning instead of what he had left behind.

For many years Tat had been living in a caravan with another man who drank a lot and came from the same country as he did. He told Maria about a treasure that had been buried away during the war. One night his companion passed on this information that he had been given from a man sent to the gas chamber in a concentration camp in Germany. Now that both men had died, Tat was convinced that he was probably the only one who knew about this treasure that had been buried before the Germans took Poland.

Tat had a map with names of places and buildings on it. Along with the names there were numbers as well. As it turned out the numbers were a combination and the treasure was gold and jewels that were locked inside a safe that was under the floor of a Polish University.

For the remainder of their lives the Czubaras lived a comfortable existence. Tat was placed in palliative care until he died – happy and at peace.