Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Re: By Distand Roads - written by Aussiegirl's mother

By BonnieBlueFlag

Many months ago, Aussiegirl shared her Mother's written history with me. I remember being so in awe of the story that her Mother told, and the woman who lived to tell us all about her journey.

Even a second reading can still stir my emotions, and bring a few tears. If I am ever asked to name the women I most admire, I would have to include Aussiegirl's mother, Maria.

I came to understand that my life, which began in the southern US heartland, was ever so much more luxurious than hers, no matter how sparse material things may have seemed to me at the time.

We were born in the same year, and Aussiegirl will be quick to tell you that she is younger than me, but it gave us a starting point for comparing memories of our childhood, and the things we did, or the clothes we wore, or the foods we ate.

While she was eating Ukrainian home cooking and Vegemite, I was growing up with Southern cooking that included hominy, succotash, cornbread, and pecan pie.

I remember snug warm houses with tin roofs that the rain would dance upon and play a pleasant melody, while Aussiegirl must have heard the winds blow hard against her cold tin walls and wondered if they would give way.

As Maria mentioned, they left Italy bound for Australia on an Italian ship named the Wooster Victory.? If that sounds like a strange name for an Italian ship, that's because, the Wooster was built in 1945 as a standard American "Victory" class fast steam turbine troop ship at the beginning of W.W. II.

The SS Wooster Victory was one of 218 ships that were named after American cities.
After the war, the ships were for sale and the Wooster was purchased by Russian immigrant, Alexandre Vlasov. The ships carried a "V" for Vlasov on their funnels. He chartered his ships to the IRO (International Refugee Organization - run by the UN); and, it was under this charter that the Wooster Victory would take Aussiegirl's family to Australia.

The Wooster would later be renamed the Castel Verde, and after years of service between Genoa and Central America, it was sold to a Spanish Line in 1957, and renamed the Monserrat. She was retired (scrapped) in 1973.

Vlasov also bought two American C3 ships. One of these was rebuilt to carry 1,800 passengers and renamed the Fairsea. Years later this ship would eventually return Aussiegirl and her family to Italy, as they made their exciting trip to America.

That would be the year that our childhood memories would begin to be a little less dissimilar, as we both experienced American pop culture; "American Bandstand," the Everly Brothers, Elvis, Bobby Darin, frozen pizza, and we both thought the new sensational "Barbie" doll was quite homely.
A sister ship to the Wooster Victory named the SS Lane Victory, is now berthed in San Pedro, CA and is open to the public for tours.? It is often used for movies and commercials, and has appeared in "G.I. Jane," "Titanic," "U-571" and many others.

I have been especially lucky to find such a good friend in Aussiegirl, and I know you all are as pleased as I have been, that she made it to our shores. She has added a good deal to so many lives, and I am sincerely grateful that her mother, Maria, had the courage and foresight to travel those "Distant Roads."

by BonnieBlueFlag


At 8:02 AM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Bonnieblueflag, that was a sweet, touching post!

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Thanks so much, BonnieB. -- I will pass these thoughtful and kind comments on to my mom -- she'll be thrilled.

Actually, my older sister has all the bad memories, I remember happy times in Australia, (and yes, a tin roof which, as you so beautifully stated sang a tune in the rain). And you and I must be the only two girls who were not impressed with Barbie -- so it's obviously not a cultural thing!!

BTW -- the foods you ate as a child sound so exotic and tasty to me -- just as exotic as borsht, blini, and Marmite must sound to you. Isn't that the greatest thing about America? We can all be Americans -- you and others who have lived here for generations, and people like me who only recently washed up on these shores. My mother never lets a day go by without saying, "God bless America".

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Rimas said...

It'd be so cool to know the names of the ships which brought my folks here to dock at NYC from Germany back in '48-'49...my folks ARE still alive, but their memories are pretty bad now, tho you've now inspired me to ask my 93 year-old Dad whether there is some sort of a journal of significant names and places at least.
In 1998, I made the point of having him generate a family tree of his own siblings and of my Mom's...just before my wife and I flew to Lithuania for our 'Church Wedding' to satisfy her Mom, whereas our June of '97 wedding was in fun-packed Las Vegas.

Just to have an accurate(or 'semi' at least)accounting of who's in those cemeteries which my remaining aunts, uncles and cousins dragged us to, was invaluable.

I've got to guess that BonnieBF, Aussiegirl and I are of about the same age....I remember the shared commonality of Liths from the US's South and from Australia(as well as the eastern seaboard AND western Europe) from the VERY fond memories of the every-4-years Folk Dance Festivals and then the Song Festivals when ALL the Lithuanian communities would send their dance groups and their choirs, which would cover all age ranges, grade schools to seniors.
Within our 'little' enclave(s) here in Chicago we were just a bunch of kids with organizations no-one else had heard of, who sometimes dressed weird and talked funny.
In that 'Pre-SSR Breakup' world, we were these exiles just sort of floating around with no place that was 'ours'.
When 'The World' came to Chicago for those events, the 'weirdness' would be washed away, at least for a few weeks...

And now, thank god, the world is a very different and connected place...

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Welcome aboard, Rimas -- and do come and visit again. It seems we do have much in common. I have BonnieB to thank for even finding these resources about the ships which took my family from Germany to Australia and then to the United States. Never in my wildest imagination did I dream that anyone knew, or remembered, or cared to document such events. Not only that, she found an entire website devoted to the town of Cowra, and the famous POW camp that existed there during the war. I must write to the website and tell them that they are omitting a big part of the camp's history by not including the fact that for several years after the war, the camp was used as a resettlement camp for refugees - just like my parents. Some people stayed on there for several years until they managed to get settled on their own.

Your memories of the annual get togethers of the all the dance and folk song troups sound so familiar and charming to me. As you said, back then, we were kids who belonged to a group no one had ever heard of before and we wore strange costumes and had odd customs, but it was a warm loving family feeling about it, something that can never be forgotten, or quite replaced.

Perhaps we can use the blog as a clearinghouse for resources on the internet which people can use to track the histories of their parents and ancestors as regards immigration. I know there are things like passenger lists of many of these boats, including the ones concerning my family (thanks again to the investigative skills of BonnieB.)

I know there are websites of all the Displaced Persons camps in Germany. I will do some research and post some of the links on UT -- and if you find something post it also.

Also I invite you, or anyone else who has lovely -- or sad -- memories or experiences to share to send them to UT -- we will be happy to share them with our readers.

In this way the histories of our people can be remembered -- history is not just written by the big guys -- history involved all of us - and especially our families and ancestors who lived through some of the most momentous events of the 20th century.

And many of the stories of Eastern European refugees has been silenced -- muzzled by the Iron Curtain, and the prevailing left-wing bias that has existed in the west which labeled most Eastern European refugees as "reactionaries" who could not be believed.

We have come into our own now, and it is time that these stories -- of war, or post war, of emigration and immigration be told -- and shared.

Thanks so much for your comment -- it has inspired a number of new ideas in my mind.


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