Memorial garden pays tribute to migrant camp

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Hunter Multicultural Communities (HMC) Vice President Janina Sulikowski was three years old when she migrated to Australia.

Her family had plans to go to Argentina, a place they believed to be full of dreams.

However, when her mother fell ill, they were not allowed to get on to the ship and waited for the next one, which was travelling to Australia.

They then landed at the Greta Migrant Camp.

Between 1949 and 1960, the camp housed more than 100,000 migrants from over 17 countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Poland, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Russia.

Now, as the 70th anniversary approaches, a Greta Memorial Garden has been unveiled at HMC’s headquarters in Waratah.

Ms Sulikowski says the memorial garden is “very important” to the community because it honours all they went through.

“It actually has bricks from Greta there plus the rose, the Greta rose that came out on the first ship, the Fairsea on July 6, 1949,” she says.

“Greta camp is such an important place for the migrant community because most of them started life there.

“They came from war-torn Europe to a new place to start a new life.”

Ms Sulikowski adds the “first migrants made such an impact on our development here in the Hunter.”

She believes it is important to acknowledge this impact and to celebrate all the cultures within the country. 

The memorial garden was constructed using bricks from the Greta Migrant Camp site and included two benches.

One is dedicated to Vitaly Lupish, one of the first residents at the camp, while the other recognises HMC President Robert Bell for his services to the organisation and the community.

The garden was opened by Newcastle federal MP Sharon Claydon and Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

Both said it was a privilege to be there to honour the migrant camp, as well as Mr Lupish and Mr Bell.

With the future of the migrant camp site up in the air, this garden provides people who came from the Greta Migrant Camp with a place to reflect on the past and remember their family’s history.

“This will always be here,” President Bell said. 

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