The Chronicle

Sonia’s story would bring a smile or two to Eddie Jaku


TERRIBLY sad news last week with the passing of 101-year-old Eddie Jaku.

Eddie was born in Germany and under the Nazis was sent to the Buchenwald concentrat­ion camp and later to Auschwitz, where his parents were murdered in the gas chambers.

He witnessed unimaginab­le atrocities, yet he penned the book The Happiest Man on Earth.

A generation earlier, Western Australian farmer AB Facey, who survived the gore of Gallipoli, raised a family during the Depression and suffered impossible hardships, produced a beautiful read, A Fortunate Life.

Tough men, just happy to be alive. Also last week, Mrs J’s Aunt introduced me to a Sonia Grevell with whom she undertakes voluntary Justice of the Peace services in local shopping centres.

I reckon Sonia’s story would receive a smile or two from Eddie and AB.

She was born shortly after the Second World War ended, September 28, 1945 to be precise.

Her mother was unmarried, so Sonia became an orphan and was sent to Pastens National Children’s Home in Limpfield, Surry which she described as, “a beautiful manor building staffed by beautiful people”.

At 12 she sailed for Australia, with 40 other children, to be placed in another orphanage. She saw the transporta­tion as being part of our nation’s “White Australia policy” which was, thankfully, dismantled in 1966.

She knew nothing of Australia and had only seen photos of “skinnylegg­ed Indigenous kids and kangaroos,” but when she arrived in Sydney all she saw was tall buildings.

She was placed in the Bidura Orphanage in the suburb of Glebe where, sadly, bashings and sexual abuse were common.

She found it funny that the English children loved vegetables and disliked meat whereas the Australian children were the complete opposite – they didn’t want to eat “cow food”.

Sonia was disappoint­ed to learn schooling was provided within Bidura whereas in England the children were educated at “outside schools”.

She told me she had no chance of being adopted by Australian families as those families preferred to have their own babies rather than adopt grown kids.

She remained at the institutio­n until she was two months short of 15 and then started work at Montrose Infant’s Home which was an institutio­n for children with learning difficulti­es.

At 16, she’d had enough and took off and lived in a park near Sydney’s Central Railway Station for three days, sleeping in a toilet at night. She obtained food from an adjacent milk bar in return for washing dishes.

The milk bar owners said she should go to Queensland, out west, to care for children. They gave her the money and she was on her way to Toowoomba via Brisbane.

Next week, Toowoomba Hospital to the rescue.

 ?? ?? INTERESTIN­G LIFE: Sonia Grevell knew nothing of Australia before she was sent here, aged 12.
INTERESTIN­G LIFE: Sonia Grevell knew nothing of Australia before she was sent here, aged 12.
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