YOU could say there’s a story for every blade of grass in the once barren paddocks where the Bonegilla Migrant Experience stands.
A testament to a different time, for some the camp represents an idyllic childhood, others a painful adjustment.
All of those memories, good and bad, were brought to life once again on Saturday for the 70th anniversary of the Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre.
Many former residents braved the rain to revisit the place where more than 300,000 had called home by the time it was closed in 1971.
It was on Valentine’s Day in 1950 that the Zole family arrived at Bonegilla.
Of four children, the two eldest, Yanis Zole and Laima McArdle, were born in their native Latvia – younger siblings Baiba Thompson and Nina Zole were born and raised in Bonegilla.
Like many others to have grown up during that time, the quartet had many fond memories of the place they called home during their formative years.
We probably didn't know what the hardships were behind the scenes for the adults - we were just kids.Baiba Thompson
“On one level it was idyllic, in the sense that we had a lot of freedom,” Ms Zole said.
“We were free to play around and all of that stuff.
“On the other hand, once we got to high school, out of Bonegilla, it suddenly hit me that we were a little bit different, that the way we lived was not the same way the kids in Wodonga lived.”
While there were plenty of fond memories, Baiba Thompson said as the family had grown older they had learned more about some of the struggles their parents went through, adjusting to life in Australia.
“We probably didn't know what the hardships were behind the scenes for the adults - we were just kids,” she said.
Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie said Bonegilla was an important part of the Border’s cultural fabric.
Preserving the site became the responsibility of Wodonga Council in 2007, and was placed on the National Heritage List.
“This place is an important part of Albury-Wodonga’s identity,” she said.
“Yes, we had gold, there’s that side of our history, but in more recent history it’s important to understand and reflect on war, what they went through.
“Hearing from people who are still alive, who found their way here is incredible.”