In 1950 a teenager claimed to be an adult to improve his chances of finding work in an unfamiliar country.
Milos Tvrznik, who had left his family in Czechoslovakia two years earlier, found himself at Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre.
“He came across, couldn’t speak English so he had to learn English, he was only very young, it was huge for him,” his daughter Janine Arkinstall said this week.
“The man that he escaped (Czechoslovakia) with, he didn’t actually make it, he was killed on the journey, so Dad was really on his own.”
Mrs Arkinstall, who lives in Mildura, hopes to learn more about her late father’s life during Bonegilla Migrant Experience’s annual reunion on Friday and Saturday.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Bonegilla and see where he came,” she said.
“Just get a bit of a background on what Bonegilla is, just curious to have a look.”
More than 300,000 migrants started their new lives in Australia at Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre between 1947 and 1971.
The site was once made up of 24 blocks, with its own churches, banks, sporting fields, cinema, hospital, police station and railway platform.
This week’s reunion will celebrate 71 years since the centre was established, Australia’s largest and longest operating in the post-war era.
The two-day program includes guided tours of Block 19, bus tours, pop-up displays, demonstrations of flour milling and sourdough, genealogy information, refreshments and a dinner at the German Austrian Club.
Historian Bruce Pennay will give an illustrated talk on how memories of Bonegilla have been captured while War Child author Annette Janic, whose parents and older brother passed through the centre, is another guest speaker.
Last year Mrs Arkinstall ordered a plaque in memory of her father, who died in 2004.
His name has been included among those listed on The Arc memorial sculpture at the centre.
Mr Tvrznik eventually settled in Red Cliffs, near Mildura, where he met his future wife Lorraine Lanyon.
Mrs Arkinstall remembered her father as “a hard-working family man” who rarely talked about his early experiences.
She has made contact with Czech relatives and plans to visit her dad’s homeland in the future.
Some of what she knows came from research for a school assignment on Mr Tvrznik back in year 10.
“If I didn’t do that assignment on him, I’d probably have nothing,” Mrs Arkinstall said.
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