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Emilio Russo's journey of migration to Australia

Mara Moustafine and Emilio Russo.

Emilio Russo describes his journey of migration to Australia



Date Added:

27 April 2009


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My name is Emilio Russo. Come from Italy back in 1952 from a small village, her name was Ostiano (sp?) Provincia Salerno. What made me come to Australia? It’s because when you’re young, you’re a bit stupid, you don’t know what you do. I had an uncle which had to do with the employment office in Italy and I saw him once and said, “They say anything when I can go somewhere overseas?” He said, “Yeah, there’s something in Canada this time, but I don’t think it will be any good there.” I said, “Oh well that’s alright.”


After a couple of week, he send me a letter. It said, “If you want to migrate you can go to Australia.” I said, “Oh well, there you go.” So – and he explaining what I had to do. Had to go to the employment officer over there, to apply blah, blah, blah. Said, “Okay.”


Then I boarded the ship Florandia (sp?) was the name of it. Took 42 days to come from Naples to Melbourne. 42 days. That’s – from here we stop, Port Melbourne, no was it Victoria Dock when we disembarked? Then go on the train, took eight hours from Melbourne to Bonegilla. When we were at to Bonegilla was (UNCLEAR 01:40) the clock, ooh, there was already migrants before us. They nearly bashed us. Say, “What you come here for? There is no work! Blah, blah, blah.” So. What can we do? They follow us so we – by on the bus, so maybe because of the station they took us in the barracks where we were still on the bus.


And they used to come around and, here they promise this, they promise that, but we – and then we are slumming it. What? What can we do, we’re here?


And after two weeks, said, you know, went on the bus and went to Albury. And we had the first time, we had the drink of beer, one of a friend of mine, he lives down Brunswick as well, he bought one of the trotters, pig trotters, cook that and start eating. So we had a bit of fun.


The next day, the old speaker from in the camp started to call the name of the people. And from where I come from, from Salerno we were on board the ships, 106. They start to call all the ones from Salerno. We – everybody say, “Why? Why? Why?” You know. Anyway, after it start to go 25 at a time, after that and so we got to the employment office in the centre. Bonegilla centre. After that, they called 25 at a time, but they used to come out, “Oh we leave tomorrow morning, we’ve got to work in Melbourne.” Oh there you go. The next lot was 25 and we got to go to Melbourne. The other one we had to go to Melbourne, they’re all in Melbourne. When my turn come up with some 25 friends, all from Salerno, when we went inside, one of the most there, was whatever the employment officer, said, “Very sorry but you got no jobs, because we had – 100 so we shut (UNCLEAR 03:43).”


Apart that I didn’t get the job, I lost all the friends, they are all come down, then they left there. I mean, not only but 20 of us, but they said, “Don’t worry, the first job will be yours.” “Okay.” The next day when they had to start to get ready to leave, they call us again in their employment office. Said, “Right you leaving tomorrow morning for Jervis Bay in the navy camp.” And that’s where we left – we were left behind but we left to go to work before the others, so – and that’s it. After we went to Jervis Bay, we work there for 16 weeks, then they send us to Cowra, another camp. From Cowra they send us to pick up new peas (sounds like 04:35), I didn’t like it.


When I pick up the first bucket, my back was broken so I kicked the bucket and said, “That’s it.” I said, “I’m going.” Anyway the truck driver, the owner, the farmer come around and I said, “You’ve got to take us to the camp again, we don’t want to stay here.” He took us to Bathurst and left us there, then from there we got a train and we went to Cowra again back to the camp, that’s it, from there say a few more weeks, they send us – me – some others pick the grapes, Mildura, 48 hours travelling. Went there four weeks, then I come back here, I said, “That’s it for Bonegilla no more.” I don’t want to go there any more. They said, the railway station said, “You’ve got to sign up the papers that you don’t want to accept the contract because you were here for two years contract.”


I said, “I’m okay, I don’t want to go to Bonegilla any more. That’s enough.” “Fair enough.” They said.


And I went to rent a room in Brunswick in David Street, over there I meet some other friends, we – one was – I knew already which he come with the same boat. And he tell me, he said, “Not much work around.” I said, “Well better than the camp.” The next day we go and see “Papa”. Which was the consular, the Italian consular, we went there and he give us a couple of pound, and he ask me, he said, “Why don’t you go to the camp?” I said, “No.” I said, “Why should I go to camp which nothing there to do and you know, you just stay for nothing?” Said, “Yeah, but see, you know, if everybody come here we haven’t got enough money to..” I said, “It doesn’t matter if you give me money, okay, if you don’t, well..”


Anyway, after two or three weeks, I stay here, no work. No money. So I went to see the Papa again, which the consular. And he said, “Listen, you want to go back to the camp?” I said, “Two things.” He give me the ticket to go to Italy or I don’t go to the camp. He said, “You can go to Italy but you – don’t forget you go back with a lot of money to pay, because you’ve got to pay the two fares back and forth.” He said, “Listen, Australia’s a very big country.” The people I spoke to, he was from Salerno too, working with the Italian consulate.” He said, “I’m going to give you some money today, but you better go to the camp because over there, they got everything. You got your bed, you’ve got your food, everything.” I says, “Okay.” He said, “Now I give you three pound, it cost you a pound to go to Rushworth.” Which was another camp.


Anyway, I said, “Okay.” And then I come to work in Melbourne, since then I always starting to – always have job. Still the same house what I rent before, when I come from – it pick up (UNCLEAR 07:44) . A smaller house with three bedrooms, a little kitchen, a little lounge room, half that, I had six kids and we used to be about six or seven young blokes living in there. In the little shack at the back in the backyard, you know. And after that, my brother came, 1955 after a few months we bought a house in Albion Street and that’s it.


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