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VALE JOHN WOLCZKO, 1925-2021

John Wolczko, a Polish Army wartime survivor, former teacher at the Bundoora Campus and the father of Old Paradians Andrew (1982) and Mark Wolczko (1987), had died at the age of 95.

Mark contacted the Old Paradians’ Association to advise that his father died at neighbouring Whittlesea on Monday (March 22).

“Dad taught many students, now Old Paradians, and paved the way for Andrew and me at Parade. His grandchildren are currently at Parade or recently completed their schooling at the College,” Mark said.

“Dad really loved Parade and what it meant to have his boys go there.”

In acknowledging his father’s passing, Mark revealed how wartime shaped his father’s life.

“Dad was born in Poland in 1925, the eldest son of three children,” Mark said.

“He was a World War Two veteran, having served in the Polish Army from 1939-1945. He survived the war and migrated to Australia from the United Kingdom at war’s end in 1948.

“Dad joined the Royal Australian Air Force after arriving in Victoria. In Richmond he married my mother Mary Milan (with whom he had grown up before he joined the war in Poland and who later joined him in Australia), bought a home in Watsonia and started a new life, raising three children – Andrew, Mark and a daughter Elizabeth.”

Mark recalled that his father later pursued his studies and graduated at nearby Latrobe University, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Education – and he later taught for a brief period at Parade’s Bundoora Campus (where he is pictured here in 1976).

John is survived by Andrew, Mark and Elizabeth and ten grandchildren, three of whom (Jackson, Toby and Ben) studied at Parade College.

His funeral service takes place at Hall's Funeral Chapel, 50 Church Street, Whittlesea, next Monday (March 29), commencing 11am.

In 2010, John submitted his own story to Immigration Place Australia in Canberra as part of the organization’s collection of immigration stories.

With the permission of the Wolczko family, John’s story appears as follows:

 

 

“I was born Zdzislaw Jan Wolczko on 8 June1925 in Przemysl in the south eastern part of Poland. I spent my childhood in the town of Drohobycz, now in the south western Ukraine, and was 14 when the World War II began.

 

I have had hair raising experiences under both the Russian and German occupations and when the Russians reoccupied Poland in 1945 I made plans to escape to the west, succeeding in 1946. I travelled through West Germany and Austria to Italy where I join the Polish Army led by General Anders. We were transferred to Britain in the same year and I spent two years in a Polish secondary School for soldiers who wanted to catch up on their studies lost to war. Afterwards I emigrated to Australia.

I sailed with some 400 Polish servicemen from Tilbury in the troop ship Strathnaver, stopping at Valletta, Malta to pick 350 Maltese families also migrating to Australia. We made further stops at Alexandria, Port Said, and Aden after sailing through the Red Sea in very oppressive heat (and) from there to Colombo, Sri Lanka and to Australia, reaching Fremantle in July. From there we travelled to Adelaide, Hobart, and Melbourne where the Maltese families disembarked. We finally arrived at Sydney on the evening of 10 August and were transported by train to Bathurst Resettlement Camp the following day.

For the next two years I worked as a cane cutter in Tully, North Queensland, as a labourer in planting the Toolara Forrest between Gympie and Tin Can Bay - and finally at the Kingaroy Peanut Factory as bagman emptying the loads from the framers in to the shute for processing.

In 1950 I moved to Brisbane and gained employment as a clerk in the Austin Car Company at Rocklea. Early in 1951 I moved on to Sydney, working as a clerk in the Sydney Metropolitan Board of works. After a few months I joined the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority in Cooma as Temporary Clerk Grade I in the Commonwealth Public Service until 27 October 1953. I found the place cold and miserable in the winter and returned to north Queensland where I obtained a job as a fettler on the Hughenden-Winton line with the base at Olio. I lasted only few weeks their and returned to Sydney in the late 1953 to work as a tram conductor on the dangerous ‘foot-board trams’ connecting the eastern suburbs such as Bondi, Clovelly, Coogee, Maroubra and La Perouse with the Circular Quay.

My life was unstable – I was missing my family and friends in Poland and I needed a family to settle down. I found one by joining the RAAF in 1954. Soon after I changed my name to John Rockney because my Australian mates were given me a hard time concerning my Polish name. I served for twelve years in administrative capacity reaching the rank of Sergeant. In 1966 I finally managed to gain Matriculation Certificate and was offered a place at Monash University, but the RAAF would not help me to stay in Melbourne to finish my degree and with great reluctance I had to resign.

By 1967 I was an administrative assistant to the Chief Librarian at the new La Trobe University being built at Bundoora where I also transferred from Monash as a part time student in 1968. I completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1971 and Bachelor of Education in 1975. I began my teaching career in 1971 at the Lalor High School, transferring to the Christian Brothers’ College (Parade Bundoora) in 1975 for one year as only way to get my two boys to study there. I returned to the State Education Department, teaching at Reservoir High School, retiring in 1986 due to a nervous breakdown and being placed on Workcare until reaching the official retiring age of 65 in 1990.

Towards the end of my teaching career I bought a ten-acre property at Leongatha South, near the colourful coast town of Inverloch in South Gippsland. I restored run down land and established a well-developed pasture for my herd of cattle sheep. I also established a vegetable garden and built sheds for my free-range chickens. I also restored a neglected farm house to comfortable accommodation. It was a very peaceful countryside which helped me restore my health.

However, my age had caught up with me and the cold winters were very difficult to bear. As a result I sold the property and bought a two bedroom duplex unit at Studio Village, Oxenford on the Gold Coast in Queensland where I continue to lead a very quiet and relaxing life as a happy 84 year-old senior citizen.

While Poland will all always be my fatherland, Australia has become my precious motherland – and I have become her faithful and happy son who will always be grateful for the opportunity to erase the terrifying memories of war years in Europe and grow a large Australia family of three children and (so far) eight grandchildren who are all dinky di Aussies who love cricket and Australian Rules football.”