Rovigno, Istria (formerly in Italy, now in Croatia). Moved to Trieste, Italy after WW2.
Trieste, Italy on 1 August 1955
Sydney on 22 September 1955
Greta in the Hunter Valley for a short while from September 1955
Palmer Street, East Sydney
Builder for Cockle Brothers in Sydney
Self employed doing building works, working in Botany and other Sydney eastern suburbs
Domenico: I was born in Rovigno in 1920 and my wife Eufemia was born there in 1927. Whilst we were growing up it was part of Italy but after World War 2 it became part of Croatia. After the war I moved to the port of Trieste on the Adriatic Coast as did Eufemia, although at the time we did not know that we were both living there until one day a friend of Eufemia who knew me, saw me and introduced me to Eufemia. We were married six months later in May 1955.
I don’t really know why we decided to leave Italy. As newly weds we saw it as an adventure and a new beginning. After the war it seemed that everyone was leaving – some went to America , some went to Australia . We left from Trieste on the Toscana , from the Lloyd Triestino shipping line in August 1955. The trip was pretty rough which was a problem for my wife who was pregnant with our first daughter.
There were a number of people from our town of Rovigno working on the ship and after they would finish their shift we would all get together and play the guitar and sing. I had played for many years having been in the junior band then later playing in the navy band and also socially in Rovigno and in Trieste.
We had packed two big trunks to take our precious belongings for our new life in Australia . Apart from the necessities (not knowing what to expect or find on arrival in Australia ) we also brought things relating to our family history. Photographs, Eufemia’s grandmother’s night dresses, and our wedding things are just some examples. Eufemia also packed the potato masher for making gnocchi and her sewing machine and I brought my musical instruments so that I could continue to play my music and my tools of trade to help with my work. I guess we have kept these belongings because my daughter feels that they are a reminder of our homeland and something that we can hand down to our grandchildren.
We arrived in Sydney on 22 September 1955 and were taken to the Greta migrant hostel near Newcastle. We did not stay there for very long as after the war there was a shortage of skilled tradesmen and I got a job fairly quickly as a builder. My first job was with John Cockle of Cockle Brothers, building a big new church out in the western suburbs of Sydney.
Eufemia, myself and the new baby rented a house in Palmer Street, East Sydney. Everyone would laugh when we told them where we lived because it was a red light district in those days. I can remember hearing the fights that went on in the street after pub closing time.
I worked for John Cockle for a year. He liked my work and paid well but I was asked to join some other Italians and start a partnership in the building industry. However this did not eventuate as well as we had thought and so I went out on my own. I got lots of jobs as my skills as a good tradesman in the building industry and the quality of my work got around. I worked all over the eastern suburbs, Botany, Maroubra, Mascot, Vaucluse and at times also travelled by public transport to the western suburbs. My work was good, clean and precise and I had a reputation as an honest worker.
About 43 years ago, in 1962, we had saved enough money to put a deposit on a house in Randwick in which we still live. Over the years I have used my skills to rebuild a greater part of the house. We have brought up our two daughters and our son here.
In the 1980s and ’90s I got together with two other Italians and we would play socially at Italian social events. I would alternate between playing the guitar and the piano accordion whilst the other two played the drums and sang. We would also entertain the elderly at the Bexley Retirement Village or at the Italian social club gatherings held at St Theresa’s in Mascot. I still play but only for family these days and for my doctor when he visits.
I have had a good life in Australia. I have made lots of friends over the years and have been able earn a decent wage to be able to keep my family comfortable and provide my children with a good Catholic education. I do miss Italy very much especially now in my old age and I have fond and loving memories of the Italy where I grew up. But my life is now here in Australia where I enjoy living close to my children, grandchildren and friends.
Mrs Eufemia Benussi died on 31 October 2006, in her late-seventies. The Migration Heritage Centre is grateful for her recollection which has been recorded in Belongings for posterity.