|JOŽICA MARN GERDEN
I was born during a turbulent spring of 1947 in Jezero near Trebnje in a loving, supportive and protective family of eight children. After I completed 8 years of primary school in Trebnje, I started High School in Novo mesto. We had a small farm and produced enough food for our family. I always felt that our family was fortunate because we had everything we needed even at the most difficult times after the war, under communist rule, when ¾ of our farmland was being nationalized and my beloved father imprisoned for two years. The love, faith and support for each other held us in good stead for all encounters and experiences in life.All my brothers and sisters were at school age from primary, secondary to universities. We were raised to strive for a higher education which meant pursuing and successfully obtaining scholarship into university. I continued my study at the Technical School of Economics in Novo mesto, where I could travel daily by train. I received a scholarship which meant my employment opportunity was guaranteed after the graduation. A career in finance and economics did not interest me; I was drawn to archaeology, art, architecture, pharmacy or literature. My mind was enriched by books on these topics and the creative arts.
Nevertheless, I completed a 4 year degree at the School of Economics. This led to a job offer as general accountant at the Forestry Industry in Brezice. My duties included financial and material overview in all areas from planting trees to selling timber, work of all employees; including monthly balancing of all books and reporting our activities to the general office. We didn’t have computers then, so I often had to take work home, as I also had to work in the area of planning and statistics, a job description for a assistant manager we didn’t had at that time. I enjoyed working, and specially caring for regeneration of forests; I still love our beautiful Slovenian forests.
The two years job experience developed my awareness and confidence that I had the abilities and capabilities to meet any hard task I might have to face in the future.
Australia – arrival and our family businesses
It was Christmas in 1968, my brother-in-law introduced me to his friend from Australia. This man was hard working, ambitious and reliable, which I admired. He came to Slovenia on a year long holiday to visit his family and home. Igor would become my future husband. He promised me that we would be in Australia for only two years, so that he can sell his properties there and then we could return to Slovenia permanently. Young, naïve and in love, I believed my husband and followed him. I also needed a change.
My thoughts circled around the idea of the adventures that would unfold. It was an opportunity to see the world, experience new cultures and learn English. This would fulfill our dream of returning home to Slovenia.
We came to Australia by ship “Marconi”, in October 1969. My husband Igor, (who later officially changed his name to Charles) came twelve years earlier from Austria, where he worked as a porter at Cist. Monastery in Salzburg for two years. He always wished to be independent so he did not want to go to a migrant camp in Bonegilla. Igor formed a partnership with two Janezic brothers from his home town and they bought a Milk bar on Victoria Parade in Melbourne. Their business was not very successful, so Igor left for Mildura where he bought a Milk Bar opposite the Mildura Ozone Movie Theatre. This business was more successful, and a couple of years later, he sold it and bought a small vineyard. He subdivided the land and started building houses and rental units. With my expertise and background in finance, I took care of the renting business. I did not enjoy collecting money from people, although during that time I met so many lovely people and made some lifelong friends.
Several years later we sold most of our properties and bought a large motel called the Wentworth Grande Resort on two rivers Murray and Darling. Motel is successfully managed by one of our son’s David. http://www.wentworthgranderesort.com.au/main/index.php
Our return to Slovenia
During my first years in Australia I was fully occupied with motherhood. Within two and half years, I had four children, including twins. I was the happiest mother in the world, but soon I was becoming more and more homesick, missing my home and family, as we had no relatives or knew any Slovenians in Australia. I was busy with babies and became increasingly tired. Any hope of returning to Slovenia had to be postponed for five years.
In 1974, my husband could see my longing to return to Slovenia, the land of my heritage, my identify and family and so he understood the urgency to fly home. But “Home” was not as homely as we imagined. The company where I used to work were happy to give me back my job but my husband couldn’t adjust to living in Slovenia. After one year we decided to return to Australia.
My work, hobbies and other interests in Australia
Upon our return to Australia, our children started primary school and I worked as a volunteer. I helped teachers at school listening to children read, and at the same time my English skills had also improved. I was also asked to conduct cooking classes for grades 5 and 6 for two years. I enjoyed this rewarding volunteer work.
When our children started leaving home one after another to go to universities, I finally had time for my own interests and hobbies. I enrolled in painting classes at TAFE College, affiliated with Bendigo University. I started painting flowers using water colours. I was invited to exhibit my water colours in Adelaide and was pleasantly surprised to receive a second prize for Purity in Flowers. I continued to paint in oils and completed 2 years part time evening classes of art/painting. I had given as a present many paintings to friends. For a special celebration on behalf of SNS VIC I painted for our Slovenian bishops (Zore, Kramberger)“Saint Francis in Australia”, “Three Slovenian Centres in AU) etc.. My naïve painting Nostalgia is a part of collection at the Naïve art Gallery in Trebnje.
My last painting ‘The Master’ was sold at fundraising activity in Melbourne. As my vision started to deteriorate, I stopped painting and had become more involved with restorations of old and damaged church statues and nativity sets in four churches locally and in Melbourne. Recently I completed several mosaics. I especially loved a large round mosaic table, called Creation.
In the early 1990’ I enrolled to Advanced English, Literacy and Poetry classes at Mildura Adult, Community and Further Education centre (MADEC) and was invited to become its active committee member, later also for Loddon-Mallee regional board member based in Bendigo for several years. This involvement opened many new doors for me.
I always loved writing and finally had an opportunity to develop it further.
I learned to read and write very early from my sister Justina, long before I went to school. My love of writing must be in my genes as I always enjoyed it. My great aunt Ana and my mum’s cousin Franc Huc were great poets, and my parents were also good writers. I kept all their precious letters I received from my mother and father over the years.
Very early in life (3 years) I experienced political injustice in communist Yugoslavia, when my father was a political prisoner. Watching my older sister reading books, I also wished I could read and write, as I wanted so much to write to president Tito for unjustly imprisoning my beloved father. I wanted to spite him with two words: “Tito – communist!” I thought that would tell everything how I felt; well, I soon learned but never wrote to Tito, as my father had returned home after almost two years.
My first creative writing titled “My Mother” was admired by my grade 3 teacher. She sent me to every class to read it out loud. I won a few competitions and received several books during primary school as prizes for writing. I remember my winning writing “My Parents” which was published in the regional newspaper Dolenjski list. On the same page there was an article criticizing my father who was opposing s failed government’s management with our confiscated farm-land. What a different view of my father!
Through English classes, I met many women of various cultural backgrounds, who were feeling isolated like me, had no relatives or no organized group from their countries for support. We formed Multicultural Women’s Association, which I led for 10 years. We established MCW Drop-In-Centre, where women learned English and obtained driving permits. We conducted cooking classes, art and craft classes and had workshops on women’s health. Together we supported each other by embracing our own cultural heritage. Since 1985, I was presenting Slovenian weekly Radio program Slovenian Time for our local Slovenian community, until 2000, when we were able to reach SBS national ethnic radio station. At the same time I was also co-presenting Multicultural Women Radio Program weekly, which lasted over several years. During that time I also become a member of ANESBWA (Australian non-English-Speaking Background Women’s Association), Australian wide lobbing organization supported by the government. That was another very interesting experience for me.
Our English teacher (retired university professor of Medieval English George Russell) had encouraged us to try creative writing. I started publishing the Multicultural Newsletter Rainbow in four languages. With his support as my mentor, I collected stories and memories of various migrant women and published them in a book, The Love That Brought Us Here, together with an extensive research on ethnic women needs in the rural community.
I am the editor of the internet debating site VENETI-WENDS WINDISCHE – SLOVENIA: http://forums.delphiforums.com/VENETI .
At the conclusion of our Advanced English class, I was presented by our teacher with his fountain pen, which he used for writing his mammoth book on “Piers Plowman” in Medieval English. In English academic world it is a great honor when professor passes on his pen to the best student, as a gesture of his respect and trust that his student will continue writing. Wow, what an expectation!
Soon I found more opportunities to write. In early 1990, Slovenia was seeking freedom from a federal Yugoslavia and was brutally attacked by Yugoslav Army. I was extremely worried for my homeland, and followed all reports about the Slovenian fate. Various schools invited me to come and explain to students what was happening in Yugoslavia. I felt helpless to do more from such a distance. My teacher/ mentor reminded me that pen can be mightier than arms.
I joined Slovenian National Council Victoria and started writing letters to urge world politicians for immediate recognition of independent Slovenia. I closely communicated with Slovenian communities in other capital cities. I wrote many articles on political and cultural issues. Many of my articles were published in Misli, Glas Slovenije, Druzina, Rodna gruda, Presernov koledar, Delo, Glasilo SSK etc.
Some of my contribution of my personal effort to support Slovenian independence movement was published in Golden book – Zlata Knjiga by Slovenian World Congress.
Years later I was elected as a secretary of Slovenian National Council Melbourne, which was a part of Australian Slovenian Conference (ASK) of Slovenian World Congress (SSK). I also became a secretary of ASK until it folded in 2009. For one term I was also elected as a vice-president of SSK (in Ljubljana) for overseas countries (US, Canada, Argentina). That was another enriching experience for me.
For my work with ethnic women, I was nominated the Bi-Centennial Woman of the Year 1988 and received a medal, which was a great recognition to me.
My Research work
As a member of Ethnic Community Council I was offered a casual bilingual research job with ethnic elderly to inform them about the services available to them locally, to ease their conditions… Another wider research work was also offered to me from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Canberra, to identify any problems and health issues with Yugoslav migrants. I reported my findings back to the OMA, which helped them to form their multicultural policy. This interesting job lasted for a couple of years, until Ministry for Multicultural Affairs was closed down by new government, who had changed their political orientation.
One day I had a discussion with a friend who told me that his ancestors came from today’s Germany (Brandenburg, Lusatia and Silesia) some 160 years ago. He told me that they were of Slavic origin, just like me, not German. It caught my attention, particularly after I had just read a book “Veneti” (by Šavli, Tomažič and Bor), about our ancestors who always lived on that territory, and did not settle in 6th Century as the modern Slovenian history was teaching us. He lent me his extensive reading material about his ancestors. I subscribed to their quarterly publication Wend-Sorb Society of South Australia, written partially in their archaic language. I was amazed that Barossa Valley and Hahndorf, the most popular tourists area of “German” population and its early settlers, are still aware of their Slavic-Venetic origin and continue their research about their distant roots. With all these resources at my fingertips, I began writing a research paper “Wends in Australia” First Wends for the First Venetic conference held in Ljubljana in 2001 and it was published in first issue “Proceedings – Veneti within the Ethnogenesis of the Central European Population”. Dr Jožko Šavli, a pioneer on Venetic research who was pleased with my research asked me to help him to translate his studies in English. I translated over 40 research papers, which widened my horizons in this area.
I become even more involved with other volunteer Veneti researchers in Slovenia and around the world. My Czech artist friend Petr Jandacek from US sent me material from an old Slavic encyclopedia where I found most interesting and well documented information about the ancestral Slavic nation called Veneti who were autochthonous population of Central Europe.
Again I had an ample material available to write another research paper called “Veneti – Autochthonous Population of Central Europe”, www.korenine.si/zborniki/zbornik02/gerden02.htm which was published in the second book of studies “Proceedings – Ancient Settlers of Central Europe”.
Petr also put together a short strip for his students about 5300 year old frozen skeleton, called the Iceman, which was found on Oetze mountains in Tyrol. Scientists confirmed that he is Venet. He asked me to translate his strip into Slovenian. As I read many books on way of life in Europe in antiquity, I extended Petr’s short strip into children’s story, complimented with Slovenian legendary myths. Otzi the Iceman was presented firmly onto Slo-Veneti historical background. Book ‘Oetzi the Ice Man – Travelling Through Time” was published in Ljubljana in 2004, by Jutro. I am very grateful for the support to Prof. Anton Perdih that this book was published and launched in Ljubljana.
When translating Šavli’s research papers into English, I had opened my own debate internet page Veneti-Wends-Windishers – Sloveni, http://forums.delphiforums.com/VENETI where I was able to publish all articles on Venetic history and have an open debate for people who were interested in our ancient history. This was a first website in Slovenia on history of Veneti.
Currently, I am a member of the Management Committee and involved with the development of Eco Village in Mildura and sustainable living for the local community.
When severe illness strikes loved ones and medicine has its limitations or when modern medicine cure is worse than illness, one needs to stop and reorient priorities.
I began reading and searching for alternative solutions, for natural cure or for Divine help.
Perhaps, natural healing is also in my genes? I fondly remember my late father how he was able to cure all our childhood ills. Our attic and pantry were always full of herbs, and children used to collect herbs for the famous herbalist monk, Father Simon Asic. All my seven brothers and sisters were born at home, and we hardly ever needed a doctor. We are all still alive and healthy today.
My father was even appointed as a veterinary assistant in our village as government trusted him with “Blue Cross” station for the needs of animals on farms.
For several years, I studied the Bio-energy healing methods (Pranic healing) up to Arhatic yogi certificate and now I practice voluntarily on family and friends, as needs arise.
I had also completed study with Russian scientist Dr Arcady Petrov on cells and organs regeneration, a series of lectures on Tree of Life and Creation of Universe, in Melbourne. I hope that all these knowledge will help me to save my eyesight so I will not to soon become fully blind as my eye specialist has predicted.
At present I am following webinars-lectures with another Russian scientist dr. G.Grabovoi on »Macro Salvation & Harmonious Development for All Humanity«, where we strive to save the world from many natural and man made disasters looming on horizons. When you believe »do to others what you wish others do to you« to be true, you become aware that what I do for others I do it for myself also, as we are all one big God’s family.
Jožica Marn Gerden
as SBS TV serial in 1997
ZBORNIK – Proceedings of the First Topical Conference THE VENETI WITHIN THE ETHNOGENESIS OF THE CENTRAL-EUROPEAN POPULATION
Editor of 3-monthly magazine RAINBOW
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