“Reffos, Wogs and Dagoes:” The Immigration Experience in Post-World War II Australia

Susan Jacobowitz

Abstract


This article seeks to analyze the ways in which immigrants experienced Australia in the years following World War II, when the makeup of Australian society changed. In The Voyage of Their Life: The Story of the SS Derna and Its Passengers, Diane Armstrong – a child immigrant to Australia – writes, “Homogenous, conservative and almost entirely Anglo-Saxon in its origin, Australians were about to awake from there illusion of perfection” (274). Focusing on memoir, poetry and short stories, this article analyzes Andra Kins’ memoir Coming and Going: A Family Quest; Serge Liberman’s short stories “Home,” “Greetings, Australia!  To You I Have Come,” “The Fortress” and “Two Years in Exile;” Peter Skrzynecki’s The Sparrow Garden; Lily Brett’s poetry; and Susan Varga’s memoir Heddy and Me.  Jewish and non-Jewish immigrants from Russia, Poland, Latvia, Hungary and Ukriane struggled with trying to build new lives in a new land in the face of prejudice and “anti-refo” feeling. Measures were introduced to limit severely the number of Jewish refugees allowed to travel to Australia. Despite these obstacles, Australia was transformed.  According to Mark Wyman, “Eventually, 182,159 DPs emigrated to Australia, led by 60,000 Poles and 36,000 Balts.  Enough of an Eastern European mixture was admitted through Australian gates to constitute a small revolution in the nation’s much-publicized homogeneity.  The long tradition of allowing only British stock down under was broken.  By 1966 almost one in five Australians was a postwar immigrant or the child of one, and 60 percent of this group had non-British ethnic backgrounds” (191). 


Keywords


Immigration; Immigrant Literature; Refugee; Holocaust Survivor; Second-Generation Literature

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5007/2175-8026.2016v69n2p77

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