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4 Farewell My Village by the Sea Working-Class Croatians in Australian Suburbia I first met Anna, who was to become my first interviewee from the older cohort, one early morning when I was booked for an interpreting job in the largest city hospital. It turned out that two women waited for me there, a frail eighty-five-year-old in a wheelchair, and Anna, who accompanied her elderly relative. This was one of those interpreting jobs where I hardly had to do anything: Anna understood the old lady much better than I did. Apart from speaking the identical village dialect of Croatian, Anna was familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the old lady’s personal idiom. We chatted while pushing the wheelchair through the maze of wards, corridors, and elevators. To my surprise, Anna seemed to know most of the hospital staff members we met on our way. They were waving to her and greeting her with genuine affection, and Anna stopped for few brief chats. She was fluent in English. “I used to work here,” she explained succinctly. The old lady in the wheelchair seemed cheerful enough despite being subjected to a series of unpleasant procedures in the course of the morning, and the three of us had a nice time together. The old lady asked Anna repeatedly who I was, and Anna patiently explained every time. When we were about to part, Anna asked me to visit her sometime, to “come over to her place for a coffee,” as Croatians would put it. I decided I definitely would. I enjoyed chatting with her very much. She gave me her phone number and address and explained that, having retired recently, she was by herself most of the day. Her husband still worked. A few months passed before we met again. I called her, hoping she would still remember me, and she did. On that occasion I explained that I was doing research on the two cohorts of Croatian migrants in Australia. I said I was i-xiv_1-258_Coli.indd 91 9/23/08 11:10:56 AM 92 . migration, class, and transnational identities “writing a book” because “doing research” was bound to sound frightening to people from this generation and background, unused to the idea of social research—a bit like “interrogation.” I noted her reluctance when I mentioned the interview, but she repeated the invitation for a coffee. We agreed we would discuss the issue of my research and the interview when I came to visit. When I arrived a couple of days later, Anna welcomed me into a large, squeaky clean and somewhat lonely-feeling house on a quiet street in an outer Perth suburb. She showed me her house and the garden where she grew every vegetable imaginable, and at that time, late summer, the garden was truly impressive. Homegrown tomatoes were drying in the sun on wooden grids, carefully covered with gauze against flies. Anna’s hospitality included not just coffee and a glass of fruit juice but several types of cakes and pastries, all homemade. I felt as if I was visiting my family in Croatia, who would normally feed me to excess. I felt very comfortable with Anna, as if I had known her for a long time. I wished I didn’t have to mention again the word that was alien in her world: “interview.” When I did, Anna again hesitated with the answer and definitely did not want to be recorded. But before I even mentioned the interview she was well on the way telling me about how she came to Australia almost forty years before. She continued for a couple of hours. The way she told the story, remembering fine details of people, places, events, and feelings, was stunning. I was extremely focused, trying to remember as much as possible, jotting down only key words as she was talking. I occasionally asked questions, but this was hardly necessary; the story was flowing beautifully, and some details made me want to give her a hug and have a little weep. This is not how a professional researcher should feel, and even less act, I thought. Anna’s eyes welled a few times. When I returned home I switched on my computer and typed for hours. I was able to remember a large amount with the help of a few jottings. This was my first interview with a “working-class migrant.” Anna: Lucky is everyone who grows old in their own country...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780252090868
Related ISBN
9780252033605
MARC Record
OCLC
867793918
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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