I never blame other people
for my mistakes.
People do that all the time.
I'm Rosina Swagell.
101 years old.
"I was born in Slovenia
and then started school."
"Italian school. That was an
Italian government at that time."
My father was on the railway station.
Imagine, he had 16 brothers and sisters
in one family.
You see I think
that picture was taken in Trieste.
My Dad, Mum...
my older brother and older sister.
"And the little boy was four
when he died because"
"the big brother played with rocks
with another friend."
They threw one rock at
his head and he died when he
We had a farm.
Depends what year was good or bad.
"When it was a good year for farmers,
it was terrific,"
"but when it was really bad,
everything was bad."
My sister didn't want to stay on the farm.
"She went [to work] next [door]
at the Railway Station Hotel."
"She was working there
and I went there a lot of times."
"I was maybe five, or four,
and she gave me a nice cup of coffee"
or some chocolate or something
and I was so happy to go there.
And they had one cow just for milk
for the hotel on the other side of the road.
"And I went there
and I looked after the cow some times,"
"but I was so happy to go there
because it was very nice"
to be there.
1928, that was all people,
they put a lot [of people] in jail.
No one liked it and Mussolini was the boss
and everyone had to do what THEY wanted.
Not what you liked.
It was very bad.
what I can tell you about [it]?
Oh, look, about 18.
That will be 1940, yes.
"That was just
when the War had already started."
There was war all the time, everywhere.
My brother, he was in the Italian army.
"He'd come home
because he had stomach sick."
"They let him go home for three months
"After three months
he should go back to the army"
but my sister was
going to the big city.
She said, “Look I’ll be very late home”.
In that way I was myself
in front of my house
and I could see five men
come from [my] neighbour’s cellar
and my brother came
and he had some backpack.
"He put some clothes in it
and he said to me,"
“Look when my sister comes home,
"tell her to go early in the morning
to the police station"
"and tell them
that the Partisans kidnapped me.”"
"But they didn't kidnap [him].
The other old men"
made him go.
My brother, he wasn't political,
"but other people made him do things
"And then my sister came home
and the next day"
she’s gone to the police station.
"But you see, there was a police station
here in a blue uniform"
"but there was [also] a police station
with a brown uniform - "
German, Italian - which was political.
"And she went in there
[to the wrong police station] at 9:00."
By about 10:00 so many men came
policemen with Alsatian dogs.
"And they said to us,
“Look, you have to come with us,"
close your door and come”.
And we went up.
"It was one kilometer
from our house to the police station."
And my sister,
she knew the sergeant of police.
"And he said, “Look, I made that
I am going with you to your house"
so you can take some clothes.”
And she packed two suitcases of clothes
and then came back to jail
and there was a truck there waiting for us
and took us to Trieste.
"The first stop was where there were monks
They put my father down.
[He was] gone.
"They took us further down in Trieste
to where there was a nuns’ convent."
They put us down and we...
were sleeping in one bedroom.
There were about 12 of us.
"The toilet was a little bucket
behind the door."
There were still nuns in the place.
You could go to confession because
Catholic...[but] we didn't want to
"because if you went to confession
and you said something..."
[so] we didn't go.
And then after two weeks
"they took us down past
Rome to Frosinone."
Frosinone is more on the Adriatic Sea.
"And then from Frosinone,
they put us on big trucks"
"and took us a long way down
a big valley "
"[There] were a lot of barracks
and they took us in there."
And we were in there in one cabin -
about 15 women and girls.
No men in there.
Look, I’ve never been political.
"I was nine months
in the concentration camp"
because of my brother.
Stay in there.
The food was bad.
And nothing [to do].
We didn't have any clothes.
Only what we had.
They didn't give us anything.
Just staying there.
The food was very...
When I came home, I was very skinny
We were there for nine months
till the English and Americans
pushed up from Africa to Italy.
All the guards went home.
No one was looking after us anymore.
"And we said,
“Oh, now we better go home.”"
"And we walked a long way to the railway
station and we were lucky to get a train."
And we got a train to Rome.
In Rome there were still bombardments
"but it was still Italian and German
we found a train to go to Venice."
In Venice, it was the same thing.
We were scared that
they would pick us up again
"but we were lucky again,
we got a train for Trieste."
"But we went halfway and couldn't
The Partisans [had destroyed] the railway.
We walked about 40 kilometers to our home
"and when we got home,
there was nothing there."
Everything was dreadful.
When they took my father, my father
"they put him in a different concentration
camp near Genoa."
They took them to Auschwitz in Poland.
They hit them.
They shot them.
They did everything.
Imagine, they treated him
like he was Jewish.
And he was there for six months.
And then they thought,
they are Italian, not Jewish."
"They shouldn't be here.”
And they let them go home."
"My father came home
six months after we got home."
He was only skin and bone.
Once a week, the doctor came to see him.
Otherwise I looked after my father.
It was dreadful I tell you.
Nothing good for nothing
When we came home,"
"my sister Milka,
she went into the ‘bush’ like my brother."
"She was very political,
against the Germans and Italians."
"And you see,
I was only myself, my mother and father."
But the Partisans came one night
"and they attacked,
and they killed, some Germans."
And we were so scared,
we all went ‘bush’ for two nights."
We slept in the bush. The whole town.
There was no-one in town.
"Then my mother and father said,
"“We can’t stay here.
We have to go home”."
"And we watched my mother and father
and another three other people..."
"The Germans took them
and they put them all in a line"
and they were ready to shoot them.
But with us there was a really rich man.
And he was German - but many years back.
"And he was so rich,
he spoke seven languages."
he went down to the German soldiers."
He didn't care what happened to him.
"He said, “Look, when you come here,
we have to do what you tell us."
"When Partisans come,
we have to do the same”."
And then [the German] said, “Alright”.
He said, “Then you all better go home
and in two hours you have to [leave].
Take what you want and go.”
We didn't have cars or horses."
"It was more like a bull
and things like walking."
Everything by hand.
Imagine walking such a long way
where we had rapes and things like that.
And that was dreadful. Everything.
And we were there till the end of the War.
We came home with nothing.
But you know, you do the best you can.
I was married when I was 21 or 22.
I can’t remember.
It doesn't worry me.
We met when I was 17 years old,
"and we had been very good friends
till he went to the army."
"Everyone had to go to the army
when they were 18 or something."
"We didn't have any contact
while he was in the war in Africa."
"But he came back [from the War]
and he came to my place."
"we went to dances and things,
[this] and that,"
"and my mother
and father were so against..."
They didn't like that I married the man.
His father was a very big womanizer.
And all the country knew that.
"And they thought
the son would be the same."
He was 100% worse!
But you see I was young
and I didn't listen to people.
"That was a marriage
after the end of the War,"
"but it was so bad I can't remember myself
what was for my wedding."
Because his parents didn't want me,
That he marry me.
"I was two years in their [his
My son was born there,
but it was so bad,
like I was some stranger in the house.
Life was dreadful.
The communist government came
after the end of the Second World War.
Because Italy wasn’t communist.
"My son was two years old
when we came over the border."
Walking up the mountains.
We didn't have anything.
"Only a bottle of milk for my little boy
for him to drink."
Every so many
500 [meters] or one kilometer,
"there were guards
so that people didn't cross the border."
And when we went up the hill at night,
"to cross the border,
they shoot so many people."
"And we stayed there quiet
and after a while"
"we heard some walking,
like dry sticks in the bush, and he come"
and my husband said, “Are you, Pepe?”
He said, “Yes”.
"And we were so close
to the guards on the border,"
"they must have been playing cards
or something so they didn't hear."
"And we crossed [the border]
after some time and then we sat"
down, far away, to have a rest.
We wanted to go to Canada
"but Canada didn't take
married people with children,"
only without children.
They needed workers.
That’s why, we didn’t
even know where Australia was.
"And then he [husband] said “We’re
going to Australia.” Yeah."
"We had been in Italy
for about six months waiting"
We [boarded] Anna Salen in Naples.
The sea was so rough I was coughing blood.
So many children with measles or
"You know, on Anna Salen
so many people died."
[Adults] and a lot of children.
Before we come to Port Melbourne.
was was just two years old.
He had the worst measles.
"They took him to Heidelberg Hospital
without asking - you like it or not"
- and us to Bonegilla Camp.
And he was in there.
"Imagine a two year old boy,
how hard it was for him?"
And he was there for a fortnight, then
they brought him to Bonegilla to us.
I was in Bonegilla till my husband,
he found a place to stay.
It was a place in Fitzroy.
A little bedroom.
"In the backyard was the kitchen,
no bigger than a toilet."
I couldn't put a chair in it.
And I cook.
I work in Eastern Hill Hotel
"When he found that room,
he already had that woman at that time."
I didn’t now at that time.
"My husband speak English
because he was with the English in Malta"
but he never teach me anything.
I was working
buildings and different things."
And I tell you, I worked so hard.
He was keeping all the money.
The night before my daughter was born.
I always had to do what he told me.
"My husband wanted to go see, in Collins
Street, The Follies."
"more like women
not dressed properly or something."
"He wanted to do
everything that he wanted to do"
"and it was 5:00 in the morning [before]
we came home."
I said, “Look I feel very bad.”
and he took me
to the Women's Hospital for the baby.
He took me there.
He left me there
"He left me there
and I was there by myself."
I didn't have anyone.
And then he came.
"It was only one hour visiting
at the time in the hospital,"
and he came 5 minutes before closing time.
No one knew that
we had a problem in the family.
And then when I wanted a divorce,
"when my children were married,
I thought, that's enough."
He always said that I'm stupid.
I believe what other people are saying.
"No-one knew anything because I was always
making everything right."
"I knew, myself,
everything that was going on."
But to have [proof] that I can show,
I got a detective and in two days
the detective knew where he was going.
He had a flat there.
I don't know if it was his flat
"He said, “Look,
we can still stay here together."
I will give you so much a week.”
I said, “Look, I’ve had enough!
You go and finish.”
"No one knew that there was
something wrong with the two of us."
Till then I tell them after
"And now everyone knows
but it's too late for me."
People shouldn't do like I was doing.
You don't get anything from covering.
"Just be honest
and do the best you can for yourself."
Not like I was doing.
Covering or [saying] how happy I am.
It wasn't a good life, but it was better.
That was because of my children.
"Even now, I will do anything for
I just wish they have a good life.
Better than I do.
I haven’t got anyone else.
I said to my son when I’m gone,
“Don't cry for me. Be happy!”
Why should they cry for me?
"So many young people die and me
so old here."
"The best thing is to go to sleep
and not wake up."