Debra Gavranich – The girl who left

There is a strong connection between Korcula Island and Australia and New Zealand as many islanders have moved there over the decades. I have heard quite a few stories from people who’s relatives were born on Korcula and it’s always wonderful to learn more.

Debra Gavranich’s parents were from Blato and moved to Australia. Debra has written a wonderful book about her mother’s experiences leaving Korcula and making a new life in Australia. The book is called The girl who left.

“Marija lives in a small village on the idyllic island of Korčula off the coast near Split in the country now known as Croatia. At 18 years of age she agrees to a proxy marriage to a 27-year-old sugarcane farmer in Far North Queensland who had left the village as a small child with his family in the 1920s. The couple do not know each other, having only exchanged photographs and a handful of letters, but this marriage is Marija’s escape from a traumatised post-war Europe. Her childhood is scarred by constant fear, with death and brutality stalking the island after it is occupied, first by the Italian army and later by the Nazis. Marija’s older sister joins the Partisan rebels as a codebreaker for General Tito, while Marija and her younger sister and father secretly help the Partisans hiding in the hills, with intelligence on the enemy.

A life in Australia with a husband she does not know is a risk worth taking. She travels by ship to Australia along with hundreds of other young men and women seeking escape from poverty and despair in the old world to the promise of adventure, love and a better life. 

This is the migrant story of Australia, of courageous individuals taking the biggest risk of their lives often with little or no English. Their determination and hard work enable them to live with their sacrifices and overcome the profound loneliness of homesickness. The result is the rich diversity of the modern multicultural nation of Australia.”

For more information about Debra and her book please visit her facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/thegirlwholeft/

Or listen to this interview:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/debra-gavranich-maria-proxy-bride-croatia-to-cassowary-valley/13517812

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