Following the devastation caused abroad by World War II, a large-scale program of migration to Australia began when millions of people in Europe were displaced.
Housing shortages, strikes and government attempts to nationalise private banks while continuing rationing, were the main events of the day.
By 1947, a post-war immigration boom was underway, with growing numbers of arrivals including those on government-assisted passages landing.
The migrants were recruited to work on large public works programs such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. Archived copies of The Daily Advertiser provide a snapshot of the year Jan Pyc arrived in the Riverina.
“A major local incident of the decade was the death of three Riverina people, two from Leeton and one from Narrandera, who were killed when a Southwest mail train crashed near Galong.” - The Daily Advertiser, July 1, 1948.
“Czechoslovakia is under a reign of terror and the world situation is very, very serious,' the United States Secretary of State (General Marshall) told a Press conference today.” - The Daily Advertiser, March 12, 1948.
Jan was born in Stryj, Ukraine, in 1924. He considers himself both Polish and Ukrainian, as he was born on the border and it’s the background of his mother and father.
After leaving school in Year 9, he started an apprenticeship as a fitting machinist. At the time, Germany occupied his part of the country and Jan was sent to Hamburg to work in an aeroplane factory as a fitter and turner.
“I was there for two years and five of our boys took us to Germany, it was in good faith,” he said.
“I was very lucky and I continued to three months to familiarise myself with the equipment,” he said. “I worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, with one meal a day,” he said.
“I was so eager to learn because it was so exciting, I overlooked the hardship.
“I was lucky when Hamburg was bombed, I was moved away so I didn’t get hurt.”
When World War II ended in 1945, Jan decided to work for the UK.
“While other people were in the camp celebrating, I joined the British Working Force and stayed there for three years,” he said.
Jan was given the opportunity to come to Australia in 1948.
“I had a choice to go to America or England, but Australia was the furthest one from the Communists,” he said.
Jan spent five weeks on a boat with 520 migrants.
“It took months to get there and that was on an Italian boat and I have never had so much macaroni in my life,” he said.
Jan said when he first arrived in Australia he remembers how pleased he was to be here.
“We stayed three months in Bathurst to familiarise ourselves with the customs and learning English,” he said.
“I knew a little bit, but I was lucky I married a teacher. She helped me, but that comes later.”
Jan worked in Barmedman and West Wyalong until he was employed in Temora.
“I was a young man and when the two years were up, I was the only one left behind because I liked it in the country,” he said.
“For some reason, I had to go to the doctor and there was an ad in the paper for my trade and they hired me.”
It was in Temora Jan met his wife Margaret. She had been a teacher at a college, but came home for her debut.
“That was the luckiest day of my life,” he said.
“She couldn’t make it to all the practices and I was helping with the dancing, so I was partnered with her.”
Jan said he was smitten with her because of her generous nature.
“She not only helped me, but she helped all the children too,” he said. “She is a good teacher.”
Jan would sing her Irish Eyes and joke that he was an Irishman from Poland.
“I stayed there for six years,” he said. “I was naturalised on May 6, 1995, I have got the original certificate. Thank my wife, she is very well organised.”
Jan said at first some people excluded him, but once he got a job and joined the choir people started to accept him.
“I had a choice to go to America or England, but Australia was the furthest one from the Communists,"Jan Pyc
“I understand that,” he said. “I come here with no money, but I was lucky to have my trade.”
Jan is proud to have completed his Trade Course Certificate in 1956. Margaret and Jan were married in 1958 and they bought a shop to allow Jan to follow his passion for photography.
“Our wedding, we were the first guinea pig and we set it up on a tripod,” he said.
“We used a portable studio and Temora was small, so we used to travel to West Wyalong, Junee and Wagga.
“It was hard work.”
Jan said he got rid of his licence a few years ago, after having it since 1945.
“I have a taxi driver though - Margaret,” he joked.
One of the highlights of living in Australia was being able to join the Temora Rotary Club.
“I equate the Rotary Club with prestige,” he said.
Jan said he is very proud of their seven children, Bill, Peter, Michael, Mark, Maria, Andrew and Stephen.
“People ask why I don’t teach them Ukrainian or Polish, because I speak four languages,” he said. “A lot of people blame me for that. I stuck with the English.”
When he moved to Wagga, Jan continued with the Rotary Club and singing.
“The biggest luck is to have my wife Margaret, she learned bookkeeping,” he said. “If not for her, we would have gone broke. I still go to classes as well because there are so many new things to learn.”
Wagga now has more than 112 nationalities represented within the community, with 14 to 30 new citizens inducted as citizens every month.
To the new arrivals, Jan said his advice is to embrace their new life.
“Learn about it,” he said. “You have to put patriotism out of it, you need to try to adapt.
“If you learn about them, they will accept you.”
Jan said after moving to Australia, he did miss home.
“The closest Ukrainian Church was in Canberra,” he said.
“I was lucky though, four times I went back. I had a sister in Poland and three brothers in Ukraine.”
Jan is insistent on thanking his wife Margaret for a lot of his successes, saying he was so lucky to have met her. Over the next seven weeks, The Daily Advertiser will share the stories of some of those who have moved to Australia, one from each decade. Some to escape war and devastation, and some for love.