PETER GIRSCHIK (R36357)
JOHN E. WULFF
I was born in Tehran, Iran, as Peter Michael Reza, in the British Nursing Home, on 23 June 1938, the second child and first male offspring of Rudolf and Elfriede Girschik who respectively came from Vienna, Austria, and Steinkirche, Germany.
Father was a civil engineer, employed by Consortium Kampsax, a Scandinavian firm working on the expansion of the Persian railways, using German rolling stock.
My first memory of the internment journey is sitting in the back of an army char-à-banc, ascending a pass along a zigzagging road. Trucks behind threw light plumes of dust. At Basra we were guarded by Gurkha soldiers who took us for walks along the Shatt-al-Arab River in the evening.
We were then placed on the steamship Rohna on a secret destination. At the Indian port of Bombay there was no wharfage. The ship was tied to a buoy. Then another ship, the Rangitiki, tied up alongside and we were all transferred along a gang plank. I was terrified.
When we arrived in Adelaide, an army guard wished us “Welcome to Australia” and politely carried mum’s suitcase. We were taken to Camp 3 in Tatura, Victoria, and there spent five years.
After the war my father was allowed to find accommodation in Melbourne. Typically Germans with children were not welcome. Father wrote to many boarding schools and the Sisters of Mercy, Star of the Sea, Mornington, agreed to take me at reduced cost. There I learnt to be lonely and speak English. A boarder for a year and a half, I then became a day pupil in suburban Melbourne.
I was subsequently apprenticed with Australian National Airways (ANA) as an electrical mechanic. When I realised that I was better at learning than at bench repairs, I began night studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) for a diploma in electrical engineering. On completion of my apprenticeship, I left the ANA and joined the State Electricity Commission (SEC) as an electrical operator. I worked at several terminal stations in the city and in the country, also as a teacher of electrical procedures and of theory. When night school was concluded, with a certificate under my arm I applied successfully to be an electrical engineer with the SEC. The next seven years I worked in its Production Coordination Department.
I raised two daughters with my first partner, Helen Watson, and a son and two daughters with my second partner, Kerrie Mulhall. For about four years, I left the SEC to look after a sick daughter. Then working with patients of the Para-Quad Association and as handy man in refrigeration, I returned to the SEC. Due to privatisation I was retrenched in 1999.
For about fifty years I trekked with the Victorian Mountain Tramping Club, holding various positions. We explored natural environments in Australia and New Zealand.
I look back on my life’s journey with pleasure and gratitude.
"Transcribed by Helga Girschik, P. Girschik's sister, 23/07/2020"
Dr. Pedram Khosronejad | Adjunct Professor
Religion and Society Research Cluster | Western Sydney University
Fellow | Department of Anthropology | Harvard University