This is a story that many migrant families will recognise as Valentina
Selg tells how her parents fled persecution in communist Russia to forge
a new life in Sydney in the 1920s.
She has recollections of marauding Cossacks terrorizing peasants and
hacking her grandfather and uncle to death and the Bolsheviks who
sentenced her father to death until her mother pleaded for mercy.
author describes the transformation from an Estonian/Russian culture to the
Australian way of life, covering subtle racism of school students
towards ‘New Australians’ and not-so-subtle racism experienced when
applying for university admission. The Dean of Sydney University, felt
it unwise for her to study law because “Australians were not ready to
trust a migrant female lawyer”.
Valentina remembered surviving inner-city Sydney in the Great
Depression, fear in
the war claimed the life her husband Jim who was killed in a bomber
crash during the Battle of Britain. He had been a pillar of Sydney
society and his loss removed any chance of her
through the ranks'.
intriguing life story includes, her father
thrown off Bondi Beach in a
Tarzan loincloth, founding a commercial orchid nursery in First Avenue
Loftus, helping form the local bush fire brigade
becoming world renown as the pioneer of cymbidium orchid grower.
was friends with noted photographer, Max Dupain, married a Sydney ABC
Orchestra cello player, berated the NSW Government for funds to build
Sutherland Shire Hospital, assisted the euthanasia of her father and she
discusses her own thoughts on spirituality and suicide.