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4: Conclusion

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One could quite easily argue that life for Wyalkatchem’s post-war migrants was difficult, with some perhaps even claiming that it was arduous. All the evidence for such a case, on first inspection, is there to be presented.Wyalkatchem was situated well inland from Perth, capital of a state that was then and long afterwards considered to be Australia's Cinderella State, meaning it was the poorest and the one that most needed a degree of supplementary central government funding. Although Wyalkatchem’s township residents had electricity those living in the camp did not. Camp dwellers relied on candles and kerosene lamps. No one as far as I can recall had a refrigerator, only one of those ingenious Western Australian inventions, the “Coolgardie Safe”. People lived, in the main, under canvas, not beneath tiles or corrugated iron. And there were encounters with all the others things that made one immediately realize one was in Australia; snakes, red-back spiders, goannas, lots of bush or field mice, and hot, very hot, summers, which lasted between early November and mid-March. Wyalkatchem was certainly not noted for relief from an early evening breeze like the “Fremantle Doctor”.

One could go on. And why not? For the migrants the English language was not only a strange one, but a damn difficult one to learn. Germans, Dutch and even Scandinavians found English less difficult to master. But for Slavs, its irregular grammar, syntax and the definite article were completely unfamiliar and proved to be extremely difficult to grasp and master. Notwithstanding this all the adults watched their children rapidly mastering English, to the point where some of the offspring eventually ceased using their mother tongue, even in the home.

One could continue even further. And, again, why not? All the migrants earned only what was then called the basic wage, whereas farmers at the time, especially during the early 1950s, were experiencing, for the first time in their farming careers it should be added, big and growing incomes. Farming families generally had summer holidays away from the town, at the coast, at Mandurah, Rockingham or another such resort, whereas migrant families remained in the town over summer months. Farmers’ problems were rather how to minimise income tax over these years because of the wool boom that had been sparked by the unexpected outbreak of the Korean War, the western world’s first post-war military encounter with Soviet Bolshevism via proxies, which most of Wylkatchem’s migrants had, if not actually fled, then at least chosen not to experience by refusing, when in Germany or East Africa after 1945, to return to Poland.

And it was this decision, which is the invisible crux of the migrants’ lives in Wyalkatchem during the early 1950s, when being a migrant was certainly tough, if not arduous. All, and their children, were, if nothing else, free. A quick scan of the wartime experiences highlighted above of those hailing from pre-war Poland shows that they departed that country either because they were ethnically cleansed, that is, forcibly expelled from their homes, by Soviet NKVD or German SS units – most especially Helena Kozlowska and Helena Poprzeczna respectively - or else had been press-ganged into working somewhere in the Reich if not as slave labourers then as lowly-paid rural workers for up to five years. The refusal by all of these Wyalkatchem newcomers to return to their homeland after 1945, was due to Poland being Sovietized, the Yalta Settlement between Marshall Stalin, President Franklin D Roosevelt or Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which agreed to giving Moscow such a great sway over their homeland. Poland, if not actually and formally occupied and integrated into the Stalinist Empire was in fact a colony of Moscow. No less so than say Perth and Western Australia were of London until 1890. That big power territorial settlement meant that pre-war Eastern Poland, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, was incorporated into the Soviet Union with the remainder of Poland becoming a Soviet client or colonial state, like East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, and, initially, at least, the Josip Tito-led multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, the land of the southern Slavs, which was fortunate in not sharing a border with the USSR, if not its diverse ethnic make-up. Although Poland had been able to avoid this fate in 1920 it was simply impossible to do so after World War II which had been fought largely on its territory at such an enormous cost in life and capital. The removal of Bolshevism had to therefore wait until 1989 when the Solidarity Movement (Solidarnosc), a purposive civic-minded force, mobilised virtually all of Polish society to effect this historic change, this time by non-military means, which, amongst other things, meant that the 200-men who perished defending Zadwórze against the Soviet Red Army of Workers and Peasants had, thankfully, not died in vain.

(This account is, in part, based on Joseph Poprzeczny’s memory of his family’s 20-years as Wyalkatchem residents, as well as research of secondary and some primary sources and oral inquiries with a number of present and former Wyalkatchem residents and others. It does not claim to be a definitive account of the migrant aspect of the town. Some of the points made are based on peoples’ recollections over half a century after the event so minor unintended inaccuracies are very likely to have resulted. It has been particularly difficult to establish the exact year that some people had arrived and left Wyalkatchem since no readily available records were cited. Notwithstanding all this, every effort has been made to obtain and present information accurately with each family's account checked with a family’s member whenever possible.)

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