And Then Candy Rained Down From The Sky
Resistance fighter, daredevil, and POW survivor; Barbara Eustace is not your average retiree.
It’s not every day that a war is declared on your way home, but for Barbara Eustace, September 3rd 1939 was the day she lost everything. “They just walked in, Poland was not ready for any kind of war.”
Born in the small Polish town of Mszczonow in 1925, you would never know, looking at the demur little woman, of the horrors that she has endured. However, it is strength and resilience that emanate from Barbara Eustace, who prefers to deem her life as, “…very very complicated.”
Only 14-years-old when Hitler and his army invaded Poland, Barbara had the misfortune to be on a train headed back home from the Polish Capital, Warsaw, when the Germans came to take her away. Only 12kms from her home, Barbara was forced off the train, and into the hands of German soldiers. They exclaimed: “You’re not going anywhere, except to Germany. To work on farms.”
Now in 2016, in her home in Blue Hills Retirement Village, Barbara recites her story amongst the relics of her past; golden plates adorn her walls and colourful pillows litter her lounge. There is no sign of fear in Barbara Eustace’s Australian life; as if her story only happened to the other Barbara, who, scared and alone, was dragged from her mother with the rest of Poland’s young people, and put on a train headed to Germany.
“You know what… I would never do it again what I did then.”
As 14-year-old Barbara sat on that train, crying her eyes out, a German-sympathiser threatened to throw her out the train window if she continued to bawl.
Still sniffling, Barbara sat with fear and her suitcase as the train headed into a tunnel. “He just went *wump* window down, and he said ‘Basia out.’ Without any thinking, or asking any question, I just went and jumped from the window… If any other train would have come at that moment, I would have been killed on the spot.”
Even now, it seems that Barbara cannot believe her own bravery.
“He threw my suitcase out after me.”
It would be this bravery that would sustain Barbara through the hellish years to come.
Yet, to Leone Cordingley, this bravery is a whole new side to her village neighbour, and friend of 13 years, “I’d had no idea what she’d been through…You would never, looking at the package.”
Barbara does not associate herself with bravery or courage, only her hands, constantly roving over one another, pierce the tranquillity of her home. Yet it was this bravery that led Barbara, at 18-years-old in 1944, from the relative safety of her cousin’s farm, to the centre of conflict and danger in Poland: Warsaw.
It was there in the Capital that Barbara Eustace, alone and barely an adult, discovered the Polish Resistance. Today the 90-year-old flippantly disregards the gravity or danger of the choice of her 18-year-old self. “So I went there, and I said that I would like to join the Resistance and of course I was very welcome.” Barbara met the people of the Polish Resistance “…here and there and on the quiet…” to discuss the current military situation, and the clandestine actions of its members. For Barbara, her membership meant working in Warsaw Hospital; quietly taking care of those resistance fighters that were injured in minor clashes with the German soldiers.
Until the Warsaw Uprising.
On the 1st August 1944, the repressed citizens of Warsaw staged a rebellion against their German captors. Armed with almost no guns, the men of Warsaw attacked any and all German military men they could find; taking their weapons in the process.
“Warsaw was one hell on Earth.” Barbara’s hands stop their movement as she forcefully spits out these words. Her eyes hot with the anger and fear resounding over the 70 years of peace. For Barbara, the uprising meant picking men off the street, and carrying them to the hospital for treatment. It was hard, backbreaking work, and fraught with danger.
“I was a little bit damaged, my hands and so.”
This is how Barbara describes being hit by the shrapnel of overhead Allied planes. Amongst the bombings, shootings and deaths, Barbara’s own hands seem to be of little consequence. Although the physical scars of her ‘damage’ are long faded, the emotional trauma of the 60 days of hell named the Warsaw Uprising is still visible in Barbara.
Her hands wave about amongst the bronze Polish artworks and pristine furniture of her home; the only traces of the rebel fighter locked in a box in her bedroom.
Barbara’s medals of merit and valour collide the 18-year-old with the decades older version. “I earned them.” She says, her chin sticking up as if ready to prove that the resistance fighter is still there, sitting in the same chair as the old woman. That relentless spirit enabled Barbara to fight through the massacre of Warsaw. “Fighting and fighting, and the bombs were dropping. It was one real hell.”
And it would be all for nothing.
After 60 days of war, Barbara Eustace, despite her daring escape from captivity four years ago, was finally forced to Germany, to the Bremen prisoner of war camp.
Barbara’s eyes are distant as she recalls her time in the POW camp. The Australian landscape paintings and grinning family portraits that decorate her walls do not reflect the anguish she faced to have the life she now leads.
For months, Barbara and 2,500 other Polish girls toiled in the surrounding fields from daybreak to four o’clock. But it was not the nightmare that many feared it would be, and the backbreaking work was often lightened by the kindness of strangers, and of the German guards themselves.
“We were lucky, we were mostly treated quite well.”
The German camp soldiers, left with the guard duty only befitting those who could no longer fight, took pity on the girls in their care, who wanted to be there as little as they did themselves. This pity took form in sandwiches surreptitiously handed over in the fields, or in the allowance of contraband given to the girls by the free farmers who also tended the crops.
Barbara’s hands tap nervously against her dining room table as she recalls one incident where the kindness of the guards did not extend itself.
One girl, her name escaping Barbara 70 years into the future, returned to the camp the same as any other girl that day; with food from one of the farmers in her pocket. Yet it spiked the ire of the most vicious guard at the Bremen POW camp, and truly, as Barbara recalls it, the only ‘nasty’ one there. The girl was shoved to the ground by the guard and beaten until every last crumb had fallen out of her clothing, and then some.
Barbara stills for a moment in her story. “She never took food again, even though we all did.”
As the end of the war drew ever nearer, unbeknownst to Barbara and ‘her girls’, 19-year-old Barbara continued to toil in the fields, finally fearing that she would never see the outside of her prison. She had been in the camp for seven months, it had been two years since she had seen her family.
And then the plane came.
“One day a plane came very close, flew over our camp, we thought it was the Germans going to shoot [us] but then, there was one hat… that a Polish airmen had tied up, with chocolates in it, and a note that said: don’t worry girls, we are coming.’
The years shed from Barbara’s face as her eyes light up with the hope that 19-year-old Barbara once felt. A smile dances at the corner of her stern and lined mouth; as if she is that young woman again, finally seeing the window of freedom so long denied her.
It is this moment that Barbara has treasured throughout her long years of struggle and heartache, the moment that candy rained down from the sky.
“That was the best thing that could happen.”
Two weeks later, Barbara Eustace; daredevil, resistance fighter, and prisoner of war, was free.
Today Barbara’s life is a lot more peaceful, with travels to her hairdresser, and much less clandestine meetings in the Blue Hills Village members’ hall. Her husband has passed and her son lives in Queensland, but Barbara makes the most of the days given to her. The fight has never left her, or diminished her hope for the future. As Leone Cordingley puts it, “She’s very brave, strong, resilient…and maintains her joy in living.”
This joy is replicated in the bright decorations of Barbara’s home; in the plates from her European travels and the paintings from her house in the Blue Mountains, and most importantly, sitting in the centre of her living room table, a bowl of candy that is never left empty.
Take a step into the wild north with Sydney’s latest trend; Nordic dining.
Australia is renowned for its multiculturalism, our music, our fashion, and our food arrive in our country from all corners of the globe. It is easy to step into any of our great cities and experience the taste of many countries and places that you have never visited.
But what about the landscapes of Scandinavia?
Amidst the plethora of Thai shops, Chinese restaurants, and Lebanese cuisine a new culture has come to our shores; Nordic dining.
Although still a relatively niche market Nordic restaurants and bars have begun their slow integration into our already overflowing industry of foreign food.
Three of these Scandinavian havens have made their way to Sydney, and all of them are already developing a cult following.
As of today we have Norsk Dor, which is a Viking-themed restaurant and bar on Pitt Street. The low dining-hall styled restaurant sends you back to the time of pillages and seafaring, but with the deliciousness of modern-day Sydney.
As one satisfied customer by the name of Priscilla, put it on ‘Dimmi.com.au’, “Loved this place. Good atmosphere and nice decor. Delicious food full of flavour. Great staff, friendly, knowledgeable and gave us great advice as to how much and what to order. The venison was cooked to perfection and I tried the duck too which was packed with flavours. Delicious! Highly recommend it!”
Then we also have Sven’s Viking Pizza out of Coogee, which is a curious combination of Swedish toppings on the classic Italian dish. The fun of this place comes from its menu; where every dish is named after a god or member of Nordic mythology.
Some interesting bites include, ‘YGGDRASIL- The World Tree’, which features garlic and chilli marinated king prawns, crispy pancetta, roma tomatoes, and chèvre. As well as ‘RAGNAROK- Judgement Day’, but this end-of-the-world slice offers Spanish chorizo, pepperoni, smoked ham, and spicy red chilli crème.
Lastly we have Nordic B, from Newtown, who aren’t kidding when they say, ‘Nordic food and drinks. You name it, we have it!”
This home away from home for the Scandinavian expats of our country boasts the most comphrensive assortment of Nordic drinks you’ve ever seen this far south of the equator.
As Nordic B owner Leif Kivela said, “Most of the food and alcohol we offer is not available anywhere else in Sydney. The only truly Nordic restaurant and bar in Sydney.”
The dimly lit restaurant and bar combination screams its Nordic heritage from the moment you pull open the door.
Exposed plasterboard with green foliage poking through the cracks gives the first impression of a room unfinished. But when combined with the other unadorned white walls, and low hanging lights, Nordic B reveals its charms, and the plasterboard now shows the owner’s Viking-esq connection with the earth.
The ownership of Nordic B is split three ways. “This is a family-company with 3 partners where Leif has most responsibility and myself and Ben less. Ben is not related to us but is a very good friend,” co-owner Mari Jaatinen said.
The little piece of Nordic heaven made its grand opening on the 28th of May this year. Still only a new kid on the busy King Street of Newtown, Kivela and his family fight every day to get more business through their wood-and-glass front doors. As Kivela revealed it took much blood, sweat and tears to get their restaurant open in the first place, and since then has been a rollercoaster of emotions to run.
Of Finnish and Swedish background, Australian born Kivela has always wanted to set up his house of Nordic delights in progressive Newtown.
“I grew up with and love Nordic food and alcohol. I also love Newtown and thought it to be a good spot for something like this as people there are quite sophisticated and open minded to new things,” Kivela said.
And it seems that has proven true for the trio, with many people of Nordic origin or influence coming to taste a little bit of their culture.
“My most favourite thing is to see and chat to people. Almost everyone who comes there has some kind of connection to some of the Nordic countries, either they just love the food and drinks, or they have family from there,” Jaatinen said.
And the food is truly something to be tasted yourself.
The Swedish meatballs are particularly delectable, and lovingly homemade as the menu states: “Grand moms favourite recipe made from a mix of pork and beef. Pick from our three fabulous options, served with rosemary gravy and lingonberry jam.”
The Danish lima beans on rye are also a dish that fills and delights, as even the small entrée portion on dark rye bread beats any hunger pains you may have.
But none of this even compares to the drinks menu at Nordic B, which was meant to be Nordic Bar, but shortened due to council regulation issues. Even if the bar is hidden in the name, it sure isn’t hidden in the restaurant itself.
Particularly memorable was the ‘Lemon Icicle’; a refreshing cocktail made with real lemon juice, Aalborg porse schnapps, vodka and lemonade. This drink will certainly make you feel like you’ve left the warmth of Sydney for the cold delights of Iceland or Norway. Another icy treat is ‘Sex on the Snow’, another cocktail of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice.
Overall Nordic B is a home for people of all cultures to try and taste their piece of the cold north, as well as for those who miss their home.
“Of course I love working in this place, when it’s Nordic, it is like a part of you… [There’s] a lot of stories, and of course I love to spread the knowledge about the rumours and truths about the Nordic’s alcohol consumption and weird habits,” said Jaatinen.
So step out into our great city and grab a piece of authentic Nordic culture wherever you can; they’re ready to welcome you with open arms.
Sound Profile : Amy McCann
Question: What makes you unique?
In a new exploration of my sound profiles, I asked Amy McCann, what made her unique.
Although bookworm in every sense of the word, Amy sees her most unique feature as her dislike of tea; breaking the stereotype that most bookworms conform to.
Mum Watches… Wolf Children (she cries) — Mum, this is why I like anime
Hahahahahaha, not gonna lie, getting my Mum to cry while watching an anime is probably the greatest achievement of my life.
Just due to the fact that she was staunchly convinced that anime ‘would never make her cry’.
This film obviously resonated with her quite powerfully, being a single mum herself, with three (almost) adult children that are beginning to leave the nest.
I would definitely recommend this film to any parents that want to understand or start watching anime. It is incredibly realistic (if you forget about the wolf part), and has many themes and moments that parents can relate to, as obviously shown by my mum.
Mum truly seems to understand the power and beauty of anime as a medium now, which to me, makes this entire project a success.