Janina Wojcik was born in Poland in 1920. One of five children, Janina and her siblings worked on the family farm from a very young age.
In 1939, at the start of Second World War, Janina was taken by force to work as slave labour in Germany. At the camps, Polish people had to work seven days a week, were given small food rations, and were subject to a strict curfew. They could not possess money or objects of value and were required to wear a sign: the “Polish P” on their clothing.
In Australia after World War 2 ended, communists threatened to invade Australia and the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley recognised that a long term strategy was needed to ensure that the Australians could defend themselves against another potential invasion. The Australian economy had suffered under the strains of total war and conscription and the country needed to “populate or perish”. Meanwhile, World War 2 had destroyed much of Europe and there where millions of displaced people who were stranded in various countries in Europe, Africa and India.
Janina and her husband Boleslaw Wojcik, were among the first wave of displaced persons to arrive in 1947. Of the 170,000 migrants selected to arrive on our shores, around 60,000 were Polish. Although many migrants initially lived in difficult conditions at camps and centres around Australia, they were able to integrate and make important contributions to Australian society. Janina worked in a clothing shop and Boleslaw was a labourer at a concrete factory until his death in 1989.
When Janina’s health started to deteriorate in 2003, she was recommended to Australian Polish Community Services (now AMCS) and was given assistance with daily tasks and home care. Like many ethnic elderly, Janina’s biggest wish was to stay in her own home and AMCS were able to help her do that until her passing in 2010.
In a final act of kindness, Janina left a generous gift in her Will to AMCS as a thank you for providing her with ongoing care and ensuring that she received the best possible support in her own home.