One storm wrecked a migrant’s dream

Southern Cross: People Matter

People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Originally Published:
Jensen, P 'One storm wrecked a migrant's dream'. Southern Cross, March 2001.

Tagged: materialism

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When Esta escaped the camps of Europe after the Second World War, she still hod some time in resettlement camps here in Australia.

It was not easy to restart life in Australia. even when life up to that point had been so hard. She was only a child, but it had been a miserable childhood.

However Australia was a land of opportunity. Even if they called you a ‘refo’, laughed at your accent and had no idea of your suffering.

Australia was a land of freedom and prosperity. A land of lamb chops on the plate, and free education. A land where anyone could by diligence and hard work climb to economic independence, to safety and security.

Esta settled well into her new homeland. She studied hard with success, worked hard and saved carefully, married happily and raised her children.

As the century and millennium drew to a close, and her husband headed towards retirement, her children had all become successful young adults, and she lived in a lovely house in a comfortable Eastern suburb of Sydney.

Then in half an hour of terror her life fell apart. It was April in 1998, and their beautiful home was in the direct line of the hailstorm that wreaked so much damage to Sydney's red tiled roofs.

When we see the damage of disasters on our television news we are shown the worst scenes immediately after the devastation. These have the highest visual impact upon the viewer. They are horrific but satiated viewers who are often desensitised to the horror.

Yet, horrible and even dangerous as those first few hours and days are, it is the slow grind of pulling lives back together which is so difficult and painful. There are no graphic pictures, few media people call by, other tragedies have claimed their priority on the evening news.

For Esta, it was not the storm—the noise, the breakage, the damage, the water—that disturbed her equilibrium. It has been the following almost two years of arguing, bickering, fighting, quarrelling with insurance companies and government officials, with tradespeople and neighbours, It is the inability to reconstruct her house to its original standard, and the emotional wear and tear on her life which has reduced her to the tears of her youth.

“I feel like I have lost the last two years,” she said sadly. The once proud, confident, successful woman has been changed into a needy, unhappy and sad figure.

Her children do not understand her turmoil. They do not have the same materialistic dreams or insecurities. They have all left home. Worse still, not appreciating the advantages that Esta has worked so hard to give them, they have dropped out. Her dreams for them are as shattered as her house was.

Jesus warned us about our treasures. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19).

Esta is now at work rebuilding an empty nest that mocks her life's work.