Around ten years ago my local chicken shop came under new management.
Talking to the new owner, he spoke of his home country and his unhappiness in Australia.
“This is a hard country. It is not home. It's not like home. I miss my home.”
“Where is home?”
“And why did you migrate?”
“Chernobyl. It is such a mess. So many people sick and dying. So many babies not born. Such a mess.”
“But you miss home?”
“Oh yes. Australia is so hard. I am only here for the children, Chernobyl ruined everything. Now I am here and miss home.”
“But you feel welcome here in Australia, you know we want you?”
“It is not the same. At home I had two—not one but two—university degrees. Here I can get no job and so—this shop.”
“Are you Orthodox?” I inquired.
“Yes,” he declared proudly, “Orthodox—Christian.”
“And have you found a church to go to here in Sydney?”
“No I don't have time. In Australia I have to work seven days a week just to live—to feed my family, to pay for things—the shop is open every day—long days. It is very hard in Australia.”
For me, Australia is an easy and pleasant place to live; a place where you can shop anytime, day or night, for whatever you want.
It is hard to see how we could turn back the clock to the time of restricted shopping hours. But it is important to note how weaker members of our society once more have to pay for the pleasure and convenience of others. The poor, the ‘battlers’, the migrants like this Russian shop keeper—have to pay for the leisurely pleasure of others. It is the strugglers who often have to work on weekends, late at night or in the early hours of the morning if they want a job at all.
The sabbath rest of God's commandments was for the whole household including the alien: “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”
How sad that a man who lived most of his life under a socialist system that restricted his religion found himself living under a capitalist system that also restricted his ability to practise his religion. In Russia it was the government regulations that were restrictive. In Australia it is the unregulated greed of our materialistic system. Either way he couldn’t go to church.
(This is an edited version of an article originally published in Southern Cross, July 2001.)