There is only one way to describe the trip to Scheyville National Park, the site of the former Scheyville Migrant Camp. Ghostly. There is not much left to be honest. Lots of concrete pads where Nissen Huts would have stood. Remnants of toilet blocks, showers, boilers. The trees would have been the same. They stand in ghostly lines, standing guard or waiting for life to return. I'm not sure which. And there is this feeling of emptiness there. As if it is ghostly because even the ghosts have left. It was like I could feel them turning and ever so slowly drifting away from me everywhere I walked.
And is it any wonder the ghosts haven't stayed? Afterall this was a holding camp. Somewhere for people to stop, yet again, after so much stopping and starting, before they could stop again. Yet another transition. There would be little reason for people to feel so connected to the place that they felt the need to haunt. The place felt truly lifeless. I can't help but wonder if that was how it felt even when it was full. A thousand migrants at any time. Walking through the grounds it struck me just how tedious life must have been waiting there. Day after day of the same quarters, the same dining hall, the same unforgiving landscape. The weeks and months and years would have been punctuated by new arrivals but even then it would have been the same stories, just with different faces and names, everyone wanting to have their terrible stories heard and no one with the capacity to hear them.
So new news? A little. It seems clear now that on leaving Bonegilla Migrant Camp (on the NSW/VIC border) my grandparents were split up. She went to Cowra Holding Camp, he went to Sydenham to work on the railways. I can't find when she went to Scheyville but I know she was there in 1954 because she was listed to appear in Windsor Courthouse, charged with assaulting a Polish man named Adam Wosachlo. I have to admit I laughed when I found this - my grandmother had a wonderful sense of justice and did not back down. I would bet Adam had done something to offend her. I did a little digging and found that while he was Polish his wife was German. I can't help but wonder if this had something to do with it. I also found that my grandmother became a naturalised Australian citizen in 1962 but there is no record of my grandfather doing similarly. I wonder why?
Anyway, we now have historians in Cowra, Sydney, Canberra and even Germany helping so hopefully there will be more news. So far I can't help but feel I am chasing ghosts.