Lake Macquarie History

Olga Healey - Interview transcription

Date Recorded: March 2015

Place: Lake Macquarie

Interviewer: Could you please tell me your name, and where you're from?

Olga: Well, my name is Olga Healey and I am from Russia, originally from Russia. And thank you so much for interviewing me. It's probably a great, great idea, so that we migrants can talk out about life and Lake Macquarie. Thank you.

Interviewer: And before you moved to Australia did you live anywhere else?

Olga: Yeah, I lived in England, where I lived with my husband, Australian husband. I study and work, and I moved to Australia in 2009.

Interviewer: So, do you mind if I ask what you were studying? Did you complete that study before moving to Australia?

Olga: I was freshly graduated as a sustainability designer. I studied at Thames Valley University, and during my university I had a part-time job, from Personal Shopper at Debenhams the largest retail shop in the UK to a designer producing drawings for a small firm, an architectural practice. I was so ambitious and so excited to come to Australia. Wow.

Interviewer: And so how have you settled into working life in Lake Macquarie?

Olga: When my husband and I arrived we bought a house in Charlestown. So [for] a couple of years I was busy with renovations our house. It was so great because I was involved in something what I loved to do. Another thing. Yeah I applied for a job, because I was eager to start to use my skills and my knowledge. But I wasn't that serious, that period, because the house renovations make me so busy. I applied for jobs. Lots of companies replied : 'I'm over-qualified' or 'I don't have Australian experience' or 'We need someone who knows Australian legislation and regulations.' So that kind of answer. It's okay. I'm busy. I'm fine.

Interviewer: Did you look into taking further study in Australia?

Olga: The great thing about migrants in Australia. There is a settlement program called AMEP [Adult Migrant English Program] where you can learn English. And you can do that at TAFE. Actually I never did a certificate, an English certificate. And I thought wow, that was great and it was free. And I attend 'English for Further Studies' course at TAFE. It was a whole year, and I received certificate. But the good thing about [it] I met lots, lots of friends. And they were not only from Russia but from different countries. Fantastic, and till now we catch up to Facebook or we have occasional parties. Absolutely great. Absolutely great. That is really, really good about Australia. Love it.

Interviewer: So outside TAFE you also created friendships.

Olga: Absolutely. What's good about it you can meet different people, and you have an idea how other people live.

Interviewer: Would you say you have had a positive experience of life in Lake Macquarie?

Olga: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a beautiful, beautiful State. Lots of interesting things we do, like for example hiking. I would never even think about it, it's everywhere wherever you go, you can participate in different groups and activities. I think it's a good thing about Lake Macquarie. Art Galleries, lots of different courses and classes you can attend. Yeah, great life.

Interviewer: So how different is that life to growing up in Russia? You talk about being able to go bushwalking or nature reserves places like that. Surely you had those same experiences in Russia?

Olga: In Russia everything included the family. We used to work in Russia to have a job and in the weekend we go… I was in St Petersburg that time and you go to the forest and have picnic. It's a little bit different. I think in Australia you can do every day. You can run on the beach or go around the lake. It's fantastic

Interviewer: So I image you would have some difficulties transitioning from life in Russia to the UK then to Australia. Can you just talk about some of those difficulties in making the transition to Australia?

Olga: I reckon the lack of knowledge of what I can face. I wasn't prepared like do not have a job, because I tried and I could not find a job. And because of my ego I want to be a designer and I just focus, narrow myself on one specific what I can do, and I didn't think about other things. And that probably made me to be that motivated to get me to the stage when I got depressed. I guess I would say when we go to the retail shop and we know our rights to try a shorter dress before we buy, or we go to the car dealer and we know we can have a test drive before we buy a car we like. But lots of things we don't know. If we don't have a job what can we do? Yeah, I tell you what. I volunteer, but it's not the same. You do like a week, or 3 days somewhere but it's not the same when you can really contribute your energy to the society and contribute to your family as well.

Interviewer: So do you think your expectations, the opportunities you were expecting were being realised? Has migrating to Australia met your expectations?

Olga: You're talking about to have my dream job. Yeah, no. It hasn't. But never give up. We, I guess, we have all our strengths and weaknesses and to be strong or weak it is our choice and it's just like our decision. If plan A doesn't work there is always plan B.

Interviewer: So what advice would you give to say friends or family back in Russia thinking about migrating to Australia? What advice would you give?

Olga: Everyone and anyone should get an advisor. Definitely. Financial advisor. Family advisor. It's must. To know your rights, to know what can you do is very important. And it's important also psychologically. I guess another example if we build a house we need a strong foundation. We need to talk to architects, engineers, constructors. Ask lots and lots of questions before we can commit ourself to do something, to build. And the same thing with the family. With anybody. Talk to your husband. Get an advisor. Get everything around that both together. For example if your husband doesn't know, just go find the right organisation who can answer your questions. If you can't have a job what else can you do? If you don't have your own income . If you can't contribute to the family. Where can you get the money?

Interviewer: Olga, have you returned to Russia, since you left Russia for the UK and Australia, and have you noticed any differences between the Soviet era and now?

Olga: . Wow. It's a big transformation. Especially St Petersburg's changed a lot. I have been to St Petersburg recently in July 2014 recently, and I can see our President Putin just re-create the city. It's just magic. I love Nevsky Prospect. Usually I leave the Metro at the beginning of Nevsky Prospect and walk through because it is such great structure and just want to breathe of St Petersburg. Buildings have had a big lift up, a face-lift I would say. They are all shiny and beautiful. Lots of differences. There's just lots of hotels, luxury hotels.

And you know what I noticed. My favourite Summer Garden changed. Completely changed. I remember when I was younger I used to go there and the sculpture there was cracked after the war. Now it's all different it's all new, new sculptures. I think I liked it when I was young. It was beautiful and cosier and so welcome. Now it's so busy and noisy. Another thing I remember. I used to work, and after work we used to go to the theatre and it was not expensive. We can all go to the theatre, see ballet or some theatre. Now it's really expensive, very expensive, even for Russians who live and work. The ticket itself is just so expensive.

I guess I want to say about we all have our secrets why we leave Russia and why we end up in Australia or England or around the world. And that's what I want to say about our marriages because that's what I realise. Lots of women just marry foreigner, think it's all rosy and fantastic, but it's not like that. It's nothing to do with Australia. It's nothing to do with Russia. Or anybody. It's just probably a relationship you build. Because you come here to build a family, the relationship between you and your husband. That is what's important. The most important. How you are together to create a good foundation for your family. It's nothing to do with Russia. You can be happy with Russian husband, you can be happy with Australian. Because I travel ten different countries, I have been to ten different countries. Australia can be miserable and happy. It's nothing to do with the country at all.

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