Debra Gavranich from North Queensland, Australia, recently published a book titled The Girl Who Left: From Croatia to the Canefields which tells the story of her mum’s journey from Blato on the island of Korčula to the canefields of Australia.
Debra’s mum Marija agreed to a proxy marriage to a sugarcane farmer in Far North Queensland who had left the same village as a small child with his family in the 1920s.
The couple do not know each other, having only exchanged photographs and a handful of letters.
“A proxy bride is when the groom is not present at the wedding. My father’s first cousin stood in as groom so he is in the wedding photos. My mum wore a beautiful white dress, made from material my father sent over from Australia,” Debra explains on the latest All Things Croatia podcast.
It took a year after the proxy wedding for Marija to get all the paper work and at 19 she left Blato for a life in Australia with a husband she did not know at all.
She travels by ship to Australia along with hundreds of other young men and women seeking a better life.
The book, which is a migrant story of Australia, of courageous individuals taking the biggest risk of their lives often with little or no English. Their determination and hard work enable them to live with their sacrifices and overcome the profound loneliness of homesickness.
“We want to publish the book also in Croatian so Croatians can also read it,” Debra explains.
You can listen to the interview with Debra, where she talks more about her mother’s story, and the surprising song and movie production talks that have come along with it.
Click the play button below to listen.