Klara Gamarnik’s journey from the Soviet Union to Sydney

Continuing our Moments in Time series, Klara Gamarnik of Montefiore Hunters Hill spoke to us through a Russian interpreter to share some of her significant memories.

Growing up in the Soviet Union

I was born in the Soviet Union in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1930. I had a good life growing up, my parents used to take me out somewhere every weekend – the circus, theatre, parks and cafes. All that changed when I was 11 years old and WWII began. My father left to fight with the Russian army, against the Nazis. It was very hard without him. My mother had to work all the time, so all the household duties fell on my shoulders. I did the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and just tried to help out as much as I could. We were lucky to have my uncles and cousins living nearby so we supported each other through the hard times.”

Learning to teach

I was able to continue my studies, and when the war ended in 1945, I went to college to become a preschool teacher. It was my career for 40 years. I worked with children that had speech difficulties; they needed a lot of time, love, and a calm environment. I always loved teaching on special occasions like New Year, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of the Russian Revolution – when we helped the children prepare a special concert for their parents.

Love and marriage

I met my husband because he would often visit a friend who lived on my street. One day he saw me and asked: “Who is this girl?” So, the friend introduced us. For our first date, he invited me to go for a walk in the square during a special celebration in our city – we watched the fireworks and it was beautiful. When he proposed it was a very casual day, we were walking in the rain and he just turned to me and said: “Will you marry me?” I said, “I’d love to marry you!”

Azerbaijan to Sydney

We left Azerbaijan because life was difficult in the Soviet Union. We were experiencing an economic crisis. Groceries were rationed, so each family received a ticket to buy groceries which were in limited supply.

I have 2 beautiful children, a son and daughter. When my son decided to emigrate to Australia in 1988, we followed him. I fell in love with this country as soon as we arrived, I was ready to kiss the ground! We’ve travelled all around but I love Sydney the best for the people and the relationships we’ve built here. The government really cares and the people are kind.

As told to Lara Ritch.