Our stories

Sylvia Zuzowska’s Story

I always wanted to have my own family. Instead I went mad when I immigrated to Australia. I arrived on the 10th of April 1983. I just don’t know how it happened. I was examined in Israel by immigrations doctor, by my Mother’s Psychiatrist and I passed my hardest test of sanity. So why something went wrong? Probably the flight I booked was on a wrong route or maybe I was kidnapped, the latest travel fashion. It ended up in Larundel. I was locked up on and off for four months in a lock up room without light, without windows, no toilets, no bell for help. I was worried about my parents, as I was missing them, missing home, missing my country.

Larundel proved to have the best English Ulpan (Hebrew for language school) for everybody who is worried, has no money, no home to go to, no language skills. Volunteers accepted. If you don’t know to say yes please or yes thank you, they will teach you very fast. Injection!! Lock up room!!! For the crime you just committed. Yes please, yes thank you. Injection, injection, injection, good for everything. A few of the ‘men’ jumped on me, undressed me in a hurry, I was stripped naked in front of them, injection, thrown on a mattress; injection an answer for everything they think. No dignity they had. I was always proud naked or not. I can do it myself, heeelp, leave me alone I screamed. They didn’t listen to my lonely voice.

My only weapon; my youth and my beauty they wanted to destroy. I was stronger, I ran away into my sleep, my madness. Injection, injection and the buzz started, buzz, buzz over my head, I was itching; my olive skin went mad too. Buzz, itching, buzz, itching. Nobody could hear my screams. I was locked up. But I always asked myself, can’t they afford a bed for a sick head like mine? Do I have to sleep on mattress in this rich country? And where is my handbag I screamed, where are my beautiful earrings from Jerusalem?? Kick up was the answer, followed by slap on the face and unavoidable lock up in a lock up room. They took away from me the earrings that I loved so much, ‘for my own protection’.

They were afraid that I may hang myself up on them, instead of hanging the ‘system up on them. The liberation day came when I was nearly four months locked up. It came all of a sudden, without any warning lights. The moment I saw him I knew he came to me, he came to me, he came to me. Rabbi! I screamed, Rabbi! I am from Israel. For all those months I was there they pushed me to go to local minister. They didn’t bother themselves for my beliefs. Rabbi I screamed again. He had a short beard, black Jewish eyes and a kipale on his head. He said, ‘I am a student doctor’ and he introduced himself.

How happy I was, how relieved that at long last a Jewish doctor came to me. He came to me I thought, to me, nobody else, just me!! For all those months I screamed that I wanted a Jewish doctor who can understand my Jewish soul and now I had him. Oh, how happy I smiled at him. Guide to surviving Larundel. First rule – if you are nearly on the way in a van with few shadows barking at you – don’t forget to bring a radio, if you are a music lover. Happily, you arrived in one piece – don’t dance in the TV room, they may lock you up for dancing to the wrong music. They may lock you up, you know where, you been there before, behind that iron, government door over the despair cliff. You are frightened?

Rule two – Don’t kick the door, don’t scream. Nobody can hear you anyhow. You are behind the iron door, behind the other iron government door, behind……. Lay down on a government mattress. No bed? We are in the middle of a recession after all. Lay down, count the fleas or bees, don’t scream. Save your young voice for better occasions.

Rule three – Don’t wear golden earrings. For the left earring according to hospital policy you will get three kicks, I won’t say where, one slap on the left cheek and a lock up room for 2 ½ hours, all to yourself, no drinks or toilet provided. Rule four – Don’t whinge. You don’t like the food. Don’t whinge. Go kosher. You don’t have to be a Jew to enjoy a good meal.

Rule four – Don’t whinge. You don’t like the food. Don’t whinge. Go kosher. You don’t have to be a Jew to enjoy a good meal.

Rule five – Actually it should be the first. You arrived in Larundel, you want to contact your Mother, but where is your money? They already took it from you until next Monday. Don’t worry, there is a way. Reverse charges. Your Mum will always accept it. It is never too late. When I wake up in the morning I check up on my smiling level. If it is 1 smile per minute I contact my doctor. Sylvia, you are on a high, he says. But when the smiling level is lower, he says I am depressed.

Yesterday I graduated with distinctions from the assertiveness course and in my new assertive voice I said ‘doc this pink pill I won’t take anymore, it makes me put on weight, the yellow one makes me shake, the combination of those two makes me sleep for two days. Doctor give me something to make me run and jump, to make me laugh’. Once I know what my smiling level is I check the agenda for the day. If it is my floristry course day, I dream of having my little spot, my little corner full of flowers, full of exotic smells and colours. The computers course will help me to run the place. Roses on one programme, tulips on the other.

All my little stories I will write on word processing in between the clients. Creative writing is of course result of the course. Anastasia, Anastasia The Cat, and my little radio will come with me to work every day. She will be my only assistance. She might spend all day lying in the window with a pink carnation behind her small ear. Good window decoration. To achieve all those dreams I am also doing a goal setting course. Half of my dreams I realised already. I have a radio and Anastasia, Anastasia The Cat.

The other half, the course on how to achieve your goals will do the trick. Evenings and weekends I spend taking dancing and swimming lessons. It’s not that I can’t swim. I can. My style is not a dog and not a frog, it is my own style. It’s never too late. Now I decided to learn to dive and to swim one more way. It’s never too late. My Israeli dancing is good for weight control, meeting people and reducing pills. I swim, I dance, I study and I shout “life begins after forty!!!” It’s never too late.