Friday 2 March 2018

Dr Abe and Dr Nelly

In 1947, Abraham and Nelly Wajnryb arrived in Australia as Jewish refugees from Europe. Both were born in Poland, Abraham in Kielce and Nelly in Warsaw. They were married before the war, and both were medical practitioners. They had survived WWII and the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Wajnrybs had become separated in Europe, and were incarcerated throughout the war. They would re-unite in Paris, before coming to Australia. After their arrival they studied for, and received Australian medical degrees and subsequently moved to Campbelltown.
They gained a loyal following of patients, despite the small town attitudes of the post-war 50s and 60s. As their surname was hard to pronounce, the Wajnrybs became affectionately known as Dr Abe and Dr Nelly. Children Eric and Ruth attended the local schools. The family lived in a house on a battle-axe block in Queen Street, the driveway of which ran between the Commonwealth Bank and Mort Clissold's building next to the School of Arts.
Ruth went on to university, gaining an Honours Arts Degree, and a Diploma in education. Anything I write here could not possibly do Ruth justice - in short, she became a globally renowned linguist, a regular columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, obtained her Masters Degree and PhD, and authored numerous books and textbooks.
In 1988 Abraham wrote a book about his experience at the end of the war called "They marched us three nights : a journey into freedom". In it he describes how during the closing days of the the inmates of concentration camps were often forced to leave and marched towards an unknown destination. Dr Wajnryb described the death march of which he was a part.
In the latter part of the 1960s, the Wajnryb family moved from Campbelltown to Sydney. Nelly died in 1987 and Abraham in 1993. Ruth would sadly pass away at the age of 63 in 2012.
In her book "The silence : how tragedy shapes talk", Ruth talked about her early years growing up in Campbelltown. There are some episodes that made me cringe. But there were many memories of life in a small town that gave me hope. Hope that the Wajnryb family found a good life in Campbellown, that they were accepted and made to feel welcome here. Let's hope so.

Written by Claire Lynch

"The Silence : how tragedy shapes talk" by Ruth Wajnryb
AustLit - Abraham Wajnryb
Sydney Morning Herald obituary for Ruth Wajnryb
Ryerson Index

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