She was supposed to be named Bernadette.
April 20th, 1944, a small town on Slovenia was being bombed by the Germans, celebrating Hitler’s birthday. The little town, Crnomelj, was a stronghold of the partisans, noted resistance of invading Itals and Germans. In the ground floor of a little two-storey place, Paula Plevnik was giving birth. In quieter times, the upstairs was used as a bordello for resting fighters. That night
By the next morning, word had gotten to Leopold, he had a new daughter. He, quite naturally, started to celebrate.
It never took him much, a couple of beers or some shots of slivavica (a local plum brandy) and he was blotto.
It was in this state he arrived at the local registry
"and the name of the little girl?"
There were replies of ums and ahs, but the only name he could remember was his wife’s.
"and will there be a middle name?"
Again, ums and ahs
Paula Plenvik had the wrong name.
After the war, things settled back. Leopold went back to being a cobbler and Paula a seamstress. Except now, they worked for the system which Leopold didn't really like, he expressed this view regularly. Luckily for him, he was an old boy, one of the first to the cause, he had friends in high places. There was discontent for awhile but he played good soccer, got drunk quickly and he was liked by everyone.
Paula, the daughter, was the odd duck in the family. The second oldest in a family of 6 children she stood out by way of her being so average, she wasn't good at anything.
Maria - economic advisor, bank manager
Andrej - musician, graphic designer
Milan - artist
Franc - chemical engineer
Peter - motocross champion
She dropped out of school at 15 and started working at the Post Office. She trained well and became a substitute post office clerk, filling in for holidaying and pregnant staff. She travelled around the country boarding in hostels or at other people's homes. This lead to a distrust of strangers - one incident involved having to climb over the bed of some guy everytime she wanted to leave her room.
She moved around, she hid her smoking and drinking from her mother. She ended up in Kostanjevica and started smoking and drinking with Angela. She met Angela's brother, Janez, back from the Army, all piss and vinegar, all drive, something she looked for.
He moved to Austria but would visit. Eventually they married. They moved to Vienna and, lacking the language, was housebound. She didn't mind too much.
She feel pregnant, but John Jr died two weeks in, by way of brain haemorrhage.
They moved to Australia in the late 60s, economic refugees, the last wave of post war immigrants. She picked up engish ok, though sometimes something was lost in the translation; ‘foot fingers’ is nothing but funny. She worked in production lines, making tvs, making transistors. She worked on a cake line and stuffed herself for 3 days and couldn't eat cake for months.
She feel pregnant again. This one didn't make it to birth.
She kept working and persevering.
Janez was doing ok, but he felt he should have been doing better. He felt restricted and restrained. Paula persisted. She held to catholic faith; drew comfort from all life is suffering, the meek shall inherit the earth. Janez claimed he'll inherit the earth. She never complained.
She feel pregnant again, this time it was decided it would be wise if she stayed in hospital to make sure. She was there for 6 months, prone and panicked. Praying. She gave birth to a son, who remained unnamed for 2 weeks. He survived. She gave him her father's name.
She stopped working and stayed at home raising their son. The marriage lasted 17 more years. He left. It was messy but she never complained out loud.
She started working as a cleaner at a retirement village scrubbing floors and doing laundry and has been doing so for 10 years now. She's really happy. She goes to the movies every tuesday, cooks mountains of food for her boy every monday and begs said son for laundry, which the son refuses every time.
Happy Birthday mum - thanks for the world.