The Flemmig and Reis families


Glenelg North

The Flemmig family fled East Germany as refugees after the workers’ uprising in 1953. Johannes left first, walking in the middle of the night to the next town before making his way to Berlin where he was able to get to relatives in West Berlin. He sent several messages to different family members in an attempt to contact his wife Ilse. One postcard made it through to her parents, it said ‘leave everything behind, come with all five children’.

The Stasi was looking for people, you know, with the suitcases and all that [it was] lucky we had nothing. But my aunty came with us to show us where my uncle lived in West Berlin. She had to go back to East Germany and they suffered because of it but I’ve never looked back so much in my life and you know that’s still with me to this day.
Barbara Reis (formerly Flemmig) interviewed 2013

The family made it through, and later applied to come to Australia. Barbara, the eldest of the Flemmig children, had her fourteenth birthday a month after the family arrived in Australia in 1954. The Flemmig family were sent first to Bonegilla in Victoria, then Johannes was sent to Finsbury hostel and the rest of the family to Woodside in the Adelaide Hills.

Barbara has vivid memories of Black Sunday, 1954, at Woodside, when ‘the whole of the Adelaide hills were on fire’. Even without the bushfires, Barbara felt Woodside was unpleasant, the lack of privacy in the camp, isolation terrible food and basic facilities made living there difficult.

The family was moved to the Glenelg hostel, where they were able to live together, once Johannes found work. Barbara applied successfully to start nursing, and lived at the Williza nursing home, but visited her family on weekends. Glenelg hostel was less isolated, the family was able to go out on weekends, to the beach, the cinema, or to visit new friends.

After almost two years Johannes and Ilse built their own home not far from the Glenelg hostel.  They took in a young border, Rudi Reis, who took a liking to Barbara, and a few months later they were married. Pastor Alfred Zinnbauer, who the family had met at Woodside, performed the ceremony at the Flemmig home. Barbara remembers Pastor Zinnbauer helped many migrants.

In 1960 Rudi and Barbara bought the shop at the Glenelg hostel, which they ran for three years. Rudi and Barbara made many friends among the migrant communities living at the hostel, some of whom returned to buy continental goods at the Glenelg hostel shop even after they had moved into homes of their own. Many of the young single men who had nowhere else to go would spend time at the shop socialising. Barbara is still in touch with some of the friends she made at the Glenelg hostel.

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