Text: Elisabeth Anderson
Image: Elisabeth Anderson
Father Frank Manak was a refugee from war-torn and Communist-occupied Czechoslovakia, who came to Australia with his sister Agnes in 1950 and lived and worked among migrants and youth in the Adelaide Hills for ten years until his death in 1961.
A Mediterranean style house which he and Agnes built themselves, brick by brick, in order to provide a meeting place for Adelaide’s Czech community as well as a home for themselves, today still stands in Cricklewood Road, Aldgate.
Stirling’s first Catholic youth group also had its beginnings there.
His first appointment was that of resident Chaplain to the Dominican Sisters at Mt St Catherine Convent in Ayers Hill Stirling, where The Lodge gate house became his home. Later he would take on a similar role at the Josephite Convent in Arkaba Road Aldgate. He was also Chaplain to the Czech people of Adelaide and officiated at Masses for them in the city, as well as being a Mass celebrant for Catholics in Stirling, Summertown, Woodside and Lobethal. He became a great friend and anchor to people in the Woodside migrant camp which he visited as an assistant chaplain.
Father Manak was born in Louka, Moravia, on 30th August 1911, was educated in Czechoslovakia and Chicago USA, ordained at Olomouc on 5th July 1937 and appointed parish priest in Slavicin.
He and Agnes fled their homeland when it came under Communist control after World War II. They were in Luxemburg when they received a clearance to come to Australia and sailed for New South Wales on the ship the Amarapura. Sometime after their arrival Father Manak was recruited for South Australia.
It is said that he carried the scars of war but that he worked hard in his new environment. At the Dominican convent he made himself one of the family – the novices, the school boarders and the Dominican community in general and was a tremendous help to them. He would also visit the children at the Catholic school next door and would be remembered for his lively sense of humour. Records show that he and Agnes both obtained Australian citizenship at a naturalization ceremony in 1957.
Father Manak was concerned at the lack of facilities for the Czech people in Adelaide and this was the driving force behind his decision to build the house in Cricklewood Road. He and his sister moved into the house in August 1957 and welcomed their compatriots there.
His readiness to work hard did not end here however. When he found it necessary to supplement his income, he laboured at the Hahndorf timber mill three days a week and sold flowers to a florist – his own home-grown gladioli and other flowers provided by a friend.
Agnes, who had anglicised her name from Anezka, was always his willing helper. In due course she obtained work at the Repatriation Hospital and was Assistant Supervisor there when she retired. She married George Frohnert and made her home in Panorama.
Father Manak died of cancer on 15th December 1961 at the age of 50. Stirling’s Parish Priest Father Gavan Kennare spoke at that time of his very simple faith, the happy spirit which had endeared him to all who had met him and his kindness and willing efforts for others. Anezka died on 19th July 2013.
Do you have stories or memories of Fr. Frank and his time in the Adelaide Hills?
Contact us at email@example.com or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.