A friendly face at Stirling Hospital for 40 years
Text and Images: Elisabeth Anderson, Tom Dyster, Tina Miljanovic
Tamara Miljanovic (nee Kutschuk) was born on 14th May 1933 in the village of Hancesti in Bessarabia, then a province of Rumania. The village lay east of the Carpathian Mountains and less than 100km from the Black Sea. Her father Alexei was an accountant and her mother Eleonora, though born at Odessa, was German by nationality. The family fled to Austria to escape Communist rule in their country.
Tamara would later recall her happy childhood and the beauty of the Salzkammergut countryside of Austria where she grew up but also the grim demands made on children by the Hitler Youth Movement and the anxieties of World War II. Tamara’s sister Trudi was born in 1944. There was nothing in Austria for the family after the War and, as the country strained to rehabilitate itself from its devastation, the family sought a way to emigrate. They sailed for Australia as Displaced Persons on the liberty ship “General Stuart” in July 1949, bound for Sydney but diverted to Adelaide by a strike of waterside workers.
They were taken to the Woodside Immigration Holding Centre and from there Tamara’s father soon obtained work with the SA Railways. The job was at Wolseley in the Upper South East of the State but Alexei was able to come home most weekends.
On 5th November 1949 Tamara began work as a nursing aide at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and after 18 months she began her formal nursing training. Meanwhile, then aged 16, she had become acquainted with Dragan Miljanovic, also a resident at the camp. Their friendship blossomed as they shared their love of hiking and the birds and wildflowers of the Australian bush. They both wished to become Australian citizens and Tamara did so in June 1952, with Dragan following the next year. Tamara’s parents were naturalised in 1955.
Tamara and Dragan were married in the Mt Lofty Congregational Church on 22nd May 1954, according to the rites of two churches. The ceremony was shared by the Mt Lofty minister Edward Fenn and Father George of St Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Adelaide. They would have one daughter, Tina.
The Kutschuk family home was now in Mabel Street, Stirling, and this is where the newly-weds also settled. Tamara soon joined the nursing staff at the nearby Stirling Hospital and would become a familiar professional presence there as a night nurse, caring for the sick for 40 years.
She supported Dragan in his community activities. They both became associated with the Save the Children’s Fund in 1965 and founding members of its Stirling/Aldgate branch. The establishment and success of this branch, it is firmly believed, was due to their vision, drive, commitment and enthusiasm.They organised many fund raising events, including a Spring flower festival, Easter egg festivals where children decorated eggs in the European tradition, donkey rides and a holiday camp at Woorabinda for an inland aboriginal mission.
The branch also undertook a great deal of catering and Tamara was known in her circle of friends for her Austrian specialty of apple strudel. She handled the great lengths of pastry with dexterity and filled it with all the traditional ingredients that made her strudels a delectable way to pass on a tradition from her former homeland.
In 2013, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, Governor of South Australia, held an afternoon tea in honour of Tamara and the Stirling/Aldgate Branch volunteers, in recognition of all the hard work, dedication and commitment to raising funds for Save the Children Australia.
Over the years the amount of money they raised for Save the Children with Tamara’s continuing involvement and support totalled about $151,806. Tamara received a life membership with Save the Children on 26th August 2014.
Tamara and Dragan were also active supporters of the Stirling Community Theatre and following Dragan’s passing in 1974, Tamara donated two of his paintings to the theatre in his memory. A plaque would commemorate this gift.
Tamara died on 11th May 2018. Her funeral was held at Sunset Rock Uniting Church on 2nd June.
Her father Alexei died on 14th January 1975 and her mother Eleonara died on 8th August 2003.
Dragan ‘A Man to be Remembered’ by Tom Dyster 1992
Downstairs Upstairs, the story of the Stirling Institute by Tom Dyster 2000
Dragan – a man to be remembered (ISBN 0 646 12383 1) 1992, by Tom Dyster, published by the Dragan Miljanovic Memorial Trust.
Do you have memories of Tamara or the many groups she was involved in?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.