Saturday will mark 68 years since the first migrant ship the Fairsea berthed in Newcastle with Victor Lupish onboard

This story was originally published in 2016 for the 67th anniversary of the MV Fairsea’s arrival.It has been republished to coincide with Saturday August 19 2017 marking the 68th anniversary. 

It may be 67 years on but Vitaly (Victor) Lupish, remembers disembarking the MV Fairsea at Newcastle’s Lee Wharf as if it was yesterday.

Aged 14, with no English and eyes as big as saucers, Mr Lupish set foot on Australian soil to begin a journey that would shape the rest of his life.

Friday marks the 67th anniversary of the arrival of the Fairsea which carried 1896 refugees from Europe to Australia. It was the first migrant ship to Newcastle.

Mr Lupish said every year at this time he stops to pause and recall that day he and his family entered a brave new world, a move they would never regret.

He came to Greta from Belarus, now an independent state but part of Poland from 1919 to 1939 and under Soviet control until 1991.

VICTORY: Vitaly (Victor) Lupish pictured at his Rankin Park home with grandson Aidan Hadley. PICTURE: Jonathan Carroll.

VICTORY: Vitaly (Victor) Lupish pictured at his Rankin Park home with grandson Aidan Hadley. PICTURE: Jonathan Carroll.

“We stepped on Australian soil then got a shuttle service to Greta Railway Station,” Mr Lupish said.

“There were about 10 or 12 loads of us. We arrived at about 6.32am. Nobody felt like breakfast because we were all too excited,” he said.

His family were among the first to arrive at Greta. Mother Maria and father John packing the family and four home made wooden suitcases into a horse and cart to flee Belarus before the advancing Russian Army.

“We knew we all had a new life, a new beginning. I remember it vividly. I knew we were never going back to Europe so for me this was an exciting thing.”

Mr Lupish remembers his family’s 19 months in the Greta camp and can still recite the number of people on his vessel, 860 men, 604 women and 442 children.

He recalls with fondness his days at Maitland Boys High School and said he can still sing the school song.

He also remembers his starting date at BHP drawing office on January 27, 1959.

 He put himself through tech, gaining an engineering certificate and working in his favoured fields of structural engineering and pressure vessel design.

Over the years Mr Lupish said he has organised many reunions and has returned to the Greta site. “When I return there I always get a warm feeling,” Mr Lupish said.

“Everyone was so accepting of us. This was a land of peace and it was offering us a new life.”


This story 68 years since the first migrant ship arrived in the Hunter | PHOTOS first appeared on Newcastle Herald.