Every generation has a different refugee story.
But they are all united in the search for a welcoming home and a better life.
This is the Australia Day message of Yowie Bay resident Stelio Muzica, who has written a memoir, Call Me Stan about his early life and journey as a political asylum seeker.
Known as Stan to his friends, Mr Muzica, 66, landed in Sydney in January 1969 when he was just 18 years-old after escaping what was then Communist Yugoslavia, now Croatia.
In fact, he escaped Yugoslavia twice, risking his life as he crossed the border past armed guards into free Europe.
“My motivation was that I came from a very poor family,” he said.
“I saw the brainwashing of kids in schools where they taught Socialism. I witnessed people leaving their farms and escaping into Italy.
“My aunt had escaped in 1947 and made it to Sydney. She wrote saying how good Australia was. I wanted to go.
“I was 15 when I escaped the first time. I went to a migrant refugee camp in Trieste but they sent me back to Yugoslavia and I was imprisoned for a month.
“I was released and went to my grandmother and she gave me money and I escaped back across the border into Italy and found a farm and worked as an illegal immigrant.
“The aim was to get to Paris where I had an uncle.”
Reaching Paris after many adventures, he eventually he was given his papers to Australia.
In Sydney he met a local girl, Geraldine, a school teacher, and they married and settled in the shire.
Mr Muzica worked for Lang Walker and started his own earth moving company in 1981.
“Europe is so established and so old. The opportunity is not there. Businesses are passed down from father to son. It is easier to start up in a foreign country.
“When I arrived I encountered a lot of racism towards me but I don’t believe there is any country in the world that doesn’t have racism.
“The most important thing is to integrate.”
Mr and Mrs Muzica had two children, Clare and Karl. Sadly, his wife passed away in 2009. He now has three grandchildren and it is for them he wrote his story.
Although decades apart, he feels his story strikes certain parallels with the current migration crisis in Europe.
“I see my story has relevance as people are still taking risks just to make a better life for themselves.
“I found a good life here. It’s a good society, with freedom of speech. It’s a good country for refugees. Where else would you go? If there was anywhere else you wouldn’t be welcome.”
- Copies of Call Me Stan, are available at www.stanmuzica.com for $40.