Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000
We went to Townsville to meet Leandro’s descendants in July 1996. I was accompanied by my husband Vladimir Kabo and our four-year-old son Ralphie. I had not got a grant from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) for the research as I had hoped, but my part-time job as a Russian tutor gave us enough money to buy the tickets from Canberra to Townsville and we decided to go. Our financial difficulties turned out to have one saving grace — the unique opportunity to see the family life of Leandro’s descendants from the inside, as for ten days we enjoyed the hospitality of Maud and Ernie Hoolihan in Townsville and Margaret and Frank Gertz on the Tablelands. Ralphie, who spoke only Russian then, picked up his first Australian English words from the younger generation of the Illins — Leah, Chantelle, Majara, Taleta, Clinton, Rohan, Benjamin, Jarryd, Phyllis, and many others whose names I have not recorded — who had among their ancestors Aborigines from the Torres Strait Islands to New South Wales, and Europeans and Asians from Ireland and Germany to India and China. Well, this richness of diverse ethnicity hardly bothered any of them and they all were happy to ‘Australianise’ Ralphie.
As for my husband and I, the visit was a real eye-opener. Aboriginal people, about whom we had read in numerous books in far-away Russia, into whose origin and migrations Vladimir had conducted extensive research, were here, and the names of their tribes sounded like music — Gugu-Badhun, Kalkadoon, Wik, Kamilaroi ...