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Senbergs Elmars and Vallija (Volly)

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Type of person Individual

Elmars Senbergs

Elmars was born on 25th February 1926 in Latvia and migrated to Australia. He met Volly when he was a cook at the Smithfield Migrant Hostel. Elmars and Volly were married on 25th December 1954.

Elmars built his home in Turner Street, Gawler East and they shifted into that home and remained there until 1996. They were naturalised as Australians on 3rd May 1957.

Elmars joined the Gawler Apex Club in 1962 and was Gawler Apex President in 1964/5 and took over as Secretary in 1966.

On his retirement from Apex at age 40 in 1966, he joined the Lions Club of Gawler (and we thank Dean Noll for the following information) "Elmars Senbergs was a charter member of the Gawler Lions Club; chartered on 25/11/67. He was never president, but a hard worker all the same. He passed away the day he was to be presented that night with a Melvin Jones award, an International award named after the founder of Lions".

Elmars Senbergs died in January 1996.

Vallija Aleksandra Senbergs (We thank Anita Anderson for this profile of Volly)

Vallija was born in Riga, Latvia on 11 September 1926, the younger of two daughters of Elza and Maximillians Petersons. Vallija’s mother, a milliner, and her father, a shoemaker, separated when the girls were about 10 and 9 years old respectively. Not much is known of Vallija’s early years, except that she displayed an aptitude for languages, winning prizes for English at school, was active in the Brownies and Girl Guides, and usually spent summer holidays on a farm. Vallija, her mother and sister left Latvia for Germany in 1944 when the Russians occupied the Baltic States.

After a period of living in private accommodation, including staying on a farm in return for helping with farm work, the three ended up in a refugee “camp” under American administration. In May 1949, Vallija and her mother sailed from Naples, Italy on the “Oxfordshire”, arriving at Outer Harbour from where they were taken to accommodation at the Woodside Migrant Camp.

Whilst in Germany, Vallija’s sister met and married a Lithuanian and, “at the last minute”, they chose to migrate to the USA, where he had some family connections, rather than follow the others to Australia. Vallija often said that she would never have boarded the ship to Australia had she known it would be thirty years before she saw her sister again, but who knows?

It was a condition of migration and free passage at the time that migrants aged between 16 and 50 years must work for a period of two years as directed by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Men were usually placed in farm work, factory work or on the railways, whereas women were usually placed in housekeeping or cleaning work. Accordingly, Vallija was appointed to St Margaret’s Hospital in Payneham as a “domestic”, where she was assigned to a psychiatric ward. Her role was actually more like “untrained nurse“ and Vallija displayed such an aptitude for nursing duties that, before long, the Matron urged Vallija to undertake the three-year Registered Nurse training and even promised to organise some financial support. Vallija chose not to do this, but obtained a transfer to the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Northfield, where she was able to earn a much higher weekly wage, boosted even further by working night shifts whenever possible.

Towards the end of the compulsory employment period, Vallija enrolled in and completed a part-time course in comptometry at Muirden College and subsequently obtained employment at Elders Ltd. In Currie Street Adelaide where she worked as a comptometrist for thirty years.

Vallija met Elmars Senbergs at a party in 1950 in Smithfield where he was working as a cook at the migrant camp. They married in December 1954 and spent their entire married life in the house in Turner Street, Gawler East, which was built by Elmars and some of his friends. Vallija was a great animal lover, so there were always cats and dogs in their home. Vallija and Elmars loved to entertain and were famous for their hospitality. They also loved gardening, fishing and boating, travelling to various parts of Australia in their campervan and overseas travel, including several visits to Latvia and the USA.

With Elmars’ death in January 1996, Vallija lost much of her enjoyment of life. The Turner Street home, especially the garden, eventually became too much to manage, so Vallija moved to Oasis Garden Village with her cat “Puss” and was relatively happy there for a few years, though health issues and mobility became increasingly problematic. Finally, a fall put Vallija into hospital and, from there, to Wheatfields nursing home in Freeling followed by Martindale nursing home in Gawler, where Vallija died on Tuesday 16 January 2018.

Please click here to see photos of Elmars and Volly

Senbergs Elmars and Valli c1964
Senbergs Elmars and Valli c1964
Senbergs Elmars and Valli 1954 1225  (1)
Senbergs Elmars and Valli 1954 1225 (1)
Senbergs Elmars c1970
Senbergs Elmars c1970

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