A Tribute by Esther Boje
Latza Barat, “Baka” as she was fondly known to many, was born in Trsje, Macedonia on the 14th of March, 1931. She was a twin. Sadly, her twin Lena died at the tender age of two years old.
She attended school for six months before the school was shut down due to the war. With limited schooling she was still able to learn to read and write in many languages, not only in Macedonian.
Latza was very hardworking – working alongside her mother cooking and baking bread from a very young age. In the evening she would listen to her father secretly reading the Bible each night. This was where her love for God’s Word was born. Her Bible is marked and underlined in many places.
Stevan and Latza were married on the 28th of May, 1956 in Trieste, Italy. Soon after, Stevan & Latza Barat migrated to Australia to live in the land of freedom and plenty. Mum was ambitious and learned to read, write and speak English. In Australia, four children were born – Ben in 1957, twins Lizy & Rebekah in 1959 and Esther in 1967. This led to the birth of 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren whom she loved and adored.
She was a true missionary who loved Jesus with her whole heart. She didn’t go to foreign lands but did plenty missionary work wherever she went. She stayed at home while dad went on mission trips. Even in hospital she told all those in the surrounding beds about Jesus and gave away a copy of Steps to Christ to a nurse. She got us contact details of the patients so we could follow up and visit them. She loved Jesus very much and this was seen in her daily life.
Her missionary endeavours reached many lands as she would sew clothing and collect more clothing and items to send in large timber boxes to places like the Philippines, Indonesia and wherever there was a need. She would assist Br. George Heslop in the printing room, folding tracts, packing books or whatever else was needed to be done. She had extensive knowledge of plants and herbs and would always help any one in need of health advice.
Mum loved to cook, preserve fresh fruit and vegetables and was always willing to share her knowledge with whoever asked her for her recipes. She loved to make “pancakes” for whoever was hungry. Her specialty was “gibanitsa” which translated would be “burek.” We loved to arrive at her home just as the “gibanitsa” was coming out of the oven.
She loved gardening and would spend many hours in the garden each day – weeding, watering, encouraging plants to grow on trellises or on stakes. She loved flowers and had many plants inside her home and outside. She loved her dog, cats and chickens, and they loved her in return.
In 2006 she was diagnosed with heart failure. With the assistance of medication, she lived 16 years with this condition. Over the last 2 years of her life, as she could no longer work in her garden, she started making a little garden around the house, growing a few tomato plants, capsicums, garlic, leek, celery & parsley.
In 2021, we had the privilege to have a 90th Birthday party in her honour where all her children were present, most of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A fun-loving person, she was able to engage in games with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each great-grandchild received a gift from her, and we all have precious memories in our hearts of this day.
Each time there was a need for someone to tell the children a Bible story, she was always eager to share one with them. Many times she brought little items for the children to see, feel or eat.
Her wish was to go to worship in the newly-built Keilor Park Church for just one Sabbath. She was an avid fundraiser for the project, and she rang all her contacts around Australia and the world to raise funds for this project. Latza led by example by giving generously to the project. She cannot attend in person anymore, however, she will be there in our hearts each week.
Latza loved to joke and we will miss her quirky ways. She lived for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She always waited by the phone for our phone calls.
Sadly, Latza spent the last month of her life in hospital. The doctors tried many different ways to help with the fluid build up in her body. We were given the good news that she would be released after 10 days in hospital. I waited with my phone on my lap, (as it was Sabbath) for the call from the hospital to come and pick her up. It never came, and day by day passed where some other complication would arise and her release would be delayed. On Sunday 11th September, I received a phone call from her doctor and was informed that she had 3-4 days to live. I was devastated as I had COVID and could not go to the hospital to visit her. My isolation period ended on 14th September at midnight and Sara made sure I was at the hospital by 11:45pm.
Latza was also in isolation as I was a primary contact and during this time we were able to “Facetime” her. She “Facetimed” her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as much as she could. During her last days, family members came to visit and Lizy, Rebekah and I would take turns staying with her round the clock. My mum tried to talk to us but did not have the strength to project her voice. We would ask her if she wanted this or that and she could only nod or shake her head in reply. We were holding her hand – one on each side, and if we let go, she would look around for our hands. From 10pm on the 16th September we noticed a change in our beautiful mum. Lizy and I were there when she took her last breath at 2:50am on the 17th of September 2022.
The last word I understood that she said was “Resurrection.” I know she will be looking for us ALL on the resurrection morning. Latza was laid to rest alongside her husband in Bacchus Marsh awaiting the trumpet call, when the dead in Christ shall rise.
My Mother’s Garden
My mother kept a garden.
A garden of the heart;
She planted all the good things,
That gave my life its start.
She turned me to the sunshine,
To love my Saviour dear;
She loved to share her Jesus,
Even when the end was near.
Her constant good example,
Always taught me right from wrong;
Markers for my pathway
To last my whole life long.
I am my mother’s garden,
I am her legacy.
And I hope she always felt the love,
Reflected back from me.
Latza’s funeral was held in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia on the 26th of September, 2022. After a graveside service, she was laid to rest at Maddingley Cemetery.
The service was recorded and live-streamed, available below.