Eulogy by Michael Stoyko
My mother, Terezija Stoyko, was born on the 5th of July 1931 in Borovac, Jugoslavia, now Croatia, the second child of Ana and Josip Ivastinovic. Her oldest brother was Nicola, younger sister, Mara and younger brother, Slavko.
Growing up in the village was a life of learning responsibility from a young age. She was always with her older brother Nicola and there to assist him. From five years old onward, she would wake up at 5 am to help with the cows. He was scared of the dark and had to take the cows to pasture really early in the morning and bring them back late at night.
Mum and her sister, Mara, always had long hair and would wear them in long braids. The two sisters were always close and spent many happy times together from a young age.
Life was busy for Mum as a farm girl. When she was about 12 or 13, she would go to the fields, hoe and chip around in the garden, then later she would help with the harvest of corn and other grains. Mum helped look after her younger cousins during busy family times and gave a helping hand where required.
Their family home was on the main road between two capital cities – Belgrade and Zagreb. This became a bad place to live during World War II, as almost every night, four of the different opposing militia and army would walk in and occupy the family home, forcing all the family into one room. These were trying, testing times. One day a military officer took some of the rare family photos they had – one of these being of Nicola, and broke the frame and tore and destroyed the photo. As Nicola passed away during war time in 1942, this was an even greater loss for the whole family. Rebuilding the property post-war, the home and farm responsibilities continued.
In 1954, Mum met Teodor Stojka. Knowing that he wanted to marry and move to America, she accepted his proposal of marriage. Mum was married at the young age of 23. Dad had to pay a fee to release her from the Yugoslavian government in order to travel abroad, as he was not a Yugoslavian resident.
Mum and Dad travelled to Trieste Italy, living in a British and American refugee camp whilst waiting for acceptance into America. There in the camp their first child Michael was born. Destination America, became destination Australia, and they arrived in Australia in 1957. Life without knowing the language and with no family about was difficult.
When we came to Australia, we lived in a house in Leichhardt owned by Br Heslop. Like many migrants at the time, we all lived together in the home which had 5 bedrooms, housed 5 families, all sharing 1 bathroom and 1 kitchen.
By hard work and saving their pennies, they were enabled to purchase their first home. The second child Joe, third child Simon John, fourth child MaryAnne and fifth child Helena were all born in Australia. Mum’s sacrifice and generosity knew no end, especially for her children.
As children, our home at times became an AirBNB for immigrants from Europe. We loved having visitors stay with us, learning about the day-to-day life of other countries and hearing of the experience of different families. The help she received when she arrived in Australia she never forgot. She gladly assisted many migrants with language barriers, passing on the help she received.
Mum was always willing and happy to help us with our hobbies. When I worked on my car, Mum came and helped me. She held tools and assisted however she could.
Blue was her favourite colour. Although blue does not naturally occur in these 2 flower families, roses and cymbidium orchids were her favourites.
As the grandchildren began being born, her joy knew no end. Baking biscuits and posting express post interstate was often done. Her strudels (apple, pumpkin and especially potato strudels), pizza and palachinke (pancakes) were especially requested and enjoyed by the grandchildren. They would say, Baka, you should open a pizza shop. Her response was, “I’m too old for that.”
Her culinary skills were widely loved and respected, teaching many how to make bread and walnut pita (roll), krofne (homemade donuts), pizza, piroge (large potato dumplings) and palachinke (pancakes). One relative’s young son said to his mother whilst attending Auburn church, “You don’t need to take food to church for Sabbath lunch. Aunty Stoyko always has plenty of food to share for everyone!”
As the great-grandchildren began being born, her joy was immeasurable. She loved every precious moment available spent with them, as they all lived away from Sydney.
She worked as a housekeeper for 45 years for two sisters who trusted her with the alarm codes of their homes. As retirement loomed, they begged her to stay on, but she had to stop, as her health was starting to slowly decline. The hard work done all her life was starting to take its toll, and she lamented not being able to do things she previously could do, but came to accept this, after many falls. Her last fall at home on the 25th of November 2022, was the last time she would be there.
Mum loved God and was dedicated to helping others. Some dear people that she spent time with have said, “She always had a kind word to say to me;” “she was like a second mother to me;” and “she treated me as part of the family.” It was her wish that by God’s grace she could see her older brother and all her family in heaven. She encouraged her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love God and to be faithful to Him.
She was a loving and caring child, sibling, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, a `friend to those in need, a mother to those without their own close by. Her passing has left many hearts broken, but the knowledge she is at rest from pain, is mercy that only God can give.