It was at the Centrelink offices in Box Hill, Melbourne where I first thought of writing down my memories from my past. It was during June 2015 when my brother Steve and I went into the Centrelink offices to inquire about his age pension entitlements.
Steve wanted to know how his recent inheritance would affect his
age pension. The Centrelink official at Box Hill was very helpful
and provided us with useful and up to date financial information for
Steve to make an informed decision about his financial affairs. During
all of that personal questioning, the question of: When and how we
came to Australia came up, we answered simultaneously and instantly
"In March 1960, by a ship!" The lady then, with a great
deal of understanding, possibly due to her personal experience, remarked.
"It must have been a great adventure for you two".
Just then I thought to myself, yes, it was a great adventure, greater than anyone can imagine as a flood of memories started rushing down from my past. It was a personal moment of reflection at the Box Hill Centrelink offices. I had these types of moments before and each time I thought to myself that I should write them down before I forget them, but each time I dismissed the thought of writing anything about my past as not being important enough for anyone to want to read.
Slightly more than two years later though, when my first granddaughter
Grace was born and she was old enough to call me "Dedo"
(grandfather), I realized that she would one day want to know why
I am called "Dedo" while the grandfather on her mother's
side is called "granddad". Another thing she might want
to know about is, why her father has a different surname name to her
Dedo. Well, now, I feel I need to explain the above and at the same
time give my other grand children and other interested relatives and
friends a brief description of my early history via my childhood memories.
I will only cover moments in time, personalities and feelings that
I experienced during the time I was in Macedonia which made an impression
on me and thus formed my character and personality.
The title "From a Shepherd to a Chemical Engineer" was
suggested to me by my wife to highlight the vast transformation that
I went through in that short period of time. I was plucked from a
rural village in a war torn country where I had just completed primary
school and I was destined to live on a subsistence farm tending to
our fields and the small herd of sheep and domestic animals for the
rest of my life. Within nine years of arriving in Australia and not
knowing one word of English I managed to complete a Degree in Chemical
Engineering and ended up working as an Experimental Officer in the
Defence Standard Laboratories (DSL). The work at DSL required me to
design, develop and test military weapons for the Australian Army
to use during the Vietnam War; needless to say this was top secret
work requiring a security pass and silence about the nature of the
work for the next 30 years. As I now look back at this period of my
life, I too am amazed at the transformation that I went through, that
is from a shepherd in an undeveloped village where animals were the
main source of power to an advanced country where I was using state
of the art equipment to develop modern weapons. The educational path
leading to a degree in Chemical Engineering will not be covered in
this essay as it is not the subject of this article but my thirst
for knowledge and more precisely the need to know how things work
was instrumental for me in completing my engineering course; this
will became evident to the reader as I outline my observations of
nature during my formative years. The seeds for a deeper understanding
were sown into me by me looking at natural objects and observing natural
Even though I said that I will only cover the period of time that
I was in Macedonia, I will now break my promise and transport myself
into the future for a brief moment and correct a false statement I
gave my science teacher. I feel it's appropriate to say this now as
this will further emphasize the effect that my observations of natural
things had on my personal and academic development. I was half way
through my year 11 at Richmond Technical School when and where our
science teacher was trying to encourage his students to study more.
He asked every student in turn how many hours per week he studied
and the teacher compared the time of study with the student's physics
He was trying to establish a correlation between the physics result
and the study time.
I had the top result for physics at that time. When he asked me I
suspected he was expecting to hear an extraordinary figure for my
hours of study.
"How many hours do you study, Olie?" he asked.
I answered "None, sir." My answer put a spanner in the
works. In desperation he said "You are unique, I will leave you
out of this."
Here is my belated confession. I wish that I told him that I studied since I could walk. I studied every day, but not from books (I didn't have any books). I studied nature. I could read nature like a book. I observed, I analysed and at times I experimented with nature. Nature was my teacher.