“When you look at me, don’t think of me as an old lady. Think of me as the person I am, the things I have achieved and remember that I’m special to someone too”.
Dusanka has lived and continues to live a colourful life. At the age of sixteen years she was already married and expecting her first child. Born in Yugoslavia where the war had broken out across Europe, she witnessed many devastating events, forcing her and her husband to flee the country. This was a significant turning point in her life.
In 1947 they set sail to Australia hoping for what they thought would be a better life. At the time Dusanka did not speak a word of English, proving to be a challenge in their new homeland. They spent many years at Bonegilla Immigration Camp (near Albury in Victoria). The living conditions impacted their emotional health as they struggled to adapt to their new life in Australia. Whilst they were grateful for everything Australia offered them nothing could have prepared them for overwhelming reality that they would never return to their home country. Rather than dwell on this Dusanka was determined to create new opportunities and provide her children with all the things she was unable to have for herself. This became her driving force and the inner strength that contributed to her success in business. She worked through adversity to get where she did. With english as her second language, and working in a male dominant industry of recruitment- it was initially a struggle. She worked her way up to senior executive roles, until one day she decided to embark on a new journey, starting her own recruitment agency.
Dusanka was able to create a successful name and reputation for her agency. Dusanka’s worked long hours and truly believed in the people she had recruited. Employing people that showed potential and promise but not necessarily the right skills at the time. She invested in them, by up-skilling and mentoring which proved to be a key attribute differentiating her from other agencies. After all people gave her a chance when she came to Australia and she believes others deserve the same in return. For Dusanka working was an important factor in her life and she continued doing this well into her late seventies.
At the age of eighty-seven years and having spent the past few months in hospital, Dusanka is faced with the third biggest challenge of her life after being told by that she may not be able to return home safely. Dusanka wasn’t going to let anyone tell her where she was going to live. She has made all her own decisions her entire life and certainly can’t see why she would stop now. In true Dusanka spirit she told the doctors “Anything you can do I can do better”. Step by step, day by day her mobility improved and is working through her rehabilitation program so that she can return home. She doesn’t see herself as an ‘old lady’ she sees herself as Dusanka, a fierce lady who is determined to be around to see her great grandchildren grow up. For now, she isn’t going anywhere unless she says!
There is much we can all learn from seniors in society by taking the time to listen to their stories, their wisdom, insights and worldly advice. Many have lived through experiences that we could never imagine, whether it be the The World War, Great Depression or just everyday life. There’s always another story, there’s always more than what meets the eye.