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Why does my mother, Anna Kurovcova, have two different birth dates that are two years apart and no birth certificate as proof of identity?


Born during WWI into a middle-class farming family in Moravia, Czechoslovakia, Anna grows up during the halcyonian era that follows, until WWII changes everything.   


During this conflict, she witnesses the theatre of clandestine activity through her father’s ardent Partisan support, distracting him from his family and farming responsibilities. He leaves this task to the women folk to carry out, placing a heavy burden onto Anna’s shoulders, while watching family fortunes dwindle, and her education and career prospects fading into the incoming tide of uncertainty.


Suffering the fall-out of German occupation and subsequently, post war annexation of her homeland to the Soviet bloc under Stalinist dogma, the Iron Curtain begins to surround her country, eventually closing off access to the west.


Assisted reluctantly by her brother’s friend, whom she barely knows, Anna takes her chances and escapes into Austria during Easter of 1948.


She then spends close to eighteen months shunting between refugee camps throughout Austria and Germany.


Finally, Anna immigrates to New Zealand and discovers a new homeland and career, and finds solace in new friendships.


But her life takes an unexpected turn, and she travels to Australia where marriage awaits her, followed by a family of her own in a country with new challenges.


A Tree Without Branches: Anna's Journey

  • Helena Kanak was born in South Australia to immigrant parents, who, after WW2, arrived from Czechoslovakia. Her family eventually moved to North Queensland, where she and her two siblings, John and Diana grew up and began school.

    Life started in Mareeba and then on a dairy farm in Euluma Creek before moving to Julatten and, later, remote areas around Laura. As the eldest child, Helena was the first to experience early separation from her family. During the school term, she was sent to board with friends in Julatten and later Cooktown, while her family remained in Laura due to work commitments.

    After her father passed away suddenly, life became more Anglicized when her mother and siblings began integrating into the Julatten community.

    Initially, the Kanak family only spoke Czech at home, but English was introduced once school started for the children. Words such as discrimination and prejudice were alien to Helena, so upon starting secondary education, lessons in social history enlightened her about the real world.

    During her secondary education, Helena attended Blackheath College, a boarding school in Charters Towers, and then studied nursing at the Princess Alexander Hospital in Brisbane. Her nursing career took her abroad, living and working for several years in England, and Cairo Egypt. After returning and settling closer to home in North Queensland, Helena worked as a Paediatric Nurse at the Cairns Hospital until retirement.

    Always a keen observer of life, Helena maintains journals, writing travel logs and keeps abreast with her art. Marrying later in life and upon retirement, Helena revisited her love for writing.

    Although she has written and illustrated several unpublished fiction narratives for younger readers; ‘When a Curlew Comes Calling,’ ‘Scallywags of Bushy Creek,’ ‘Trot Plod and Waddle Investigators,’ ‘A Spherical Puzzle 4 U’ to name a few, her most challenging work has been her mother’s biography, ‘A Tree Without Branches.’ 


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