Helena Leber – This is your life

Helena arrived in Australia 1958 as a 17 year old girl, joining an aunt who had settled in Australia. A child of a poor family, she was active and practical and decided early on a profession, to she had access and promised a good livelihood. It helped, that she was hardworking, liked talking to people, and good at it. So hairdressing was the skill, which she brought with her to Australia, Her first job was in the Melbourne city centre at the hairdressing salon Manchester Unity. It was the beginning of a new and successful life. In the hairdressing salon she had met her first husband Pier van de Laak, also a hairdresser by profession. Together they had three children, Adrian, Pierre and Angelique. The marriage did not last, ending in an amicable divorce. Soon after arriving in Melbourne Helena became involved in the Slovenian community, in particular Slovenian Association Melbourne (SDM), and was active in various initiatives and projects. She accepted the position of Secretary in 1960. In 1972 Pensioner Family was established under the leadership of Helena. She organized activities, excursions, seminars, workshops, many focusing on health issues. She was also involved in various cultural events of the Slovenian community, such as plays. In 1973 the SDM General Committee decided to put forward an application for Slovenian radio program on the 3 EA Ethnic Radio station. They continued as successful and popular radio personalities with Helena as Slovenian Coordinator, when 3 EA became part of the Special Broadcasting Services (SBS). I, 1988 Ivo and Helena married and continued their successful partnership in both private and public sphere. The work on the radio included great deal of involvement with the community, which in the meantime grew, included a number of organizations, and the religious centre in Kew. Ivo and Helena attended all Slovenian cultural an religious events, interviewed community leaders, overseas guests, and organized cultural events, particularly the multicultural events. For a number of years they organized Slovenian program and stall in the annual event at the Victoria Market – Oz Christmas, aimed at senior citizens. Helena was known to the whole Slovenian community through her radio work, and she began actively helping with health and social issues within the community. She contacted authorities, organized care for people in need, she drove the elderly to hospital, or to visit friends. A major continuing project were organized bus tours around Victoria and Australia for the pensioners. Her major concern in time became welfare, particularly among the aged Slovenian community, and she dedicated a great deal of time on the radio and in her activities with their welfare in mind. For a time she was in charge of the Slovenian Welfare Office, under the auspices of Slovenian National Council Victoria, with head-office in Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre in Kew. In that role she visited the elderly and ill persons and assisted them in various ways. Although she handed over her hairdressing salon to her son Pier, she came regularly and dealt particularly with her older Slovenian customers. Later she attended regularly the hairdressing needs of the residents of the Mother Romana Home for the Aged in Kew, cheering them up also by reading to them, taking them out in her car. Today Helena continues to respond to any calls for help.

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Aleksandra Ceferin
Aleksandra Ceferin

Aleksandra Ceferin (M.A., B.A., Dip.Ed.) has introduced Slovenian language as a school subject in Australian school system and founded the Slovenian Teachers' Association of Victoria in 1976. She has extensive experience in language education: as teacher, lecturer, curriculum coordinator, course writer, language consultant and manager, VCE State Reviewer and Chief Examiner. Since 1998 she has been the President of ISSV and the manager and chief editor of its projects. Aleksandra visits Slovenian annually, establishing and maintaining contacts with Slovenia, and initiating exchanges and cooperation between organizations. In 2004 she was the recipient of the National Education Award of RS Slovenia.