Miroslav's story

Miroslav’s parents spent years in a concentration camp in Europe before migrating to Australia and settling in regional Victoria in the late 1940s. Miroslav was born in the late 1950s.

‘[My father] was my nemesis … I hated him because he was so violent … I used to hear him beat [my mother] … There were times where I tried to intervene. Being a small child, he would just pick me up and throw me against the wall.’

When Miroslav was nine, his mother died. He was made a ward of the state and placed in a government-run reception centre.

The authorities tried to place him closer to his home town, so his father could visit. ‘What they didn’t understand was, I hated him. I didn’t want to see him. So … I absconded. They sent me back down there. I absconded again … I kept going back to [the reception centre].’

During his years in care, Miroslav was physically, emotionally and sexually abused by staff members, and older boys.

‘My first sexual abuse in [the reception centre] was the first night … I was laying there … bawling my eyes out … And the next thing I know, there’s a pillow straight over my head and I was being held down …’ Miroslav doesn’t know who raped him, or how many held him down. They might have been older boys, or staff. He doesn’t know.

One of the staff members at the centre ‘was a man of fortune. He took his chances any time, any place … He would take children home and … drug them … You would wake up in the infirmary …’

Miroslav knows he was abused by this man because, ‘when you are in that semi-conscious state, you tend to feel things, but generally the dead giveaway was waking up with a bleeding arse and blood on the sheets’.

When he was 11, Miroslav was sent to a boys’ home run by the Salvation Army. Here, he was raped repeatedly by at least two non-Salvation Army staff members, and three Salvation Army officers.

Miroslav never told anyone about the sexual abuse because the staff members threatened him with loss of privileges and extra punishment. ‘If you did dob on someone … all that was going to happen was you were going to be proven wrong and then all of a sudden, you were going to be in more trouble. So you didn’t say anything.’

When Miroslav was about 14, he was sent to a farm with the promise of an apprenticeship. Instead, the horse trainer, ‘beat the crap out of me … just loved slave labour and punishment, you know’.

After about nine months of 18-hour days, Miroslav realised he wasn’t going to get his apprenticeship, so he ran away. He got a job with a carnival that was heading to Queensland, and led the life of a ‘carnie’ for the next couple of years.

Miroslav ran away from care many times and was often returned by the police. At times he tried to tell them about the sexual abuse but ‘they didn’t care. They didn’t want to know. It was just extra work for them … It took away any sense of … hope …

‘So I steered myself with people who … didn’t care. Didn’t judge me. The criminal element. The criminal world. Drugs. Alcohol. Those people don’t question.’

Miroslav also coped by ‘simply changing personalities, fitting into whatever [was] required of me at the time … All I ever wanted to do was just fit in and be liked … Not wanted or loved or cared for. Just liked … Because once you got beyond that, the wall would start coming up …

‘I didn’t receive love, so I can’t give it. And still, to this day, I can’t give it. I’m … void of a lot of emotions … I’m starting to get to the realisation that I’m going to be like that for the bulk of my life … The things I did to people and how I treated people … I hate to … think that I was that kind of person all those years ago, and I’m still that way inclined to this day …

‘I lived in the criminal element … I got really low. I hated myself. I hated the world. I was a young man with a chip on his shoulder. The world owed me. There was only one way I was going to get restitution … and that’s inflicting pain on the world and on others and I did it for simple pleasure … because I had this chip on my shoulder. I hated’.

Miroslav believes that things could have been different. ‘If I had the right opportunities, just a loving family, to start with … who knows what could have happened.’

In 2009, Miroslav attended the government’s apology to the Forgotten Australians. He believes the apology meant nothing, but ‘I stood there … for hours, and I watched busload, after busload … of elderly people alighting from these buses …

‘I watched all these people … and that just tore my heart straight out … There was no words that could say “Sorry” … but the simple fact that it was acknowledged and that it simply meant to someone like me, and to others, that all those things I said to people all those years ago … I was telling the truth. I wasn’t lying.’

Miroslav receives support from Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN). ‘Without [my support person], I wouldn’t be here now … CLAN gave me not just strength and direction, but [in the mid-2000s] I was right on the verge of committing suicide … I needed help …’

With help from CLAN, Miroslav is ‘slowly taking steps to … go in another direction … you’re never going to get rid of all this abuse, because it’s imprinted on me, what they did, all those years ago … I just don’t know how I’m going to get over it. If I’m ever going to get over it … I’m starting to realise I came to CLAN to get some answers. All I’ve got is more questions’.

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