When Nikolai’s mother was hospitalised in the mid-1950s, he and his sister were sent from Malta to Australia to start new lives.
‘My father was dead, so we came here to live in Victoria with our older brother when I was 14. About a year later I went into a Christian Brothers boys’ home where I was physically and sexually abused by Brother Lucien and another Brother. My mother died while I was in there.’
Nikolai recalled he was ‘busting’ to report the abuse, and took the first opportunity that arose when he was released at the age of 17.
‘All I wanted to do was just tell my story, and what happened to the other boys.
'I went to a priest and he said they’d look into it, and when I asked if I should see the police, he said to wait until he’d done his inquiries. I went back to them frequently and was always told it was ongoing. Then I went away with my job and never went back.’
Nikolai was devastated when he later learnt that two friends he knew from the boys’ home had killed themselves.
‘I know they were abused by the same Brothers as me; I’d spoken to one of them about it, he was a very good friend of mine. He was a terrific sportsman, someone I admired ... It got that bad when I found out the two of them were dead, I tried to commit suicide myself.’
In the 2000s, Nikolai contacted Towards Healing to report the abuse, and was told none of the records belonging to him or his friends could be found.
‘I met with Towards Healing, I had to tell my story to a woman, it was very, very hard. I wanted to face Brother Lucien and get an apology from him. They said they’d interview him, but later sent me a letter saying he’d denied the abuse, and that he was sick and didn’t want to speak to me or anyone from Towards Healing again.’
No compensation was offered, but Nikolai was offered counselling sessions to help him deal with his grief.
‘I had a good friend I could talk to at that time who was a counsellor, so I didn’t go on with their offer. They didn’t want to pay me and I never pushed it.’
Over the years Nikolai said he’s taken tablets to ease bouts of depression, and said he’s found intimacy difficult within his long marriage.
‘We have two girls born 20 years apart. I regarded sex as a bad thing, so that’s why there’s the gap. I’ve told my wife a bit about it, but I don’t want my daughters to know, I don’t want them to suffer.’
The impact of his childhood abuse continues to affect Nikolai.
‘It’s very hard to explain what goes through your head and how hard it is to forget these things that have happened to you – and how hard it is to go to sleep. You lie there for hours and hours, and all you want to do is just sleep, and you can’t.
'My sister always made sure I went to Church every Sunday. I tried, but I couldn’t look at a priest.’
Though it’s likely Lucien is now deceased, Nikolai said it’s important his story is heard and believed.
‘I want justice, and I want it recognised that it did happen. And now that it’s all come out, I will seek compensation for what they’ve done.’