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Reproduced courtesy of Gina Sinozich

Our Precious Things We Left Behind

Date: 2003
Overall: 460 x 605 mm, 2 mm, 0.76 kg
Medium: Oil on wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Gina Sinozich
Object Copyright: © Gina Sinozich
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00037908
Place Manufactured:Sydney

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    In 1956 Gina Sinozich, her husband and two children secretly fled communist Croatia for political asylum in Italy. This painting represents Gina's imagined farewell to loved ones, showing her mother-in-law Maria in black, her own mother Antonia, her brother Riko and her best friend Gina. Many displaced migrants left in secret without telling friends or family, resulting in feelings of isolation, deception and loss. Gina said 'in my heart it was raining' when she left Croatia without saying goodbye to loved ones.
    SignificanceThis painting shows the impact of separation on migrant and refugee families. It is particularly poignant as an imagined scene of farewell, as in reality most displaced people, left their homes in secret and were unable to experience this.
    HistoryGina Sinozich began painting in 2000, when she was 70 years old. In 2009 she continued to paint full-time at her home in south-western Sydney. In these paintings Gina gives a first hand account of daily life on board the passenger ship SS NEPTUNIA which left Genoa, Italy for Melbourne, Australia on 19 June 1957. Her works are largely chronological and concentrate on the ship's journey, offering an insight into the anticipation and apprehension she felt towards their destination Australia, of which little was known.

    In 1956 Gina Sinozich fled her hometown in Istria, Croatia with her husband and two children Michael and Jenny to start a new life. Their decision to leave was made because of the difficult conditions experienced by families living in post-war Croatia, then part of the Communist Republic of Yugoslavia and under the control of Marshall Josip Tito. Many Croatians feared for their safety and experienced hunger and poverty.

    After travelling overland to Italy the Sinozich family lived in a refugee camp for 18 months until they were accepted for assisted migration to Australia. The family of four arrived to Australia with only three small suitcases, having fled in secret without packing family keepsakes or mementoes.

    Their journey mirrored the passage taken by hundreds of thousands of post-World War II European migrants, one which changed not only their lives but also had a profound effect on Australian society. Gina returned to Croatia in 2004, reuniting with family members and mending rifts caused by her secret departure almost fifty years earlier.
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