Fond camp memories

By Simon Ruppert

The Benalla Migrant Camp Exhibition and the premiere of the Benalla Migrant Camp Short Stories were part of the Benalla Festival opening weekend.

Local business owner Lawrence Stolz remembers the Migrant Camp very well as his father Henry and grandfather Chris employed a number of its residents.

‘‘My grandfather Chris employed migrants to help him after his wife died,’’ Mr Stolz said.

‘‘Granddad lived across from the Benalla Aerodrome, from there it was an easy walk for the migrants because the camp was just across the road.’’

Mrs Ponkrachitch is one Migrant Camp resident who helped Chris Stolz with his cleaning and cooking.

‘‘She brought her young son to play at the house while she worked,’’ Mr Stolz said.

‘‘One day he arrived with a beautiful teddy bear that she had made for him. I was two or three at the time and liked the teddy so much, that she made me one, too.’’

This teddy, affectionately called Ponkrachitch, has been treasured by Mr Stolz since then and spent a few months on exhibition at the Costume and Pioneer Museum during last year’s festival exhibition Migrant Treasures.

‘‘At our Stolz business we also employed Tilda Kiraly to make curtains and fabric furniture covers, Helen Stefaniak who helped in the office and Ibby Kerekes who worked in the shop,’’ Mr Stolz said.

‘‘I remember thinking from when I was a child that the migrants were all wonderful people and that they had many skills.

‘‘Dad was friendly with one of the camp residents, a professional photographer. I remember he learnt a lot from him and they shared an interest.’’

The Benalla Migrant Camp exhibition is also open outside of the Benalla Festival.

●For more information and opening times, visit