It saddens us today to report on the death of Giuseppe ‘‘Joe’’ Vraca, but it is an honour to share his life story with our community.
By his own account, Mr Vraca came to Australia in 1961 with virtually nothing and through hard work and the support of family went on to build a horticultural empire.
His memories of the earliest days, while ever polite, do not paint an entirely welcoming picture.
‘‘There were good people around when I came here, but I felt that they looked down on me,’’ Mr Vraca is credited with saying in Simmon Pang’s book The Local Heroes.
Mr Vraca also recalls the plight of Italian migrants during World War II who came to Shepparton before his arrival.
‘‘Their guns and radios were confiscated, and they had to report to the local police station weekly ... When they went into the local pub for a drink, if some locals started to pick a fight, they would walk out quietly without a word, which was very wise, as they didn’t want to cause trouble.’’
Although their origins may have changed and the motivations may be different to those of Italians in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the struggles upon arrival of new migrants seem to have remained similar.
Mr Vraca believed it was important to embrace and support those who chose to leave their livelihoods and loved ones behind, travel numerous seas and continents in the hopes of a better life in Australia.
The News echoes these sentiments, encouraging all to embrace new arrivals in our community and remember how fortunate we are to be able live in such a sought-after country.