Eileen Udovich, a resident of the Aveo Maple Grove retirement village in Casula, can remember learning about the word ‘Anzac’ back in the 1940s as a teenager.
Her family fled London during the Battle of Britain and ended up in a little town called Harefield, about the same distance from London that Liverpool is to the city. “Every Anzac Day, the government officials would come and put flowers on the graves”, she said. “I learned the injured Australian soldiers were treated at Harefield Hospital in World War 1. Those who didn’t make it were buried there.” It was here the then 17 year-old decided to put her future into her own hands. “People were being called up into the land army. I was scared of even a cow. I was a city girl…so I joined the British Royal Air Force,” the 90 year-old said. The teenager started working as the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ in the sergeant’s and colonel’s mess, stationed in places such as Bristol and London. “Before I joined up, I was lazy…mum waited on me growing up but after three months in the air force, I got my first charge for not cleaning my shoes or buttons. “Dad gave me advice before I went into the air force, he said ‘if an officer said coal is white, don’t argue’.” Mrs Udovich said there was a lot of crying on those first few nights in the air force. “You see, back then, people were used to eating with just their family, not a room full of strangers in a big mess hall…it was out of this world. “I felt lost, but we were kept busy from 5am, lighting the fire in the mess, laying out the tables and getting things ready for breakfast. She was paid 10 shillings a week while in the Air Force. Mrs Udovich has spent the past 18 Anzac Days marching in the city but spent her time locally in 2015. She laid a wreath at the Aveo Maple Grove retirement village Anzac Day service.