'Ask No Questions' by Eva Collins - the book launch

AIPA members Irena Zdanowicz, Zofia and Jan Pakulski, Alexandra and Julian Dunwill attended a book launch of AIPA’s long-standing member Eva Collins.

The launch was MC’ed by Rosie Lew, AM, a philanthropist supporting education, medical research, and the arts. She has been involved with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute since 1991 and was instrumental in the formation of the Peter Mac Foundation, raising millions of dollars for cancer research, education, and care.

The speakers were Anne Carson, a leading poet, and Dr. Hass Dellal, AO, CEO of the Australia Multicultural Foundation and former SBS television and radio chair.

The book is available from Readings and Dymocks and the author.

Please read a short report that Eva wrote for our website.

A FEW NOTES ON MY BOOK LAUNCH – by Eva Collins.

On the 3 July at the East Melbourne Library, I had the launch of my book, a verse memoir titled Ask No Questions, published by Puncher & Wattmann.

Ask No Questions is a refrain that I heard my parents say whenever I questioned their decisions.

It is a record of my family’s migration from Poland to Australia during the Cold War in the late 1950s. It is told from my 12-year-old’s perspective, delving into the heartache I felt in leaving my mother country. I felt violated, as my life was ruptured. I often wonder if I still miss Poland because it wasn’t my decision to leave. And would I feel similarly, if Australia was suddenly a place I could not come back to.

The book’s language is restrained and sparing, matching the caution, alertness and fear my parents felt whilst living in Communist Poland, under its surveillance regime and widespread anti-Semitism.

In my father’s words his decision to go to the other side of the world was ‘to be as far away from Moscow as possible’. This sadly is topical today when we watch Moscow rain its will and destruction on Ukraine.

Although there are compelling reasons why people emigrate, the transition is rarely easy or straightforward. You gain something and you lose something in the process but the gain and the loss don’t necessarily cancel each other out. In leaving your country you leave behind the things which formed your identity. Once you’re in a new land it is this identity which is challenged as the usual reference points are not there. 

Just as for the Australians, migrants are foreigners so too for the migrants it is the Australians who are foreign.

Aside from the actual story, the theme has universal implications. It applies to all migrants and refugees from anywhere, at any time. It is written with pathos but also with humour, making it easier to carry the message across.

The book was written with nostalgia, but also with gratitude, as Australia has offered a fresh start to so many people who had to leave their homeland.