My mother is from an island called Brac in Croatia. It is truly a remarkably beautiful place.
She didn't own a pair of shoes until she was maybe 8 years old. She told me that for Christmas they may, if they were good, get an apple or a fig as a present.
Her father was a simple man, favouring the communist party and not terribly in favour of the catholic church. He worked the land and grew olives, figs and grapes. He wasn't a man that showed affection to either his wife or children and although he put the fear of God in all of them, my mother speaks of him very fondly.
My grandmother was a Catholic and a kind and gentle woman as I remember her. That doesn't mean she wasn't afraid to scold any one of her 11 children and although my mother speaks of her with the greatest love and respect, she tells me there were times that she knew very well she wasn't in the good books.
They lived through 2 wars, never had any wealth to speak of and worked hard on the land.
My grandmother lost 6 of 11 children. When the Germans invaded and took over the villages she was forced to flee to Italy for almost 2 years with her children to survive.
My mother left Croatia in her late 20's without a word of English. She was asked to keep company an aunt in Rhodesia who had lost her husband. She would pay for her flight and return and all expenses whilst there but got used to having a servant and refused to pay for my mother to return home.
Eventually she learned English, got a job and met my father.
Although he was an only child and his life was somewhat easier than hers.
My father’s parents also lived through 2 wars in England, both served in the 2nd and worked very hard all their lives. Their families are from lower middle class backgrounds. My real grandfather died in his late 20's from a disease similar to multiple sclerosis I believe. My grandmother remarried to a RAF serviceman she met during the war.
My father grew up relatively comfortably in Cape Town as I did in Perth, Western Australia. Worked consistently all his life and still does at 68, had 3 children of which I am the eldest. We didn’t have a lot but we certainly didn’t go without.
I also work hard. I always have but have not always been successful. Now I have a business that employs 4 people and growing. Things are looking good.
Life doesn't always seem easy for me, stress from work, long hours, a child to raise, high cost of living and so on. A constant battle.
But when I reflect on what my parent and grandparents went through in their lives, I can only be thankful for what I have.
I have learned from their example to be honest, work hard, persistent, consistent, be reliable and do as you say you will.
On my own I have learned that working hard does not lead to success. Education, planning, creativity, ingenuity and a thick skin are good foundations for success.
Young people: open your eyes to the opportunities available to you today. These are a result of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents hard work and sacrifices.
Remember the important things in life and don't take anything for granted.
Anything you have in this world can be taken from you in the blink of an eye.