OLGA Marangio is a survivor: her mother died when she was five months old and she has outlived three husbands.
In spite of the constant demoralisation, she qualified as an accountant at a commercial college, serving as an intern at the Santiago office of a sulphur mine in the north of Chile to complete a thesis. She worked there for over two years in strict conditions.
Her first husband, Generous, was Chilean, but the aunt did not consider him Olga’s equal. As two salaries were not enough to get married on in Chile, they decided to emigrate to Australia with friends who cancelled at the last minute. Olga had a visa but Generous did not, so they arranged for a proxy marriage before she left for Australia. On October 10, 1970, she arrived on her own to begin her much-desired new life with only the English she'd learnt at school.
With good fortune smiling, on the flight she met two professors, one of whom helped her at Tullamarine to get a taxi to the YMCA, where her accommodation had been pre-arranged by pen friends. Frightened to board a tram or train, she first worked at Rolla Co, within walking distance of the YMCA.
With the pen-friends’ help, she found board in Chadstone with an RSL widow called Mrs Brown who helped her to get a job nearby at the Nicholas Aspro factory. English conversation was still a problem but five workmates helped her with her English pronunciation at the same time as she took a correspondence course in English.
This led to her first job as a bookkeeper in Australia. Olga has nothing but praise for the training she received from her boss, a Czechoslovakian, who, when the balances were out, suggested a few different places to look. In this way, she was taught many different things, and how to do them properly.
She did not know she had become Mrs Generous Rodriguez until she received a telegram congratulating her on her marriage. When Generous arrived in Australia, Mrs Brown also took him in, boarding the couple while they saved for a house.
Generous’s first job was at General Motors where he spray-painted car parts. One day other employees played a joke on him by disconnecting his oxygen and he collapsed. He then got a job at Nicholas Aspro. Olga and Generous always spent their lunch break together. Those were happy years. But four months after moving into their own home, Generous suffered a fatal accident at work.
For 10 years, Olga was treasurer of the Spanish Society of Victoria, which was set up 65 years ago to help Spanish-speaking immigrants learn English. The customs, culture and music of other Spanish-speaking countries were used to teach English and attract members. There were men there from San Bernardo, Generous's home town, who were now employed by Victorian Railways.
After her husband’s death, Olga rented out their house, returning again to live with Mrs Brown. Mrs Brown’s son Bruce had also returned to live in his mother's home after his divorce. When his children visited him there, Mrs Brown was too strict with them, so Olga looked after them. Eventutally Bruce and Olga married and had a son. Olga stayed home for two years then started working part time at Guild Insurance, which gradually built from two to three to four days a week when her son was in kindergarten. After he went to school, she worked five days a week from 9am to 3pm. She worked there for 20 years.
Mrs Brown had always considered Olga a daughter. Once she said to Olga, “If my son did anything wrong with you – I'd kill him.” After her death and Bruce's many unsuccessful attempts to reform a drinking habit, Olga and her son left and moved to an investment house they had in Oakleigh. Here she was helped by Joseph Marangio, who had been her neutral confidant at Nicholas Aspros. Joseph helped with the lawn and small maintenance jobs. They were married in 1991.
Joseph owned a holiday house in Cape Paterson where he retired to becoming involved with U3A. Olga and Joseph were married for 20 years before he died in 2011.
Olga still lives at Cape Paterson. Far from being alone, she has her son's family of four children and her stepson's two children, and has contentment and happiness.
She never regretted coming to Australia. After returning to Chile on the death of her first husband, she realised that she would have nothing if she stayed there. In Australia she could reveal her true self and not be beholden to anyone. The strictness of her aunt's German/Swiss upbringing was demoralising. “More than anything,” she says, “I wanted to demonstrate that I would do something.”
November 9, 2016
I just wanted to thank Joan for her brilliant portrayal of one of the loveliest women I have ever known. Joan you highlighted Olga's strengths and helped us to catch a glimpse of the marvellous woman that she is. Thank you.
Jacqui Paulson, Wonthaggi