AUSSIE AT HEART: Elizabeth Long is proud of her adopted country and made this Anzac quilt to commemorate the 100 years since Armistice.
AUSSIE AT HEART: Elizabeth Long is proud of her adopted country and made this Anzac quilt to commemorate the 100 years since Armistice.

Sharing stories and skills to next generation

RETIRED textile artist Elizabeth Long believes it's important to pass on our stories and skills to the next generation.

The Kincumber resident said she had always tried to share the craft and cooking skills she had learned with her children and grandchildren, but she is worried that in today's screen-based society, it's not happening enough.

Turning the TV off when the family comes over, she said, was a great start, allowing all ages to sit around the table and talk to each other, play cards and board games or do "together things" like making pizza, baking or craft.

Instead of instantly "googling" how to do something, she encourages people to turn to each other for answers.

Dutch-born Elizabeth and her parents arrived by ship in Australia in 1947 when she was about six years old.

It wasn't an easy start to life, with her mum a German-born Jew who had taken Dutch citizenship in 1935 and married Elizabeth's Dutch Catholic father, having been forced to hide indoors with Elizabeth and her sister for most of their early years to escape the Nazis.

Her father had been conscripted into the Dutch army.

Her grandmother was one of the estimated 1.1 million people killed at Auschwitz but, thankfully, much of the rest of the family had already made it out of the country.

Elizabeth is unsure exactly how or why because it's a time her parents never spoke about and she is still trying to piece together the history with her cousins.

The Sydney suburb of Bronte, where they moved, was filled with European war refugees, and Elizabeth said the local children taunted them as "refos" or "yids".

But she loved her new country and was brought up as an Aussie, fondly remembering building billy carts, collecting old newspapers for pennies from the greengrocer to wrap his produce in, and lots of outdoor activities, including camping, swimming and bushwalking.

Her mum had actually been an Olympic-standard kayaker but was robbed of the opportunity to compete in Hitler's Germany.

Working with her hands is in Elizabeth's blood, with her mum trained in millinery and dressmaking and her father an upholsterer.

Elizabeth recalls her mum creating toys from her father's old suits and reworking and redesigning second-hand clothes so they were like new.

Little wonder Elizabeth trained in dressmaking and textiles, making (among others) her own wedding gown as well as both her daughters', before turning to patchwork quilting in retirement.

She said she always had "a stash of fabrics", old cards and pictures, and her three kids and nine grandchildren loved making cards, toys and dress-ups, as well as cooking with her.

In 2001 she was one of just 5000 Australians selected to take part in an outdoor installation called People Scape, stretching from Old to New Parliament House in Canberra, to commemorate the centenary of Federation.

Elizabeth chose Dutch-born textile artist Annemieke Mein as her Australian hero in a decision which perhaps best sums up her love of the country and its melting pot of cultures.

"That's what makes Australia such a great place, as the song says, 'we are one but we are many', Elizabeth said.


Now 77, Elizabeth has taught textiles at schools and community clubs and groups, and is still happy to share her skills with others.

To contact her, you can phone 02 4369 6791.

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