6 Sep 2023

Australian author Debra Gavranich always felt compelled to write her mother’s story, and this is the result – her first book.

Debra’s mother, Marija, had an idyllic early childhood on the Croatian island of Korčula, which was brutally disrupted by the invasion of the Italians in 1941 and then the Nazis.

The devastation brought death and destruction, leaving families struggling to survive years after the war ended.

In 1950, an opportunity arrived for 17-year-old Marija to escape hunger and despair, while also fleeing her beautiful home. In doing so, she committed herself to a stranger in faraway Queensland, Australia, through a proxy marriage.

Book cover of 'The Girl Who Left,' by Debra Gavranich

Taking the plunge, Marija leaves her family, friends, and everything she has known, to travel 12,000km to a land where she knows nothing and no one – not even the language.

An author talk on Thursday 7 September at Tūranga will delve into the life of Marija, with Debra discussing the courageous young woman within her first published book, 'The Girl Who Left.'

“I love speaking about the book I wrote about my mother, and have done many library talks, writers festivals and radio interviews,” says Debra.

“I love and invite questions and am happy to answer and explain any that come from the audience.”

Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson says this talk promises to be an interesting and inviting event.

“This talk allows a chance to learn about the life story of this migration, and meet the author of this gripping story.

Debra grew up on a sugarcane farm in Far North Queensland, returning to Cairns where she now lives with her family and works as a physiotherapist.

Both her parents were born on the Croatian island of Korčula, but her father’s family migrated to Australia in the 1920s, and her mother in 1952.

Learn more here about this free event.