• Flavia - Gertrud nee Neumahr leaving Germany
  • Helmuth Maciejczyk leaving Bremerhaven
  • Helmuth Maciejczyk - Equator christening
  • Helmuth Maciejczyk - Equator christening 2
  • Gertrud Neumahr in the Miss Flavia ball
  • Gertrud Neumahr in the Miss Flavia ball 2
  • The Flavia in Fremantle

Gertrud Neumahr was 18 when she decided to go on a grand two year round trip adventure to Australia. But fate intervened, as it often does, and she met Helmuth Maciejczyk on the dance floor of the Flavia, the ship that carried them over the waters from Bremerhaven to Sydney in 1967.

From different parts of Germany, the two had never met. Gertrud was from a village near Stuttgart and Helmuth was living in the industrial Ruhr region. Both had taken dance classes as was the custom and they wore pins on their lapels and dresses to show their dance proficiency. Gertrud borrowed her friend's higher level pin, and so Helmuth asked her to dance. He didn't notice any missteps and they danced every night to Australia.

On the boat, the families were put in a single room but everyone else was segregated. The only place young, newly in love couples could snatch a private moment was in a life boat, but you had to be quick.  

The Australian migration officer in Stuttgart described Gertrud as 'Pleasant bright, mature, sensible for her age. A good gain.' In Cologne, the migration officer described Helmuth as 'A good type' and 'can oxy-electric welding' (sic). He had minimal English but he had good skills.  

Five weeks pass quickly, when there are equators to cross, the Suez canal to avoid, Cha-Cha's to dance, and tropical islands to visit. Gertrud was destined for Sydney and Helmuth was bound for Melbourne, where one of his brothers now lived. The two were separated, but not for long.

Gertrud unable to work in her trained profession as a beautician - because in Australia you also had to be able to cut hair - found work at Central Station cleaning tables. She was quickly promoted to waiting tables on the NSW section of the overnight train "Spirit of Progress" from Sydney to Melbourne, securing a free trip to see Helmuth. Helmuth proposed on Christmas eve 1967 and two months later they married on a sweaty, 42 degree day in Melbourne at the tiny, bluestone Lutheran church in the city.

They spent many years in Melbourne, traveling, enjoying their time as a young married couple, even returning to Germany for two years. But they came back and had two children before moving to Noosa, where they have spent most of their life running a small business. Gertrud volunteered at the local school P&C, the RSPCA and the local knitting for charity group. Helmuth joined the local golf club and took up the sport with a great passion. He also adopted all the Australian football codes and cricket as a keen armchair enthusiast. Both have briefly performed at the local amateur theatre company.

In 2006 they returned to Germany with stadium tickets to watch the World Cup and it was clear where their loyalties now lay, with the Socceroos. Gertrud and Helmuth have four grandchildren and a mobile home they call 'Claudette'. They have joined the ranks of the grey nomads and are enjoying their retirement exploring Australia.


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Jennifer M
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