Irene Beck – Celebrating 102nd

August 10, 2022


Noel Rowsell for Nepean News

Irene Beck turned 102 on Saturday 30th July and celebrated the occasion one day early, on Friday 29th July, surrounded by family, fellow residents and staff on the 5th floor of The Royce.

Born in 1920 in Breslau, Germany, Irene was her mother’s 11th child but failed to find love at home, adopted out as a 14-day old baby to a loving couple who were unable to have children of their own.

Irene found love with her adopted parents, forming a close bond with both and enjoying a normal childhood, albeit under harsh living conditions due to food shortages.

Irene met first husband Paul through Ballroom Dancing and they had an immediate connection.

Paul and Irene both studied Morse Code and after both were drafted, to the Air Force and Police Force respectively, used to contact each other at their different locations and chat via the airwaves.

Irene had Judy, her eldest daughter, in 1944, then was forced out of her house in the middle of the night by the feared SS, who gave her 10 minutes warning to collect whatever she could carry before leaving.

After narrowly avoiding being herded into train cars at the local Railway station, Irene was befriended by a stranger who arranged for two families to go to Lowenburg, where she lived until forced out by the Russians.

This was not Irene’s first experience with the Russian Armed Forces invading Germany, as a Russian plane had shot at her and a group of villagers travelling along a country road. Irene was luckily unscathed but the milk pail she was carrying was hit, which was a fortunate miss by the enemy.

Irene started bleeding during her second pregnancy (with Dennis) and was rushed to hospital for treatment.

Just before anything could be done, the hospital was evacuated as the staff and patients fled to escape Russian troops entering the town.

Irene was on the road again, travelling with her close friend and other villagers, plus wounded troops, through Czechoslovakia and on to Bavaria, with German forces blowing bridges after the train had passed to slow the Russian advance.

Irene and her friend were both now fluchtling (refugees), spending the remaining years of the war in Unterbechingen, where Irene survived by knitting, sewing, crocheting and mending items for the farmers.


Dennis was born in 1945, the day after the war ended but Irene lost Paul, who never returned from a flight into Russia.

Irene met second husband Heinz in 1948 and they were married in 1951, living in Wieblingen and producing Irene’s third child, Diana.

The family migrated to Australia in 1957, sailing via Tenerife, Spain and Cape Town, South Africa, then around the Cape.

The family initially lived at Bonegilla, Vic along with fellow immigrants including Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians and other eastern Europeans.

They subsequently moved to the Villawood Migrant Hostel, NSW, living in corrugated steel huts.

Heinz was however a qualified tradesman and found work immediately.

The couple purchased a block of land in ‘the bush’ in Smithfield (now Wetherill Park), where Heinz would build their first home in Australia, with the family moving out of the Hostel and into the house when it was half-finished.

Irene gave birth to her fourth child, Doris, in 1960 but due to language difficulties at the hospital, did not see her for the first 8 days.

Luckily, her attending doctor returned to the hospital after a corresponding 8-day absence and once he had been appraised of the situation, raised a ruckus at the hospital until Irene and Doris were reunited.

Irene returned to work after Doris’ birth, working as a house cleaner in North Sydney and the northern suburbs of Sydney.

In the early 1980’s, the family moved to Mt Riverview, where Irene lived until moving into The Royce.

Dennis died from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2010, then Heinz passed away in 2011, but Irene has found courage in the love of her remaining three children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Irene has self-published a book on her life, titled ‘Irene’s Story’, which is available through www.honouryourlife.com.au