Elizabeth Risman

Elizabeth knits dolls

“You ask me if I like it here, that’s not even a question. Most Australians don’t understand how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful country. They just don’t understand.”

Hi my name is Elizabeth and I am from Odessa, Ukraine. 30 years ago my husband and our three children moved to Melbourne from what used to be the USSR. My husband is Jewish and the Jewish Welfare organisation helped us move here.

In Odessa, I was an economist. That was all I knew. When I came here I started working at a sewing factory. Back then, the government paid the factory owner to teach us the skills we needed for work. So they put me behind a sewing machine, and that was it. I learnt how to sew and worked there until I went on the pension. I worked very hard, but I made a future for my children and grandchildren.

Once they grew up, I had nothing to do. I could sew and that’s it. My neighbour, an Australian woman, also knew how to sew so we started sewing dolls together. We heard that there was a woman at the community services centre who was looking for other women who knew how to sew.

That’s how I met Luz. We became friends and that’s how it all started.

There was no SisterWorks. It was 5 of us women and that’s it. Everyone could do what they knew how to. And slowly and slowly we found markets to sell our things at. Luz helped us make something from nothing. That is a very big deal for all of us.

At Sisterworks I make dolls and toys. Graduations bears, Humpty Dumpty, a Scottish man, scarecrows. This is all mine. I only come in now to bring new products or make invoices. I also help women at the markets. I talk to the customers in English but it is very bad. I understand it easy but being at SisterWorks makes me speak in English. I don’t have this anywhere else in Australia.

The money from these dolls have let me travel the world over and over again. Everywhere. Twice in America. It let me go on Lite & Easy for 8 months to help me be skinny. For all this I thank Luz.

You ask me if I like it here, that’s not even a question. Most Australians don’t understand how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful country. They just don’t understand.