Refuge from civil war a “lottery” win

Germain Ramos and his girls. Photo: Maddison Wrench.
A fugitive from civil war in El Salvador says he was once only able to recognise the badly beaten body of his kidnapped uncle by his favourite boots. Maddison Wrench reports.

Germain Ramos remembers a precarious life in El Salvador during the civil war between “a military style government” and left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

“People wanted change and they were being persecuted for it,” he said.

“My eldest brother had been in incidents were he’d almost been killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “Any teenager was a target.”

He was able to recognise the body of his “badly beaten” uncle by his favourite boots in the midst of the civil war.

“In 1985, my mum had heard from a friend that consulates were setting up offices in El Salvador…enabling people to migrate to countries of the Commonwealth.”

Knowing the risks her sons faced, Ana Ramos applied without hesitation.


Refuge from civil war a "lottery" win
Ana Ramos and her granddaughter, Skye. Photo: Maddison Wrench








Within weeks Germain Ramos and his family were approved to migrate. They arrived in Australia on June 6 1985.

“We knew nothing about where we were going but we knew we’d won the lottery by being accepted to come to Australia,” Germain Ramos said.

In a hostel in Springvale, the Ramos family were welcomed by “organised translators, English classes and job skill training… as well as an equivalent to Centrelink”. “This was the lucky country,” Mr Ramos said.

“We knew we were in a safer, more developed country but not understanding anything was the hardest thing ever,” said the school teacher raised in a Spanish-speaking country.

He said he was endebted to his parents. “They allowed me to study whatever I wanted,” he said. “They didn’t want me to settle for working in a factory like a lot of young migrants my age.”

“I am truly thankful for that. I have a house, I’ve travelled, and I have a job that I love. I’ve had opportunity… which is something that none of my relatives were close to achieving in El Salvador”.

Now a teacher and a father to three girls, Germain Ramos said he dreads to think the life he would’ve given his daughters if they had have grown up in El Salvador. “You realise that the things you missed … become second to the fact that you felt safe and doors were opened for you”.

“I’ve never looked back and almost 40 years later we consider this country home, rather than El Salvador.”