Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 8 2010 Contents 44 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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A Polish family has given new meaning to the term ‘sea change’
after making a remarkable transition to the Royal Australian Navy.
From Poland to the RAN
The Byzdra family (husband Marcin, wife Agnieszka
and son Lukasz) emigrated from Poland six years
ago and have now added to the diversity of the
Australian Defence Force by serving in the Royal
The fascination with all things naval started with
Marcin Byzdra joining the Polish Navy as a Marine
Technician in 1989.
Lukasz remembers visiting his Dad onboard some of
the ships he served in. “Polish Navy ships are full of
memorabilia and tradition,” Lukasz remembers.
“They are not all clean and new like Australian Navy
ships. I can remember the distinct smell of the ships
my Dad served in when I was younger”.
Marcin moved his young family around when he
was posted and his last posting in the Polish Navy
was in Germany, in NATO Headquarters as an
During this posting Marcin was exposed to
people from foreign Defence Forces and formed
some contacts who encouraged him to consider
“Marcin was talking to a Defence member from
Canada about transferring to the Canadian Navy but
we all thought – Canada is so cold!,” Marcin’s wife
“It was around this time that we first considered
moving to Australia.”
The next year, Marcin resigned from the Polish Navy
and Marcin and Agnieszka took the plunge and
moved to Adelaide on student visas.
“It was a big risk that we took in moving half way
around the world. We sold everything in Poland
and came to Australia with three suitcases.
“But we believed that any sacrifice we made would
be better in the long run for our family – and it has
paid off,” Agnieszka said.
Lukasz started year 11 in a school in Adelaide,
while Marcin catered to his interest in technoloy
with a Diploma in Information Technology at
University of South Australia.
Agnieska, nicknamed ‘Aga’, said that it was a
challenging time for the family.
“We had moved away from our friends and family
and we weren’t sure if everything was going to end
up as we had planned.
“We lived very basically, all working jobs to make
ends meet until we could get permanent residency.”
The plan was always for Marcin to join the
Australian Navy, which he did as a Marine
Technician in 2007. Lukasz joined him three months
later, completing initial and category training as a
By Lieutenant Katey Mouritz
“It was a big risk
that we took in moving
halfway around the world.
We sold everything in Poland
and came to Australia with
three suitcases. But we
believed that any sacrifice
we made would be better in
the long run for our family
– and it has paid off.”
– Able Seaman Dental Agnieska Byzdra
aBOVe: The Byzdra family, (L-R) Able Seaman Bosun’s Mate
Lukasz Byzdra, Petty Officer Marine Technician Marcin Byzdra,
and Able Seaman Dental Agnieska Byzdra, serve in the Royal
Australian Navy. They emigrated to Australia from Poland six
years ago and have made many sacrifices to make a new and
successful life in Rockingham, Western Australia.
Photo: Leading Seaman Imagery Specialist Nadia Monteith
“The weapons aspect really attracted me to the
BM category,” Lukasz said.
“I have always been fascinated with small arms
weaponry, not so much the larger guns that require
remote operation. I prefer the hands-on approach.
“I also considered joining in Communications or
Clearance Diving categories, but in the end the
thought of being a ‘dibbie’ won out.”
Aga also applied to join the Navy as a cook
in 2007, however her language skills needed
some work, so she left the recruiting office and
took an intensive six-month course in English
“I was sitting at home alone at HMAS Cerberus
while Marcin and Lukasz were away training and
at sea and I thought, what better time to really
Aga came out of her language training with flying
colours and performed so well at recruiting that she
was offered the choice of more categories to join.
“I was previously going to join as a cook, but with
more categories open to me I was offered Dental
Assistant and I took it.
“Looking back I think my personality is much more
suited to the interaction with patients, so I am really
pleased with my choice,” Aga said.
After initial training in 2007 and 2008 and a short
stint for Lukasz in Sydney, the Byzdra family have all
been posted to WA-based Navy units.
“The lifestyle here really suits us,” Marcin said.
“We have good career opportuntities here plus we
have so many options for fun. We are very active,
playing squash, running, swimming, fishing around
the Rockingham area. I would actually like to buy
a boat for fishing offshore,” Marcin said with a
After a short stint living with his parents,
Lukasz moved into his own house in the area.
“There were just too many personalities in
one house,” Aga said.
“It is better this way, since Lukasz is just 10 minutes
away and we still catch up and do things together.”
The Byzdra family has not returned to visit Poland
since leaving six years ago, although both Marcin
and Aga’s parents have come for a visit.
“Some Polish people thought we were crazy
to leave,” Marcin said.
“They said, ‘but there is so much risk!’ But we knew
we could make it work. We learnt to be flexible
and that helped us to acclimatise to a new culture.”
Marcin and Aga now both work at HMAS Stirling,
Marcin in Fleet Support Unit and Aga at the Fleet
Base West Health Centre.
Lukasz posted to HMAS Perth, a Western
Australian-based Anzac Class frigate, in early 2010.
“It is very exciting to be part of what is practically
a new ship,” Lukasz said.
“Perth has finished the construction phase of her
Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) upgrade and is
now starting a trials period.
“I am very proud to be part of the crew. It is very
rewarding to be organising the way a ship works
from scratch. It is the crew that makes a ship and
Perth is shaping up to be a great team.”
Both Marcin and Lukasz have received the same
typically Aussie nickname, both being branded
‘Byz’, by their work mates. Aga usually receives the
simplified version of her name, instead of Agnieszka.
“Too many ‘S’s and Z’s!” she laughed.
“It is quite surprising how much Polish and
Australian culture have in common,” Marcin said.
“Obviously the difference in language is hard, but I
find that the Australian and Polish sense of humour
is quite similar. I think that both cultures rely on a lot
of larrikinism and also use of sarcasm for humour. I
find myself quite at home.
“Moving to Australia and joining the Navy has been
very good for our family,” Marcin said, looking at
Agnieska and Lukasz. And they nod in agreement
aBOVe LefT: Able Seaman Bosun’s Mate Lukasz Byzdra on the helm of HMAS Melbourne. His will
soon join the ship’s company of HMAS Perth. Photo: Able Seaman Imagery Specialist James Whittle
BeLOW LefT: Able Seaman Dental Assistant Agnieszka Byzdra at Fleet Base West Dental
Department, HMAS Stirling. Photo: Able Seaman Imagery Specialist Dove Smithett
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