The idea for this book was born one hot, hazy summer day in 2014 as Ann-Marie Lowry and Wilma Mann sat on a bench under a tree overlooking the Nedlands foreshore.
Ann Marie pointed to the jetty and floating restaurant, the site of the former Nedlands Baths. “My dad lived at the baths when he arrived in Australia as a child,” she said. “You have to meet my dad. He’s had an amazing life. He was eleven when he came here from Japan with his mother, and through his own efforts became a very successful businessman, a pillar of society, a father of six, grandfather of eleven and a life-long traveller. Not bad for a Danish migrant who didn’t have much English when he first arrived.”
Paul Vukelic’s personal journey is all that, and much more. Born in 1930 to a Danish mother and Croatian father, who lived in Paris, his extraordinary life story traverses continents, reveals historic World War II Communist connections, identifies his father as a Russian spy, reveals a Japanese half brother, and culminates in reconnecting with his father’s extensive and far-flung Croatian family.
His story is both remarkable and moving.
‘Super spy story’ – review from The Saturday Paper, 19 December 2015
What stories lie among people who’ve settled in Australia! Earlier this month saw the launch of a privately published biography of Perth resident Paul Vukelic, written by Wilma Mann. A story of a worthy, middle-class, suburban life, except for its connection with the greatest espionage achievement of the past century.
Vukelic’s father, Branko Vukelic, and mother, Edith, were members of the Richard Sorge spy ring in Tokyo, working for Moscow’s Comintern. A German, Sorge was so convincing in his cover as a pro-Nazi journalist that the Gestapo chief at the German embassy vouched for him when the Japanese military police got suspicious. His report that Japan had abandoned any plans to seize territory from the Soviet Union, in favour of a move into South-East Asia, enabled Stalin to concentrate forces against Germany.
Branko also had cover as a pro-Axis journalist. Danish-born Edith was courier for the spy ring, smuggling microfilm and documents to Shanghai where they were transmitted to Moscow by the American communist Agnes Smedley. As the Japanese net closed on Sorge, Edith and 11-year-old Paul got out of Japan in September 1941. Paul saw his father for the last time as their ship sailed. By the time they arrived in Perth, to join Edith’s sister, Japanese police had arrested Sorge and his collaborators. Sorge was hanged; Branko Vukelic died of pneumonia in Abashiri Prison seven months before the war ended. If ASIO were aware of a former Comintern agent settled in Perth, it’s not mentioned in the official history.
Work completed: project planning; interior book design; image conversion, clean-up, and placement; proofing; printer liaison; ISBN management
Published: November 2015 (hardback)
Print length: 200 pages
Available via: firstname.lastname@example.org