Boris Schkut and Nick Pastor

Boris Schkut and Nick Pastor are half brothers who spent part of their childhood in Millers Point. Boris was born in Klagenfurt, Austria in 1945; and in Nick was in Sydney in 1951. They are of partial Russian. Boris came to Australia as a displaced person with his mother after the war in 1949 and his mother subsequently married Nick’s father. In their interview Boris and Nick recall aspects of fragmented family life; migrant camp in Bathurst NSW; growing up in Millers Point; tough experiences as an immigrant child; the Millers Point house they lived in; playing; school; landlords; neighbours; local occupations and industries; shops and shopkeepers; betting; fights and skylarking. In the excerpt below Boris recalls dangerous adventures on the Sydney Harbour Bridge when security was lax and before officially guided Bridge climbs.

This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.

The [Sydney Harbour] Bridge was part of my life. I’ve walked over the arch. When you got right to the top you hung on because the bloody wind was so strong you actually sway. On the far side of the pylon – which was very foolhardy, actually – one school holiday we were underneath, where the planks for the painters who used to paint the nuts and the bolts, this is just under where the trains and the trams used to run there as well.

We found this little passageway and it was into the pylon itself. Every second railing was missing, so we got one of the painter’s ropes and tied it around about five or six [boys], I forget how many. One of the blokes had the little lamp that you had on the bike. He stuck it on his belt. And it was a sheer drop: there would be one flight of stairs and the next one would be missing, one flight of stairs, one missing. We sort of had the railing and the ledge where the stairs [would have been], these were steel stairs.

To stop people going up there they took every second alternate level. There we were climbing up there and when we got up to the top they had the records of the Bridge and the photographs of the building [of the Bridge], the documentation, and it was all handwritten. And the rats, I don’t know how they lived there but they were humungous. But that was a pretty risky thing because if one falls we all fall, because we were all tied together with a rope.

Frank Heimans