Janina’s birthday surprise was incredible, relatively speaking

REUNION: Olga Zalubivskaia, Oksana Zalubivskaia, Janina Knight, Oleg Zalubivskiy and Ira Zalubivskaia.
REUNION: Olga Zalubivskaia, Oksana Zalubivskaia, Janina Knight, Oleg Zalubivskiy and Ira Zalubivskaia.

WHAT do you get for your mother for her 70th birthday when she doesn't even want a party?

You fly four of her relatives in from Ukraine for a surprise visit, of course.

Janina Knight’s daughters Meagan and Lisa spent months in the planning stages for the party because they wanted it to be a surprise.

Lisa said they tried to get the relatives over for Janina’s birthday on October 3 but because of visa problems they could not arrive until November 6 – ironically, their father’s birthday.

“Mum has only met a handful of her relatives so to have them visit is very special for her,” Lisa said.

Janina arrived in Australia with her parents at the age of two in 1949. The family settled in a migrant camp in Parkes.

Janina has two brothers but was never in contact with any of her overseas relatives.

Janina married George Knight and they moved to Oberon in 1969 and they still live here today.

But their lives changed dramatically at 9pm on November 8, 2011 when Janina got a phone call from a Russian television program asking if she had relatives in Ukraine.

“That’s when things progressed rather quickly,” Lisa said. “The television show was sort of like This Is Your Life but they were tracking relatives all over the world.

"Myself, Meagan and mum travelled to Kiev via Moscow to meet our relatives for the very first time . This was in March 2012.

“Mum was very excited as this was her heritage and family.”

In 2014 the family - Janina, Meagan, Lisa, Maya and Connor – decided to go again but because of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia they all decided to meet up in Cypress. Now Janina’s cousins and niece are in Australia for two weeks.

“Because of the visa mix-up we gave mum a copy of the visa on her birthday so she knew we had organised the trip,” Lisa said.

Janina told the Oberon Review she was very excited and proud to have her relatives in her home town.

“They are very impressed with Oberon as they live in high rise buildings - they do not have the open spaces we have in Australia,” she said.

“I’m going to enjoy the visit. If it wasn’t for the television show in Russia I would not have found any of my relatives.”