Hungarian migrants, my grandparents came to Australia with nothing, in search of a better life for their kids, my mum and her sister, Irma. My grandpa, Gregor, had built their big, beautiful house in Red Hill, ACT, with his own hands.
Down at the local Hungarian Australian Club, they’d give money to whoever needed it.
Their generosity should have been rewarded with good karma. But when I was 23, burglars broke into their home and stole $100,000. Mistrusting the banks, they’d hidden it away.
A year later, Grandma was assaulted when she stumbled across two masked intruders in the garage.
Fighting back bravely, she ripped off her attacker’s balaclava, revealing his face.
‘I’ll be back!’ he’d spat out, before escaping. Petri ed, my grandparents moved a 25-minute drive away to McKellar, sparing no expense on security.
Living close by with my parents, I spent as much time with my grandparents as I could. Barricaded up like Fort Knox, they were safe – or so I thought.
Jolting awake one Saturday night, I heard our dogs, Tyson and Nicki, barking, followed by a sharp rap on the door.
‘I’m so sorry, there’s been a break-in at your parents’ house. Your mum, Irma, has passed away,’ I heard a police officer tell my mother, gently.
Battered and bruised, Grandpa had managed to call Triple-0 once the assailants had fled. After racing him to the hospital, an armed guard was posted at his door. Covered in blood, his face was so swollen, he could barely speak.
Discovering details of that night, my blood boiled. As my innocent grandparents watched TV, two balaclava-clad men had broken in.
‘Where’s the money?’ they demanded, before tying them up and savagely beating them.
As Grandma took her last breaths, Grandpa frantically tried to free himself. But it was too late.
Before, my grandpa was the biggest joker around.
‘I wish I’d died with Irma,’ he said afterwards.
Every Christmas, Easter and birthday without Grandma and her homemade walnut cake was agony. And while Mum and Aunty Irma still carefully followed her chicken soup recipe, it never tasted quite the same. Five years later, aged 78, Grandpa lost his battle with prostate cancer. But, really, his heart had been broken.
At first, I had faith that Grandma’s killers would be brought to justice. But as the years passed without leads, that hope faded.
Every year, near the anniversary of Grandma’s death on November 6, I put up posters around our neighbourhood.
Who Killed Irma? they read, with a photograph of my grandma, looking so tiny and cuddly.
From beyond, I know my grandma is still looking after me. That’s why I won’t stop until she can finally rest in peace.
If you have any information regarding Irma Palasics’ murder in McKellar, ACT, on the night of November 6, 1999, please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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