A Story Dreamt Long Ago - a memoir

by Phyllis McDuff

All mothers have their secrets ...

When Bettina Mendl arrived in Sydney in 1939 from Vienna she was on the run. Born into a wealthy Austrian family, she was an orphaned heiress, a social darling, and an ambitious equestrian.
In 1936 she refused to compete at the Berlin Olympic Games in protest at Hilter's warmongering; a snub for which she would pay dearly.

During Anschluss, the annexation of Austria, SS Commander Otto Wachter confiscated her extensive estate of vineyards, stables, and castles, and moved into her mansion; the Villa Mendl. With a five pound note in her pocket, Bettina arrived in Australia and fled into the outback, seeking refuge and anonymity to work as a land girl.

Joe McDuff, a station manager, won her heart, asking no questions and together they forged a new life; a home and two daughters.

Ten years later, into this precious refuge, a letter arrives … a summons to return.

The glittering world of opulence and violence from which she had fled now lures Bettina back with promises of restoring her birthright. And so, two young bush princesses find themselves in a whirling fairy-tale world of taffeta, silk, rules and hidden protocols.

Who is Bettina? An heiress? A Viennese socialite? Or a spy who helped dozens of Jews flee Hitler?

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