From Great Britain to the World - Anna's Story
The theme of the Cockington Green story is people. So many have contributed to its success in so many ways. Some of the people picked themselves, others encountered the business in such an unexpected way. Anna’s story fits the latter category and Cockington Green has been a very fortunate beneficiary from this wonderful relationship.
A large part of the original display featured a lake serving as a back-up water supply for the gardens. With good town water supply and a bore, it was no longer considered essential to devote such a sizeable tract of land to a lake. The proximity of Embassies and High Commissions in Canberra provided the idea for expanding the display. Partnerships with represented countries to showcase their architecture, heritage and culture became possible.
One of the first tasks undertaken in the planned expansion of Cockington Green Gardens was to write to all Heads of Missions of Embassies and High Commissions in Canberra. There were no real expectations about the responses likely to be received except that some might get back, many probably wouldn’t.
Looking back 20 years, the response was far better than ever envisaged. Even today, there is inquiry being made. The bonus of this then new initiative was the wonderful friendships that have been developed and which have endured over the years. One of the earliest to get back in touch with Cockington Green Gardens was Dr. Anna Tureničová, the then Head of Mission for the Slovak Republic. Anna later became the Ambassador. Better still, Anna became a great friend and remains a great friend.
Anna recalls, “I remember starting my speech at the unveiling ceremony of the Slovak miniature construction in the Cockington Green Gardens with the famous quote “I have a dream...””
She continued, “But let us start from the very beginning. It was a very cold, rainy and gloomy August day in 1998 when I arrived in Canberra for the very first time. Fortunately, these first impressions did not last very long, and our welcome seemed much warmer after a mail from the management of the Cockington Green Gardens arrived at the Slovak Embassy. It was a letter of congratulations on the National Day of Slovakia and it included two tickets to the Cockington Green Gardens display. We visited the gardens shortly after with my family and we were amazed with the uniqueness, precision, and details of the wonderful exhibit. We admired the beautiful pieces in the original display, and we were astonished by the international part of the gardens. There was only one single flaw...a construction from Slovakia was still missing.”
Anna is not only a delightful and caring person she is also incredibly modest. That modesty masks an amazing tenacity. A visit to the Embassy and a viewing of some of the pictures on the wall of Anna with some of the World’s most powerful people gave a real insight into her tenacity and especially the regard with which she is held.
Anna’s visit to Cockington Green Gardens and her very quick observation that Slovakia was not already included in the display ensured a quick response.
“I immediately started to fix this “shortcoming”. My first meeting with the General Manager, Mr. John Miller, was very encouraging. He explained to me the terms and conditions for adding a new miniature from my country to the existing display and the next time I took our Slovak visitors to this attractive place in Canberra, there was already a small sign indicating that a miniature building from Slovakia will be displayed on this property,” recalled Anna.
Anna explains, “The most difficult task in this process for me was to choose which site from the countless magnificent Slovak castles, manors, churches, landmarks, historical or traditional buildings will represent my country in Cockington Green Gardens.”
“The final decision was made during the first official visit of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic H.E. Mr. Eduard Kukan to Australia, who instantly came up with the idea to enrich the exceptional collection with the fairy-tale Bojnice Castle,”
Anna recalled fondly.
If anyone was going to make sure Cockington Green was fully equipped to bring their project to life, Anna was the ideal person. That tenacity spoken of earlier made sure the needs of the model makers were met and no stone was left unturned in gathering all the required information.
In recalling the early contact back home to get the plans and pictures, Anna remembers, “The reaction from Slovakia was very enthusiastic. The castle manager Mr. Ján Papco was ready to provide all required plans and pictures, which were necessary for the construction of the castle.”
Encouragement was also one of Anna’s strong points and she noted, “The construction process of this historical building in challenging baroque style architecture was not easy and we visited the builders a couple of times to show our appreciation and to give them our encouragement.
“The final appearance of the miniature castle was far beyond our expectations. I felt proud that one of the most beautiful exhibits on display would be the Slovak Bojnice Castle,” Anna says with the same pride she always exhibited in talking about Slovakia.
The last piece in the puzzle for Anna was making sure that the unveiling of the model of Bojnice Castle was befitting of the occasion. There was never any doubt that Anna would make sure that this was a day to remember.
“We prepared the unveiling ceremony as a great celebration of culture, history and good relations between the people. The members of the Slovak community from around all Australia came to Canberra on that day”, recalled Anna.
Anna proudly recounted, “The manager of the Bojnice Castle flew in from Slovakia and was among our honourable guests. I was more than happy, and I thanked wholeheartedly to Mrs. Brenda and Mr. Doug Sarah, to Mr. John Miller, and to all the professional staff of the Gardens for their excellent cooperation and for this special opportunity. “
“The then Chief Minister of ACT, Mr. Jon Stanhope, honoured the event with his presence and in his address, he praised the friendly relations between our two countries, Slovakia and Australia. After unveiling the construction of the castle, all the guests were left breathless and admired the perfectly replicated stunning sight. I could not believe that my dream came true. It was a great feeling to know that thousands of visitors who will come to enjoy the impressive Canberra attraction will, among other displays, also discover what kind of beauties Slovakia has to offer,” Anna noted with her customary deep pride and affection for her homeland evident.
As the current Slovakian Ambassador to Turkey, an extraordinarily responsible and busy role, it is incredible to think that this wonderful person still had the time to remember her friends in Canberra. In some ways, however, it’s not surprising. She continues to give.
With that, it is appropriate that Anna has the last word and with her deep affection she concluded by saying, “My sincere wish for Cockington Green Gardens on its 40th Anniversary is that it continues to attract more and more visitors and it grows as a multicultural and educational place where the whole world meets in peace and harmony.”