How a Russian government spy came to live at Cedar Pocket
HER latest project may have been her most challenging, but for 84-year-old Tin Can Bay geologist-turned-author Roma Ravn, it could also be the most rewarding.
A chance meeting with a Hungarian neighbour named Steven Kovacs - and Steven's request to borrow her typewriter - during Ms Ravn's days living at Cedar Pocket became something much more extraordinary than she bargained for.
"We lived right at the foot of the mountain, and Steve lived right at the top of the mountain, and he used to drive by and give us a wave and we'd wave back, and that's what started off the friendship,” Ms Ravn said.
"I visited his house ... and there was a huge table tennis table in his lounge room, and he told me one of the jobs he got when he came to (Australia) was training the Olympic team, so apparently he was pretty good.
"I asked him how he started playing table tennis and that's when it started, he said 'Oh I was in Hungary' and this and that and I said 'That sounds like a very interesting life', and he agreed.
"I had to explain to him what a biography was, and he would just sit down and tell me things, and that's how I took my notes, just as they came.
"It took me 12 months to get it all down into a place where I knew one thing came after the other.”
Between four and five years of one-on-one conversations revealed deep, dark secrets of Mr Kovacs' life as a "Hungarian industrialist before WWII who, in attempting to further his textile business, was pushed into being a spy for the government”.
Now, more than 20 years on since she last saw her former neighbour, Ms Ravn has finally seen Reminiscences of a Reluctant Spy hit the shelves, with 600 pages detailing Kovacs' "espionage activities” and "romantic assignations” waiting to be devoured by hungry local eyes.
"It's like a cross between Fifty Shades of Grey and James Bond,” friend, publicist and fellow writer Raewyn Oliver said.
Reminiscences makes two published biographies for Ms Ravn, joining Let's go feed the ducks, Daddy - a woman's haunting and raw account as a sexual abuse victim.
"I was in hospital, and there was a girl in the bed next to mine, she was in a lot of trouble, she'd been abused from the time she was a little girl until after she was married,” Ms Ravn said. "It took me a couple of years to get the courage to do that one, but somebody said 'What's the point of having it in your office, you're not telling anyone,' and the same goes with this one.
"I've always been a writer ... I'm a firm believer that every single person has their story.”
Reminiscences of a Reluctant Spy is available now. Visit xlibris.com/ for more details.