In September 2004, Age journalist Larry Schwartz wrote about Michael Aboujundi and Sylvia Hammond. The article was accompanied by the fantastic photo by Roger Cummins above.
Two years earlier Michael, then a 31 year old refugee, had moved in next door to Sylvia, than an 83 year old widow.
Sylvia recalled “The first thing I said is ‘I hope you’re quiet’,”.
The article says the two had developed an enduring friendship, almost a mother and son relationship.
“Two unlikely companions offer friendship and a glimmer of goodwill to the world and each other. On Friday mornings they go shopping together. They sip coffee and smoke cigarettes afterwards in the Plaza. They watch TV and talk about shared concerns including, recently, the children overboard affair.”
Sylvia talked about preparing food for Michael (“I’m on my own there and I’m cooking a meal for myself so one extra is no trouble.”) and helping Michael, who has a vision impairment, to fill in forms. “I know his situation with his sight and that and if I can do anything, I help him. And if I want anything done, he’ll help me.”
A dozen years later, the two are still neighbours, still very close and still going out together on their regular shopping trips. The only difference is that Sylvia, now 97, may have slowed down ever so slightly, and Michael is promising to try his best to give up smoking.
They still look out for each other and help each other where they can. On a sunny afternoon they can be seen in Michael’s small garden having a coffee and a chat.
“Our friendship is as good today as it was on day one. I feel so lucky. Sylvia was so welcoming,” Michael said.
“When you move into a new place you don’t know what to expect. All those years ago I could not have predicted that I would become such great friends with a woman who is 50 years my senior.”
“Now I am looking forward to when Sylvia turns 100, it’s going to be a huge party.”