The secret to 71 years of a loving marriage

A loving couple in their 90s is preparing to celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary this Valentine’s day. The Bupa Aged Care residents have revealed their secrets to a long and successful relationship.

“I was 22 years old and on the dance floor in Germany,” remembered 94 year old Tadesuez (Tad) Gutkowski, “and this beautiful girl stomped on my toe on the dance floor to get my attention.”

90 year old Helena Gutkowski threw her head back and laughed, “I forgot about that!” she said.

The pair was in a refugee camp after the war when they first laid eyes on each other. Helena found Tad handsome, with great hair.

More than seven decades on, they are still each other’s greatest supporters, and greatest admirers, now living together in a Sydney Bupa Aged Care home. 

“Right from the first day, the sparks were there,” said Tad.

This Valentine’s Day they’ll be celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary.

“We went dancing that first night, and then we just kept dancing, every weekend from then on,” said Helena. “Life wasn’t easy in Germany like it is here in Australia, often there wasn’t enough to eat, but he always shared his food with me. He was very caring, always very thoughtful."
Old photo of couple dancing
“When the kids were small, we both worked hard with shift work. We depended on each other for everything, and we took things in turn. Even then, Tad helped with the cooking.”

They arrived in Australia in March 1950 with three kids. Tad could only find work in Sydney where he could live with his sister-in-law, while Helena was sent to a refugee camp in Cowra, more than 300 kilometres away. Tad would travel overnight so that he could spend weekends with the family in Cowra, before heading back on Monday for work. Once Tad had saved enough money to rent a house, the family all moved to Sydney.

As someone who’s getting married myself this year, I wanted to know: what’s the secret to a long and happy marriage, especially through such tough times?

“Be nice to each other,” Tad said, “Sometimes we have different opinions but then we come together and we solve the problems.”

Helena’s advice is simple, just love each other. And be prepared to give and take.

“When he says something, even if I don’t like it, sometimes I just pretend to agree,” she said. “Or if he asks me to do something I don’t want to do, sometimes I just say yes, and he forgets.”

“Try to understand each other. And be good to each other. It doesn’t work if it’s only one-way.”

The couple has raised three children including a set of twins, and are now great-grandparents to four little ones.
Helena and Tad
Not long ago Helena’s sight started to fail, but she says even when she had pads over her eyes, she could always recognise his hugs.

Bupa North Rocks General Manager Pauline Connors says the couple’s cute relationship brings a smile to carers and visitors at the home alike. 

“It is so beautiful to see them together,” she said. “He’s very attentive, and apparently he’s done that all their lives. He’s always made sure that she’s been looked after, still bringing her treats. He’s always been that caring type. It’s a relationship that we all admire.”

Despite the decades that have passed, Tad still has a crush on his 90 year old wife. 

“She was beautiful. She’s still beautiful, at least to me!” 
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