A SOON-TO-BE Bendigo family's dream has been delayed by a car crash, after a 2020 spent fighting to return to Australia.
Bendigo-born Owen Stuchbery and his family had finally made it to Sydney from Montenegro about a week ago, after months of COVID-19 induced delays.
They are handling the situation at a distance while in hotel quarantine.
It's the culmination of a difficult year for the family who have faced months of separation, then a struggle to get into the country.
Mr Stuchbery and his partner Milica Kastratovic had been trying to return for Australia for months, after spending most of the first six months of the year stuck in different countries.
Mr Stuchbery was stranded in the Caribbean from January to June, Ms Kastratovic and their children in Montenegro.
They have been based in the European country for about five years, while Mr Stuchbery worked as a chef on superyachts.
When COVID-19 hit, he was unable to return home to Montenegro for months. Finally he made it to the United States of America, then on to Europe.
Since then Mr Stuchbery and Ms Kastratovic have been trying to return to Australia, planning to establish a cafe at the Terminus milkbar in Golden Square.
Mr Stuchbery bought the business about a year ago, envisioning a cafe with American style comfort food.
The idea had been brewing for years. Mr Stuchbery had even shipped some American-style smokers to Australia 18 months ago.
He saw the location and style of the milkbar - "a business from another era" - as perfect to realise his vision.
The dream is now at the mercy of insurance companies, after Tuesday's crash damaged the building significantly.
Mr Stuchbery said parts of the interior would probably have to be demolished and rebuilt, based on an initial conversation with a building surveyor.
It will be months at least before they can open the business.
The crash has also left the family without a home. They had planned to live in a residence at the back of the milkbar building, but that may be closed off now.
The crash is just another challenge to Mr Stuchbery's long term project.
He has already seen the finish line pushed back and back again.
Returning to Australia took months, with last-minute cancellations, and expensive tickets.
It followed a difficult process trying to get a partner visa for Ms Kastratovic.
At the start of the year, they finally bought tickets for April, but their plans were foiled by border closures in March.
Mr Stuchbery said any travel arrangements made after that were later cancelled.
A few weeks ago the Australian embassy in Belgrade told them an Emirates flight might be available.
The family needed to confirm within three hours, then make it to Frankfurt within three days.
Tickets were expensive, Mr Stuchbery said. But they felt it was the last shot at leaving Montenegro.
They had felt a "huge sense of relief" once they got to Australia.
Now the cafe is another challenge to overcome. It comes after they have used nearly all their savings.
But Mr Stuchbery said it took a lot to faze him and Ms Kastratovic now.
"We just have to take it on the chin," he said.
"There's people who are in worse situations I expect, and you can always find those tales."
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