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From Mazuran’s to Miriam Corban

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on December 01, 2022

Having been born and brought up on Henderson’s Lincoln Road, it is quite fitting that resident Diana Letica should return to live at Miriam Corban Retirement Village.
Diana is part of the Mazuran Wine dynasty, being one of founder George Mazuran’s two daughters, and so spent the first half of her life living and breathing all things wine-related.
“I spent those years training the vines, pruning the vines, picking the grapes, filling the bottles, labelling the bottles, selling the product… everything from A to Z!” she says.

Diana and her sister Patricia even featured on the cover of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly in June 1965 under the caption ‘Henderson Wine Maidens’, an article she has kept along with hundreds of others in carefully compiled scrap books.
They certainly make a fantastic snapshot of 20th Century West Auckland history, and bear a lot of similarities with the Corban family too.
Like many Henderson settlers, Diana’s father came to New Zealand aged 16 from Yugoslavia (now known as Croatia) with a degree in viticulture. He went on to buy 22 acres on Lincoln Road in 1938 where he started an orchard and winery, producing his first vintage four years later.
“Winemaking was in the family,” says Diana. “Almost everyone over there makes their own wine.”
George’s specialties were ports and sherries, which received numerous awards, trophies and gold medals, including world champion medals for the best wine in the competition at the International Wine Fair in Ljubljana, Slovenia, while George himself became a strong voice in the New Zealand wine industry.
He was president of the Viticulture Association and headed it for 32 years unopposed. In 1972 he became the first Dalmatian to be awarded an OBE from the Queen, flying to Buckingham Palace to receive it.
A fluent Croatian-speaker, Diana is incredibly proud of this legacy and is also a passionate promoter of her culture, being a life member of the Dalmatian Cultural Society, serving on the committee, and leader of the folklore Tamburica Orchestra for 25 years.
“It’s my second home, I have grown up there,” she says.
“If we didn’t have the club we wouldn’t know everyone like we do.”
Indeed, it was through the club that she met her Croatian-born husband Lovro, or Len, who sadly passed away from Parkinson’s shortly before they were due to move into the village.
Before the pandemic, the pair would travel back to Croatia every year and stay in the house Len built on the Dalmatian coast.
Diana describes Len as a ‘jack of all trades’ – he ran businesses including a fish and chip shop, he worked on the railways, did security, he was an excellent handyman and also a talented artist, painting many pictures of his homeland.
As well as looking after their Te Atatu Peninsula home, nicknamed by Len as ‘Villa Dalmacija’ due to all the art, music and embroidery within its walls, Diana devoted herself to preserving the Croatian folklore, playing in the Yugo Quartet for many years.
20221201_111554-COLLAGE (Large)

Diana in her younger days with some of the grapes that shaped her life, and right, preserving Croatian traditions with a piano accordion performance. 

She plays piano, piano accordion and keyboard and has entertained at weddings, socials, on radio and tv, she has put out a couple of records and even entertained at dinners for the Prime Minister.
“I have had a full life, being involved with folklore, I had rehearsals twice a week, I had my band and I was on the committee, I enjoy embroidery and indoor bowls and I have traced the whole family tree back to 1500.”
Recently, the club celebrated its 90th anniversary, which had been postponed for two years due to Covid, and Diana and the rest of the Quartet were the main entertainment at the ball.
When Diana’s apartment was delayed for a couple of months, she spent the time over at Ryman’s William Sanders village in Devonport.
“I played for all the hospital residents. I made everyone happy. They said I was such an inspiration to the staff and the residents and they didn’t want me to leave!” she laughs.
While it has been very tough looking after Len over the past few years and then losing him so suddenly just a few months ago, Diana is feeling more settled in her beautiful second-storey corner apartment and has been impressed with the warm welcome she has received.
“Everybody is very friendly and very nice. I would go out for a walk and people would stop and say ‘how are you, would you like to have a cup of tea with me?’
“I’m very happy here, and I like my apartment.”
And with the village centre opening on the horizon, there will be plenty more opportunities for Diana to share her musical skills for a whole new audience!

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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