Novisad, Bacska region, Yugoslavia
Milan, Italy on 29 December 1954
Sydney on 5 January 1955
Stayed with my family in private accommodation in Sydney
My father worked at the Chullora railway workshop in western Sydney before retiring
I was born in the Bacska district in a town called Novisad. I was born in Yugoslavia and my nationality was Hungarian but my citizenship was Yugoslavian.
I left Yugoslavia on 29 October 1954. I remember the exact date because it was such a big step in my life – it’s like being re-born, a born-again free person. When you live under communism you realise you’ve got no freedom. My parents had already left for Paris where my older brother lived. My auntie Ilona and I went by train to Vienna, then across Austria and changed trains for Paris. The last time my elder brother had seen me I was a young teenager in 1948 and now I was 21. We just cried our eyes out.
The World Council of Churches gave my father and family air tickets to Australia because he was a political émigré. Four weeks after we arrived in Paris my parents were due to fly out from Rome with my younger brother, but the tickets for me and my auntie didn’t arrive. I said, ‘You go, we’ll catch up with you’. So we stayed back and auntie and I spent the next three weeks seeing Paris.
Then our tickets arrived and we went to Milan [Italy] where the plane was due to leave, but because the airline mixed up the dates we missed it. So Auntie and I stayed in a nice hotel at the airline’s expense and explored Milan.
They flew us first to Cairo, we slept there then flew to Karachi in Pakistan and slept at the airport on New Year’s Eve. The next morning we flew to Calcutta [India] and stayed in a hotel there. Then we flew to Singapore. We stopped briefly at Jakarta in Indonesia. In Darwin I saw the biggest mosquitoes I’d seen in my life! It was hot and we’d come out from a European winter. On the fifth morning we got on the plane and flew down to Sydney. There were 39 people waiting for us: my cousin from Melbourne was there with her husband, my sister Irene and her sister-in-law, my cousin’s family and their relations. There were little kids, big kids, people I’d never seen before – it was quite a reunion.
I only stayed in Sydney a couple of weeks before I went to Mt Eliza in Victoria for an interview for a job as a nurse. I only stayed in Mount Eliza for nine months as I wanted to get back to Sydney. I saw an ad in the paper for a nanny to look after a boy of three and a girl of 18 months in Double Bay. I stayed there for a year and then I went back to nursing at Parramatta. After I got married, my husband and I took the lease on a hotel in Barmedman where we stayed for six years.
I never went out of my way to meet other Hungarians in Australia – I had a big enough family to satisfy me. I was taken by a Hungarian friend to the Hungarian ball in Paddington Town Hall – never again! All this carrying on – ‘and what was your father at home?’ ‘what was your mother doing?’ ‘where were you living?’ ‘what were you when you were at home?’ What does it matter what my father was at home now he’s in Australia.
Meanwhile my father went to work at the Chullora railway workshop and when they found out he had had a wholesale and retail hardware store in Europe he became the foreman of the warehouse. By the time he came to Australia another nine years had passed since he had been a wealthy man, and he had to make a living as best he could. I think we all take after my father and mother in that we are all very adaptable. For example, when the war ended, you know the expression ‘living in genteel poverty’? Many Hungarians sat back and cried for ‘the good old days’ when they had maids and cooks and money. But you have to buckle down to it and do something with your life. My mother and father had the attitude of ‘oh well, that was that, now let’s see what we can do’. We had left Hungary and gone to Yugoslavia with hardly anything and had to start again, and then we came out to Australia and started all over again. By the time we got to Australia we were pretty good at it!
My daughter Yolanda Junior now has the Hungarian costume which belonged to my aunt Ilona with whom I travelled to Australia. She would wear it in Hungary on national days and special occasions, sometimes as president of the combined charities in her home town of Kula. Yolanda’s daughter, Joanna Morcom, has also worn the costume.