Chapter 6 Table of Contents Appendix 1

Hungary index page

v v v

Chapter 7

New Zealand

Our plane arrived in Auckland around eleven o'clock in the morning on the fifth of January 1957. The American Airforce plane with about one hundred of us on board touched down at Whenuapai Airfield. It was a Royal New Zealand Airforce Base near Auckland and it was also the cities domestic and International Airport at the time. We were all tired, full of expectations and anxiety after the long flight from Brisbane.

The airport lounge at Whenuapai Airfield, being a RNZAF base was serving the city's and the region's military and civil purposes and was not the most modern looking of airports we had encountered during our journey. The hall, serving all purposes, had a large number of people including Hungarians waiting for us. There was a large group of well-wishers who arrived with earlier groups and many that lived in New Zealand for some time, waiting for relatives, friends or just came to greet us the new arrivals. There were also some city and government officials and local people anxious to greet the Hungarian 'freedom fighters'.

I and probably many of my fellow passengers were anxious and excited. At last we had arrived at our new home, a country very different and very far from our own country we left behind.

I could not get any further, even if I tried, from my turbulent past or the communists of my old country.

I visualised New Zealand as a country far away from Hungary, Europe, communism and retaliations.

Out of sight and earshot of the new Kádár regime in Hungary.

Far, far in the South Pacific.

A peaceful Pacific Paradise.

In my imagination during my school days, in Vienna, during my registration and until my arrival, I visualised New Zealand as a country where the natives were running around half naked and living in thatched huts. Of course I couldn't be further from the truth. New Zealand was a well-developed country on par with many European countries and the natives, the Maoris, were friendly and well integrated with the 'European society'.

After the fall of our heroic uprising - with the help of the mighty Russian armada, that reinvaded and overran Hungary - many of my friends and I expected the usual communist repression, retaliation, probably years in prison or labour camps if not a summary execution.

Although I was wrong in some aspect of visualising my new country, the retaliations, imprisonment and executions did happen and are historical knowledge now.

Many people are lost forever without a trace, the usual sequence of events behind the 'Iron Curtain' in those years.

I had arrived, but what of the future? I was more or less sixteen thousand kilometres from my family, friends, schools, home and Hungary. Even further because I had no money and could not even speak the local language.

Here I was, just arrived in my new country unorganised, disheveled and distraught, despite the soothing effect of the feeling of total freedom from the strong grip of communism and oppression. I was lost deeply in my thoughts, problems and future uncertainties.

Suddenly I was aware of the enormous weight of an emigrant's burden of losing touch with family, friends, familiar surroundings, history and culture. Again, temporarily, I felt very much like an uncertain young man despite my optimistic and positive outlook. Conflicting views of myself my future in my new country, yet really trying to be positive about it all.

It appeared as if 1957 was going to be as eventful a year as 1956, and will further open up my horizons.

There is not going to be any more forced "resettlement", or "class enemy" labels to burden me.

While I felt enormous relief, freedom from the shackles of communist tyranny, I also felt isolation, anguish and a feeling akin to pushing a large boulder uphill, about the uncertainties of the future in such a strange land and culture.

Suddenly, extra ordinary loneliness and homesickness grabbed me.

I did not know anybody at the airport, excepting Ilona and the other few friends I made during our journey, as everybody was busy looking for friends and relatives.

After some light refreshments, speeches and greetings from the government and local authority representatives and some light refreshments, about two hours after our arrival we got on some waiting buses and were taken to a hostel in Onehunga, an outer suburb of Auckland. The hostel was run by the Labour Department for new immigrants and for working men.

Ilona sat beside me on the bus and we were softly talking as we hugged each other while I was trying to sooth her fears and uncertainties, while I was nursing similar fears and uncertainties myself. We were sitting very close to each other, as young lovers facing an exciting and unknown future. Our new country looked very different from the places that we left behind.

Our bus from the airport passed through some of the outlying suburbs and country side. Whenuapai, Swanson and Henderson were semi-rural in those days.

Coming closer to Auckland, the built up part of Henderson and New Lynn looked very different too.

Neat little houses and the 'kiwi quarter acre' sections, many with large front gardens, looked something very new and colourful to me and the rest of us.

The bus was taking us through the suburbs and Auckland City. Going through Broadway, Newmarket we passed one of the last trams running in Auckland. They would disappear practically overnight from Auckland forever.

We were taken to Mangere. The females were taken to another hostel, nearby. I did not see Ilona for the next few hours, while us men and the females were shown around our new quarters and tried to settle in for the next few days.

My arrival to the new country was a very exciting experience. I always liked to travel and during my school years I regularly saved up money for trips around Hungary. I always looked forward to the special weekend trains run by the Hungarian railways. The fares were
very cheap and they ran to different, attractive or historically famous parts or cities of Hungary. I had to save up doing casual work sometimes or skimping on my study allowances the government was handing out to students. My family could not really help, as they were practically destitute on more or less permanent basis under the communist.

All the high school students in need were helped by the state, quite generously, but many times I had to help myself and earn some extra money to maintain my existence, help with my studies, stamp collection, and the frequent trips around the country. I also needed money for my customary entertainment, Saturday night dances, and the usual expenses that go with dating.

I spent practically all my spare time, especially during school holidays, unloading railway wagons filled with sand or coal. The pay was very small and the work was very hard physically and mentally, monotonous and boring, but it helped pay my way.

My parents were struggling too. One of my early school holiday jobs was in a bicycle shop assembling and repairing bicycles. Most of the repairs were for punctures, balancing wheels and the like. After that I worked in the Salgótarján glass mills. That was an experience, but very hot and physical. The following year I worked in the steel mills, helping the quality control staff. Another interesting experience. We had to go around cutting bits of the steel rods and test them a number of different ways, at times it became boring and tedious and vice-versa. Sometimes I worked at some printing works too and picked up some printing and composing experience, which became very useful later on in New Zealand.

Arriving in New Zealand was a dream come true for me. I was always dreaming of overseas travel, explore exciting new places, visiting famous cities. In reality, until recently I knew I lived under communist rulers and behind the 'Iron Curtain' and dreams and ambitions of that nature would have to remain just that. That 'Iron Curtain' did not get it's name for easy excess across it.

Now I had arrived at the far end of the earth, to freedom, to new and exciting opportunities. I wanted to jump up and down with joy, relief and awakening, life did not look futile and aimless anymore. I had escaped from communism and retaliation and a nice long journey was thrown in as a bonus with all its adventures and excitement.

After a brief introduction we were given our hut and room number to settle in. The rooms had two beds, bedside cabinets and a built in wardrobe with a curtain on it, beside the door. I had a middle aged Scotsman for a roommate. It took us some time to understand each other with a lot of unknown words and hand movement. My lack of the English language was embarrassing and frustrating but not an insurmountable obstacle.

At the head of the Scotsman's bed was a string attached to the solitary light fitting with a bare bulb in the middle of the room. I was very fascinated when he pulled on the string to turn the light off - it was something new, fascinating, lazy and convenient to me, all at the same time. A small thing, but something new, something I have never seen before. A lot, lot more surprises were to come.

It was a new world, an exciting new world for me and probably for all us 'new comers'. I did not sleep much that night, in spite of the long tiring trip and the reception at the airport. The finality of our arrival, the excitement and thrill of long exciting journey, the adrenaline rush of arriving to my new country, the wooden houses, coming to subtropical summer from the middle of the European winter was too much to let me sleep much, that night.

The next morning was a bright, balmy subtropical summer's day. It did not escape me to reflect on its significance, the arrival and the future that lies ahead. I was wondering to myself about 'what was to come in the years ahead'. I wished I had a crystal ball to see into the unknown, but do not we all wish that all the time.

Breakfast was another experience, bacon and eggs, sausages, cornflakes, fruit salad and toast - a typical English breakfast, a far cry from my usual slice of bread with lard on it and 'Russian tea' with lemon. Here people were drinking tea with milk in it that seemed like coffee back home.

We all received five Pounds pocket money after breakfast and someone talked about New Zealand and about some of the local customs - through an interpreter of course. Many of the fascinating things stayed in my mind until this day.

'New Zealand had a unique society where the native Maoris lived in peace and harmony with the European settlers' (Over the years, this came back to my memory many times, when things did not seem all that happy and peaceful between the races). 'It was a social democratic society; there were no rich people or poor people. The country only had one millionaire, the Kerridge family at the time. They owned the movie theatre chains around the country' (How much this would change over the next forty years!).

The next morning, I looked in amazement at some of my friends reading the local newspapers, looking for work. In my group on the plane were a few who could speak English quite fluently and some that knew a smattering of the local language. I was too fascinated and expectant to worry too much about work just now. I was very excited and soon after breakfast I walked to the shops with the five Pounds burning a hole in my pocket.

Everything was different, everything was unexpected, everything a new exciting adventure.

The shops were different and without speaking a word of English, shopping was a challenging experience. Looking back now, it appears very ridiculous, but one of the first things I bought was an imitation, toy revolver cigarette lighter. I was quite amazed how much I could buy for the five pounds at the time. A new shirt, a jacket and trousers, also some underwear and I still had some money left over for the next few days. I was relieved when I was able replace the second hand clothes I was given by the Red Cross in Vienna that I was wearing until now.

Walking back from the shops, beside the railway track, I seemed to be in a trance, my mind trying to comprehend and absorb the present and remembering especially the recent past. Flying back to the last few weeks and months and trying to visualise the future ahead of me in my new country, new environment, new people, new language and new customs.

For the next day or so, they had arranged for many of us to go to Wellington on the overnight express, and I decided to go along because it was the capital city of New Zealand. I presumed - after my much loved Budapest, where I was born and spent many years between the forced "resettlements", by the regime - it would be the vibrant capital of my new home.

It was a long overnight journey from Auckland to Wellington on the 'Limited Express'.

The new arrivals, including myself, did not find Wellington all that vibrant and satisfying at first.

My first disappointment happened during the train trip. After boarding the train, Ilona and I settled down to our seats. I was sitting very close and cuddling her, talking occasionally and trying to catch some sleep. It was too dark to see the quickly passing countryside as the train hurried towards Wellington.

During the night Ilona went to talk to someone else. She promised that she would return soon. Ilona and I have never got back together, despite all the plans we have made for our future together previously. I did see her a few times over the coming months, though I did not like what I saw: most of the time she was with someone different. She turned out to be quite flirtatious and unsettled before I lost sight of her forever.

After arriving in Wellington, we were taken by bus to Trentham, to an old U.S. army camp, used by the New Zealand Army and the Police as a training school. Part of it was used as a hostel for working men. Another part was used for newly arrived immigrants. At the far end there was also a jail.

The buses stopped outside one of the huts that turned out to be a large hall. The officials, with the help of English speaking Hungarians, were taking our details like name, age, and qualifications. By the end of the interviews we all had jobs and accommodation waiting for us.

A Catholic Samoan family offered to board me in Wainui-O-Mata.

I was overwhelmed with the reception at Trentham - where I was going to return to a couple of times later on yet - as well as at the Samoan family's home.

The next morning I was waken up to a sumptuous breakfast and a warmly welcoming family. Soon it was time to catch a bus and go to work to the Petone Todd Motors factory. (Some time later I found out that the Todd family was one of the richest families in New Zealand and they also had a Hungarian connection, as one of them was married to a Hungarian lady).

On Sunday, Peter's family (my Samoan hosts) took me along to Mass, where I turned out to be the star attraction as everybody wanted to see me and talk to me, not realising the difficulties of the language barrier.

The language problems did not last very long though, every day it was getting easier to understand and be understood. I enjoyed staying with the Samoan family, especially as they had a beautiful teenage daughter.

During my first bus ride to work over the Wainui-O-Mata Hills to work in Petone, I got very frightened. The bus had trouble negotiating the very winding road beside the sheer cliff faces. I also had to get up very early to have breakfast and make the one hour plus bus trip to the factory in Petone and back after work.

For entertainment I would also have to travel over the hills to Lower Hutt or even further to Wellington.

After a few days I had to confront the inevitable and explain to Peter that I would have to leave and find somewhere nearer to work to live. I felt very awkward about my decision and explanations, as I was worried about hurting their feelings after being the recipient of their boundless generosity.

This reminded me of a very similar awkward experience in Vienna.

I moved into a boarding house in Petone with four of my Hungarian friends from work. Our young landlord and his wife were Dutch and pretty recent arrivals to New Zealand themselves. We all went to English classes together at night. We stayed there for a while, using our smattering of German to communicate with the Dutch couple. It was time to work hard, learn the English language, have a good time and try to integrate and settle down.

New Zealand had some quaint laws and way to do things at this time. One of them was the 'six o'clock swirl'. One of my 'workmates' was a very friendly Turkish man who invited my friends and I for a few drinks at one of the pubs after work the first Friday at our job.

We went to the pub, halfway up Jackson Street, with the entrance in the side street. This pub, as with all the pubs all over New Zealand, before 6 o'clock on Friday nights was very full. After buying our drinks we all had to go outside the door to drink it, using a windowsill as our table to rest our glasses on. The place was choker-block.

We all had to drink quickly, as much as we could. There was no time to eat food; there was not much time until six o'clock when all pubs had to close up until 10 o'clock next morning. There was only 15 minutes grace allowed after 6 o'clock to finish all the drinks, but they stopped serving you 'dead on' six o'clock by law. We all got very drunk, as almost everybody did in those days, especially us 'new ones' not used to drinking and not used to gulping down large quantities in a short space of time.

The following week or two we visited another pub on Jackson Street, one that was nearer to the Station. One of my friend, Gyurka, and I were fascinated by the many 'hard' drink bottles lined up on the 'top shelf' as they were hanging upside down for easy dispensing. There was a visible measure of drink in the dispenser and the Bartender just had to push your glass up to the dispenser's two protruding arms to push both up and fill your glass with a measured, even amount of spirit.

We made a bet to see who can finish the twenty-five bottles or so lined up, starting from one end to the other. None of us could ever remember how far we managed to get, we were both very sick for the next couple of days.

Over the following weeks the five of us were slowly embarking on different paths. I went to work at a slightly better job and pay at the Austin motor factory. I found my old job very hard, demanding and very boring. We had to rub the undercoat paint very smooth, ready for the final coat, eight hours a day and the cars just kept coming. At the Austin factory my job was much the same, because of my previous experience, although much better paid.

Life seemed to settle down while I stayed at Petone, although soon my friends and I were all heading in different directions.

The cultural shock and the seeming lack of nightlife in the New Zealand towns and cities in the late 50s was very hard for us to get used to.

Some of my friends were arrested once or twice for minor offences, mainly due to boredom, drinking, and a lack of knowledge of the local laws, customs, and English.

One night, the four of them got very drunk while I was home at the time. They went and tried to hold up the nearby service station as a joke using a plastic toy pistol. They were just joking, acting out a movie they had seen recently, but they ended up in the 'cooler' for the night. They also had to pay a hefty fine.

Pista, (Stephan's Hungarian nickname) another friend of mine, and some of his friends went boating one day in a small dinghy. Their boat overturned and Pista drowned.

The 'cultural shock', homesickness, missing family and old friends, lack of variety of entertainment all lead many of my friends to drink and eventual trouble with the 'law'.

While I lived in Petone I met a few of the older Hungarians who came to New Zealand in previous years. While I enjoyed their company they seemed to be on a different wavelength to us younger ones. One of them told me to always wear a singlet, they saved his life from pneumonia over the years. New Zealand is surrounded by sea and the weather gets very humid, causing heart and respiratory problems. According to him the wearing of singlets can lessen some of these effects - that was his story anyway.

Another one of these older men was telling me about the 'Nyilas' Regime (Arrow Cross) in Hungary at every opportunity, showing me literature and books, trying to enlist me as a sympathiser to a lost cause. I remembered the Nyilas Party and the regime from just 'before the War'. (As the siege and occupation of Budapest was popularly described.) While it may be alright for some to remember it nostalgically, it was not really 'my cup of tea'. If you lived thorough, and especially if you participated in, the Revolution, nothing seemed more pure and worthwhile.

After a few weeks at the Austin factory I went to work at the Wills tobacco works where I met Ildikó and her family, all working at the Wills factory. I worked with her parents, who introduced me to her. Ildikó was working in another department, but used to come and have lunch with her parents. We seemed to get on very well together from the start. I took Ildikó out a few times and we both seemed to enjoy each other's company and Ildikó's mother kept encouraging and spur me on. One day I got very upset by something Ildikó said and I never wanted to see her again, although her mother and father tried to smooth the rift between us for a long time to no avail.

I always liked to go to dances and after my arrival I went to dances almost every Friday and Saturday night. Rock-n-Roll was the popular music and dance at the time and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed going to the movies. I have always enjoyed the movies and to this day I profess that is where I picked up most of my English language. I spent most Saturdays, weeknights and some Sunday nights at the movies. In those days there was only the occasional Sunday night movie. At the beginning I could not understand much of the movies' dialogue, but I learnt to speak English remarkably fast from the movies and meeting people at dances and at work.

The brighter city lights, faster lifestyle and the varied other attractions were too much of a temptation to move to Wellington.

I worked at the Government printing works for a while, and during the day and at night at some of the popular coffee bars. I enjoyed the late hours, the entertainment, meeting many of my own and other interesting people.

Many of the younger Hungarians were 'regulars' at the coffee bars I worked at. It made my days colourful and very fascinating and helped with my loneliness, boredom and homesickness, the same reason that brought many of my follow 'countrymen' there regularly, staying until the early hours of the next day.

While working at the nightclubs and coffee bars, I met many young countrymen of mine and many became my good friends.

Time after time I was saddened, hearing as one after another of my friends passed away though some unfortunate accident. I was dejected as I thought about these young fellows who were fighting for Hungary's freedom not so long ago, escaped through the 'Iron Curtain', came halfway around the world to die by accident after a few months.

One of them drowned earlier in a boating accident, as I have already mentioned. Tibi, another very good friend of mine died soon too. We both worked at the coffee bar at night. He was a conductor for the Wellington trams during the day. He died while leaning out of the back of the tram trying to put the capillary back on the wire and got hit by a car. Jenõ was an electrician, he committed suicide after his wife left him for another man. He turned the gas stove on and was killed by the gas.

At my daytime job, at the Government printing works, my boss Peter - a Grecian - and I became good friends and at Peter's instigation and with his help, I soon started a Hungarian Newsletter. He had his own printing workshop at home. I typed the stencils and we ran a few hundred copies on his Gestetner copier. I had the help of some my more flamboyant and sophisticated friends contributing most of the content. We kept the paper going for a few years at a very nominal cost.

At the printing works I had some young Indian boys working with me and they were 'cricket mad' playing cricket at every opportunity - at tea breaks and lunch times, using boxes for wickets and broom sticks for bats.

I was very homesick and starving for the company of my fellow Hungarians in those early years, now many years later I am still very home sick.

Wellington had a very active Hungarian club at the time, organised by 'Baroness' X and her sister with regular meetings, dances and other functions. I was a regular attendee of the club functions during those months to help with my home sickness and fill the vacuum that was developing in me for craving for my own culture, family and old friends. The 'Baroness' and I became very good friends.

Inevitably there were drinks served at these functions and just as inevitably most of these functions ended in fights, once or twice even I got involved. I am not a violent kind and I could not fight my way out of a paper bag really. I heard about a vacancy and I decided to move out of temptation's way, move to work at Trentham, at the hostel where we were first welcomed.

There was a good 'live-in' job vacant and I decided to take it. It was time to break the ties with some good friends again.

Forget about the flamboyant, cavalier lifestyle, let's try to settle down and assimilate with the New Zealanders.

My life settled down well at Trentham. The job was easy and well paid. Jancsi, who worked for the Post Office as a linesman lived only a few huts away and we became very close friends. Jancsi had a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering, the very same I had been studying for. We had a very close understanding and empathy with each other.

I was earning good money and did not have many opportunities to waste it, soon managing to buy a few of the things I could not afford before.

Back in my High School days I was very envious of one of my classmate who seemed to have everything that I wanted but could not afford at the time. He had a Hohner piano accordion and was very good at playing it too. He had an expensive Exacta Varex German camera too, which was highly prized in Hungary in those days and I was also envious of as well.

Now I had the money, now was the time, and I went and bought them for myself.

I often went to Wellington by train, because while I settled into life in Trentham alright it was positively boring. Jancsi and I spent a lot of our times at the camp canteen, sipping coffee and listening to latest pop songs on the jukebox.

One day we went over to Eastbourne with our girlfriends to hire a dinghy with an outboard engine for a day. We were very 'proud of ourselves' and were showing off. We steered our boat too close to the Petone Wharf, and unwittingly annoyed some of the people fishing off the wharf and a fishing line or two got entangled in our boat's propeller, or maybe our propeller got entangled with the lines might be more to the point. Worst was yet to come. The damage caused by the entangled lines was not immediately obvious to us, but a couple of kilometres away, right in middle of the harbour, the engine stopped and it would not start again. It was dark by the time we rowed back to shore in Eastbourne.

The rowing back to shore was agonisingly slow and we were arguing and blaming each other all the way. The owner of the boat was watching us with binoculars fooling around all the while, not realising that we had never rowed a boat before and none of us could swim.

Every Saturday nights I went to Wellington, to dances, and to meet my girlfriends. I did have a few, none of them lasting longer than two or three weeks. Either the 'Yankee' sailors or someone with a car took them off my hands. Anybody with a car could have most of girls in those days, as there were not that many cars around.

"Oh, those good old days!!"

Trudy, a Dutch girl, lasted the longest, at least until she asked me if I wanted to marry her. When I said no, I was not ready yet, she dropped me like a hot potato.

After a while I found Trentham very boring too, especially after Jancsi went back to Austria, where he got a job at a mine commensurate with his qualification.

In the late 50's and the early 60's New Zealand was a rather indulgent and family oriented society with negligible nightlife and entertainment. I know this is a conflicting statement, but most New Zealand men were mainly interested in "Rugby, Racing and Beer" in those days. They were family oriented as well - every weekend the family packed into their old car and went out picnicking or to the beaches or both. Many of the 'Kiwi' families had baches in holiday or seaside settlements.

The shops only opened on weekdays from 9 am to 5.30 p.m., except late shopping nights, usually Friday, when they were open until 9 p.m. The pubs, as I mentioned earlier, all had to close at 6 p.m. including Saturdays. On weekdays, when most people finished work at around 4.30 or 5 o'clock, they all rushed to the pub to drink as much as possible before closing time at 6 o'clock, known as the '6 o'clock swirl'.

I am not criticising that life style, because in hindsight it was good and suited New Zealanders, who probably struggled for years to achieve their steady and happy life style. However it was a very painful experience for us coming from the culture and sophistication of Europe, even though Hungary was isolated by the Iron Curtain.

I moved back to Wellington to live. I found accommodation a few houses away from Willy, (he was known by his nickname, Kapitány, Captain in English), in Elizabeth Street. I knew the Kapitány for some time now, and I liked his company. Willy always had a good, interesting story to tell, and I liked the way he strung his stories around.

Willy and I lived a very extravagant lifestyle then - we worked hard and lived hard. We worked as much overtime as possible, but more often than not we were both broke.

The next few months I bought several motorbikes, one after the other. They did not seem to last for long in my hands.

The first one was a BSA, I bought it from someone I knew and it has only lasted for a few kilometres. Once it stopped just past the Railway Station, it could never be started again.

The next one was a Harley Davidson. One day I was riding along Vivian Street when I met a taxi by accident. I flew over the taxi, fortunately not hurting myself much, but the bike ended up sharing the back seat with a frightened passenger.

Next I bought myself a Sunbeam, a big, heavy bike, a bit like the Harley-Davison.

Many traffic cops used them in those days as their mode of transport. That did not last very long either. After that, I fancied and bought myself a Matchless 250cc. This one was nearly new and very modern looking. It reminded me the Pannonia motorbike I had in Budapest, which was made in Czechoslovakia. They were popular and the 'state of the art' looking in Hungary, before the Revolution.

I fell off my new Matchless just outside Masterton one day. A farmer watching me crash on the loose gravel on a bend in the road was very nasty in his comments, yelling something like, "Serves you right, you stupid city kids, disturbing our peace." at me (He also used a few four-letter expletives I will not repeat here). I did not hurt myself much or the bike, except my pride, my grateful thanks to Providence.

One day Willy and I borrowed Feri bácsi's, (Uncle Frank) old car - well, everybody or nearly everybody was driving old cars in New Zealand in the late 50s. We went for a bit of a drive around and on our way back, driving along the Cambridge Terrace, when one of us wanted to turn left the other to the right. The old car was not clever enough to work out where we wanted to go, split the difference and went into the corner shop.

It was after closing time, not that it mattered much since the car went through the window anyway. The shocked Indian owner rushing out in his pyjamas was not amused. He was - as were most people those days - very forgiving and let us go on our way.

Feri bácsi, was not amused either, but he seemed to accept it in good humour too. Feri bácsi came from a Slovakian part of Hungary that was briefly returned to Hungary just before the end of WWII. He was a Csendõr, back there (As I understand a rural version of the Police in Hungary before the communist regime).

We took the old car to one of his friend, who welded the car together, before we returned it to Feri bácsi, as it was his only and treasured car.

Willy and I will move to live with Feri bácsi later on at Miramar.

At one time, we were so broke that I had to move in with Willy to his tiny room. The room had only one bed in it, a small wardrobe and a tallboy. The room was so small that if three people went inside, two had to sit down on the bed; there was not enough room for three people to stand around. It was a lean to, an outhouse, originally used as a washhouse. I had to sleep on the floor for a couple weeks until we managed to claw our way out of our hole.

The Indian shop owner (not the one whose window we crashed though) across the road from Willy's room sold us eggs and condensed milk, which we were living on, and carried our credit until we could pay him.

Learning our lesson, we soon moved to Miramar to board with Feri bácsi and his family, where we got a room and full board as long as we paid our 'board' in advance and on our pay day, before we had any chance of spending it recklessly. For a while things seemed to be looking up again.

Some of my friends and I found the freedom and our personal liberty in New Zealand sometimes a bit too hard to handle. We drank more than we should have most times, and lived a very carefree lifestyle.

While we lived at Miramar, I overheard someone talking about Ági. I knew and remembered Ági, whom I met some time ago, after our arrival. She was a very beautiful Jewish girl from Hungary. For some time now she was a self admitted patient at the Porirua Mental Hospital.

She had long dark hair, my favourite, was very slightly plump, immensely attractive and sophisticated. I went to see and talk with her at Porirua and on my return I asked my landlady to bring her back to our house.

Ági and I were extremely pleased with each other. The first night together, we kissed for what seemed ever and ever. She was biting my lips, passionately. My lips were shredded for days, but I was not complaining. A few nights later in bed she was just as passionate, I 'had the ride of my life'. I would remember that for many years. Soon this 'dream' would come to an end too - Ági wanted a ring on her finger, and I was still not quite ready yet.

Willy and I moved to Pipitea Street, next door to the Prime Minister's residence. I was impressed with the large sunny room and it was only two short blocks from the Government printing works, where we both had been working for a while.

A few months later we both got bored and fed up with Wellington and moved to Auckland, although not together. I did not see the 'Kapitány' for two or three years after that.

Auckland had a reputation of being more cosmopolitan then Wellington. Slowly most of my friends had drifted up from Wellington to Auckland. Many, like myself, originally coming from Budapest, headed to Wellington expecting it to be to the Capital and the vibrant centre of New Zealand.

Browsing through the newspaper advertising, I found a 'Rooming House' in Saint Mary's Bay, a short distance from the city centre. The house seemed to have about 8 or 9 young university students boarding there, but my new girlfriend and I, although I had my own room, did not find any friendliness or ambience in the place.

It was time to move on again and I moved to another rooming house and, shared a room with a young Maori man, Rangi, who worked on the Harbour Bridge. The Bridge was opened in the next few weeks and I went to the celebrations of the opening ceremony with its many colourful floats, marching girls and other attractions. I even walked over the Bridge and back with thousands of other Aucklanders on the first day of opening.

At first I worked for one of the daily newspapers as a labourer. (I would return to this firm a couple more times later on). Later I worked for an optical firm, again using my experience from Hungary.

At the beginning, life in Auckland was much the same as in Wellington. Going to work, most of the time holding down two jobs and going to dances and the movies, whenever I could spare the time.

At one of the dances I met Dot again. We had met a few times before at dances in Wellington. Dot and I went out to movies and dances for a few months before we decided to get married.

We both worked very hard and soon managed to buy a house after our landlord threw us out of our rented flat. His excuse was that it would be dangerous for Dot and I to live upstairs as Dot was pregnant with our daughter Sarolta.

Life was much easier in New Zealand in those days. You did not need very much money to be happy, or to buy a house either.

I worked for a few printing firms for the first few years. Letterpressmen and Compositors were in very short supply and the jobs paid very well. From time to time I changed jobs, just because the new firm usually offered more than the previous one just to get me to accept the job, a sweet enticement when we really needed the extra cash.

About a year later we moved to another, bigger house in a very good neighbourhood. We treasured our time living there for many years to come and life appeared very settled for us. We travelled around the country during the holidays, went to the popular beaches, holiday resorts, and many picnics. We did all the things most 'kiwis' usually do and enjoy.

Sarolta was growing up, went to school, high school and graduated from University later, setting up her own professional Accountancy business after a few years.

With the sixties came television to New Zealand. Kennedy was elected President. Then Kennedy was assassinated. The Americans went to and landed on the moon.

Our Televisions brought exciting world events instantly into our sitting rooms.

Wars were raging in the Middle East, Algeria, Vietnam, Ireland, Cuba, Congo and many other places. And let's not forget the Cold War.

I was very pacifistic by nature. I had to spend a couple of months in the Hungarian Airforce during the last of my school holidays in Hungary. Military service was compulsory in Hungary back in those days. The ones like me that went to Universities or other higher education institute only had serve during their holidays and because of their higher education were 'Reserve Officer Trainees' or something like that.

I empathised with the 'hippies'' saying of those days, "make love, not war". Yes, I too found the former much more entertaining and enjoyable.

Early in 1969 I lost my last job in the printing industry, through no fault of my own. This event was to change my life, as well the direction of my future greatly.

Since my younger student days, I had liked photography. It was a passionate hobby for me. The past few years I had been working for a photographic firm at nights, taking photos at dances and functions. I was earning very good money from my hobby.

After losing my daytime job at the printing firm, I worked for a business machine firm for a while overhauling typewriters and adding machines. It was another job I thoroughly enjoyed as I was always very mechanically minded. Around this time I set up my own photographic business, on a 'part time' basis first, before I finally opened my first full time shop and studios a few weeks before the Christmas of 1969.

With the advent of the instant Polaroid photograph, especially when the colour technology came to New Zealand, my experience at functions came in very useful.

New Zealand changed the laws from the 'six o'clock swirl' to the ten o'clock closing time by now. I started out working on my own but later I had more fifty people working for me, mainly in hotels taking snapshots. My business was booming. My shop and 'snapshot' business generated more 'good', profitable, creative and interesting business, like weddings, birthday parties and many different kinds of other functions.

My photographic business was flourishing, while I indulged in buying and selling real estate properties occasionally, always making a reasonable profit. I spent my spare time 'doing up', and improving my own and the other properties I bought.

Through my business I was fortunate enough to meet many interesting people, some more famous than others. Some of the interesting and famous people I was fortunate enough to meet, photograph and be photographed with included Mr Keith Holyoak, a former Prime Minister and Governor General of New Zealand. I have always admired Mr. Holyoak for his gentle manner, his slow, gentle way of talking. I also met 'Big' Norm Kirk, 'Bill' Rawling, 'Rob' Muldoon, and David Lange, while they were Prime Ministers. My list of acquaintances included many other New Zealand and overseas dignitaries. Although I am naturally shy by nature, I always made sure to exchange a few words with the 'famous people' I had the good fortune to 'rub shoulders with'.

One of my most exciting encounters was meeting József Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary during his visit to Auckland, New Zealand not long after being freed to leave Hungary. I was always a great admirer of the Herceg Primás (Prince Primate of Hungary) Mindszenty. The Auckland Hungarian Club asked me to be the official photographer during Cardinal Mindszenty's visit to Auckland.

The main purpose of József Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary's visit to Auckland and New Zealand and many other places around the world was to meet his Hungarian countrymen and women of course and encourage them to set up schools for the maintenance of our language, culture and religion in our present home.

József Cardinal Mindszenty, with the help of the Auckland Hungarian Club, organised a meeting of interested people to encourage us to set up and run a Hungarian language school locally. The Cardinal asked for four volunteers from the four directions of the compass, north, east, south and west, as organisers of the school. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the organisers. The four of us persevered for a few months, but the others soon dropped out, mainly due to the apathy and general lack of interest and patronage, evidenced by the fact that only three or four students were attending the school a few weeks later.

I personally tried to keep the school running on my own later for two or three years more being organiser and teacher most of the time. For a time I hired a qualified Hungarian teacher to keep the school maintaining a professional level of education. At the later stage I had enrolled and qualified at a Secondary Language Teacher class to bring myself up to a professional level. At times I felt successful as there were fifteen students attending my classes. Later, after all my efforts, I found the lack of attendance and apathy very soul destroying. Although I do not like to break my promises, especially to a holy man like our much respected and adored Cardinal, I had to give it up as well due to the lack of interest.

The 1970s were another watershed for me. I established myself as a successful and prospering small businessman. I was a Charter Member of the local Lions' Club, working my way up to become President later. I was a member for a few years and was elected President of my local Parish council.

Meanwhile, back in Hungary, the regime became more tolerable, more relaxed and humane. At last I could go back without fear of reprisals.

Seeing my family and Hungary after nearly twenty-two years was an exhilarating adventure for me and my daughter, Sarolta. My family seemed to have progressed and was doing reasonably well. My father passed away before I was able to return, but my mother seemed happily settled in her new flat. My brother had driven us to visit Slovakia and Romania with his family. I always felt very patriotic and regretted the fact that Hungary lost these places after the First World War. I felt strongly about my country being treated 'very heavy-handedly' and unfairly by the Allies.

My daughter, Sarolta and I spent more than three months, using our 'Eurail Pass' travelling around Europe combined with our visit to Hungary. We visited all the major or famous cities in Britain and the Continent, spending one or two days, even longer in some cities, sightseeing. We spent most of our days exploring the sights and many times we caught the night trains to sleep. We had some intensely delightful experiences.

On our return to New Zealand many things seemed to go wrong. The country's economy was going through a recession. I had trouble getting 'good' and reliable staff for my business. My successful business practically disappeared during my overseas jaunt. My, until now, solid marriage was crumbling too. Everything looked like it was going wrong for me. My 'good fortune' appeared to turn her smile away from me.

Soon Dot and I were to separate without either of us blaming the other. The divorce settlement dug deeply into my assets at a very lean business cycle. I was nearly back where I had started out a few years ago. I was nearly at 'my wits end'. It looked as if I had 'lost the plot'.

With the saying 'A change is as good as a holiday' and the money left over after breaking up and liquidating my business, I bought a coffee bar with a view of turning it into a Hungarian restaurant.

I managed to convert it into a restaurant, costing me a considerable amount of money. Preceding my investment in the purchase of the coffee bar and embarking on the conversion to a restaurant, I sounded out commitments from three interested chefs for running the business in partnership once the alterations were done. As I am not able even to cook a decent breakfast, I was heavily relying on getting a 'good' chef as a partner. When the premises were ready and chattels in place, all the chefs had some excuse to weasel out of this great opportunity.

I was sure that the success of a great restaurant depended on the quality of the menu. Provided the chefs had the ability, our restaurant could have been a goldmine. I had to sell the restaurant in the end. Just as an observation in hindsight, the restaurant is doing very well since. None of those chefs were, or are, working for themselves to date.

Another decade came and again I felt it was time to embark on a new tack. Video arrived in New Zealand in the meantime and as I always liked the cinemas, video was here to put movies into everybody's house. I set up a couple of video shops before I branched out into the distribution of the pre-recorded videos.

The video business was good enough to me to retire in the mid nineties.

In the meantime I remarried again and we have a son.

I am still homesick and love Hungary and try to return for a few weeks at every opportunity, nearly every year.

This writing's main purpose is to document our 1956 Revolution and my experiences during and briefly before and after it.

This was my experience leading up to, the Revolution and escape to freedom and peace, I will stop very soon now.

I did find a more or less "ideal" democratic, free land, where I managed to achieve many of my dreams and aspirations.

I did miss my country, my family, friends and continuation of my higher education.

I am still homesick, but at least Hungary is a free and democratic society now and I can go and visit it at my leisure.

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Chapter 6 Table of Contents Appendix 1

Hungary index page

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N.B. I made these pages simple and printer friendly on purpose for a more elaborate pages please visit

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution (My story)

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1996-2007 Erwin Bernhardt

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