Searching for the Truth – My Trip to Hungary
After working relentlessly to get my book “Georgina – Holocaust Memoirs” recognised, I wanted more. What I mean to say is that it was not enough for it to be a best seller on Amazon. I wanted my message to be accepted en-masse, and to change the lives of as many people as possible!
I wanted to showcase my mother’s story on stage. It was at that moment that I realised that I would have to travel to Hungary for factual information, to provide more realistic settings for the play. I also wanted concrete evidence that what I had written in the book “Georgina – Holocaust Memoirs” really was a true story.
So I booked a flight to Hungary! I never compiled an itinerary (so typical of me; just do it!).
From Australia to Hungary
First of all, I flew from Sydney to Singapore, which was a 12-hour journey. After going through passport control, I had barely 30 minutes to dash through the airport before only just catching the next flight to Helsinki. 11 hours later, I had to wait three more hours before making the final journey, on a very crowded 3-hour flight to Budapest. Being the crazy woman that I am, needless to say, I had no sleep on any of these flights!
As I landed in Budapest airport, on a busy Friday afternoon, I bought a Hungarian sim card for my phone and then took a taxi to the apartment I had rented.
The Search for Georgina’s Documents
Any normal person would have then stopped to have a rest after such a long journey. But not me! I asked the cab driver to unload my luggage and then drive me to the House of Terror. Today, this place is a museum, but in the past it was the Nazi headquarters, then the jail for the secret police. Horrific events are said to have taken place here. This is where I was told that my mother, Georgina, had been held; I wanted to see the proof!
When we arrived, I paid the taxi driver and entered the building. The receptionist explained that I was in the wrong place! The information and documents were kept in the Buda Castle, which was now closed until Monday.
So I left, foolishly thinking I would quickly find another taxi to take me back to the rented apartment. Wrong! One does not get a cab in a Budapest street simply by hailing! You need an app on your phone, have to call the company and agree a price. Only then will the driver be despatched and, of course, it’s anybody’s guess how long he will take to show up.
As a newcomer and not knowing all this, after walking for over an hour, I finally found a taxi stand and got a ride back to my temporary home. I let myself in, went straight to bed and slept for 20 hours.
The next day, before doing anything else, I downloaded the app onto my phone. As I was unable to continue my search until Monday, I decided to look up the place where I had lived as a child.
My Old Home
As the taxi drove along the street and we approached the building, fleeting memories raced through my mind. I noticed that the house had been renovated on the outside, but I recognised the large bay window from my childhood. This was where our grand piano used to be, replaced by an enormous Christmas tree in December every year.
The gate to the building was locked, but I found a bell by the gate and rang it in anticipation. A lady in her dressing gown let me in and met me at the door. I explained that I used to live in this house many years ago. Her husband appeared, saying abruptly that this was not possible.
I insisted it was, explaining that, as a child, the address was instilled in my brain by my parents. So he called the person he had bought the property from. The man on the other end of the phone confirmed that I was telling the truth, and the couple’s attitude towards me changed completely from that moment onwards!
After that phone call, I was invited in and went upstairs into my old bedroom — what a wonderful experience! It hadn’t changed at all; even the window I had broken as a child was still there as I remembered it, with the glass replaced, of course! After a short while, we said goodbye and I headed back to the apartment.
When I arrived, there was a message waiting for me, I was invited for dinner at my old home! We have since become very good friends and now regularly exchange emails.
Getting Closer to the Truth
On Monday morning, I took another taxi, this time heading to the Castle to get the documents I came for. After a 30-minute ride, once again I was informed that I was in the wrong place! This office held documents going back a thousand years, but those I needed were held in another place in Pest, on the eastern side of the city.
The gentleman was very helpful though, and he gave me two addresses. The first address was where I would find the judgement records for my mother. Under Communism, people under suspicion were put under surveillance for months before they were arrested. I understood that my mother was under surveillance, before being arrested. She spent just a few days under arrest in the Nazi Headquarters, before being released. If she had been arrested, this is where I would find her records.
Now I had the taxi app, travelling around the city was so much easier. In the first office, the young man was very helpful, but he said it would take some time to find the information I was asking for. I told him I would only be in the city for a week and he promised he would do his best.
At the second address, I had to fill out more documents and answer more questions. The officer said this was a very lengthy process, but that they would email me with their findings.
That was all I could do for now, so I was back to being a tourist again for a while.
The next day, I took a train to Nagykanizsa. This was the town where my grandfather once owned a cannery and a biscuit factory. I knew the street name, but not the exact location.
The train trip was over 3 hours, so I found a quiet seat in a carriage at the back of the train and settled in for the journey. An hour into the trip, the conductor came to check my ticket. He then informed me that I was at the wrong end of the train. Only the first two carriages went to Nagykanizsa!
After finding a seat in a carriage at the front of the train, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me. She said that she was going to visit her daughter and grandchildren and had been baking all the previous night, showing me several boxes of cakes.
When I told her my story, she was intrigued. She fed me with chocolate cake and home-made biscuits as we talked. She told me where to sit in order to take great pictures of Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe – Hungary’s “inside sea.”. The rest of our journey together was wonderful, and I was sad when she had to get off before me.
Then the train arrived in Nagykanizsa. As I got off and the train left the station, I realised there was NOTHING! No taxis, no buses! How to get anywhere now? I spotted a lady and her daughter who had also just got off the train. I walked over to ask for directions.
We made friends immediately; they introduced themselves and I told them why I was there. They didn’t know the street I was looking for, but Monika, the daughter, said they would walk with me into the town. We asked several people for directions along the way, without success. Monika and her mother eventually left me at the town’s library and continued their journey, assuring me that they would keep in touch.
In the library, I managed to obtain a full printout of the factory’s details. My grandfather had established the factory in 1874 and, in its heyday, had employed over 100 people, but the factory was no longer standing.
I left the library, holding the printout of the factory. It would have been great to see what was in its place now, but I had no time left, and only just made the train back to Budapest, arriving at the apartment around 7:30pm.
Georgina’s Story Is Confirmed
On the way back, I received a message from the information bureau.
The evidence I had travelled across the world looking for had been located! Yes, Georgina — my mum — had been in jail, she had been found not guilty and they had details of her release!
Wow – I had found what I came for! I got it in less than 24 hours and with NO CHARGE!!
Monika was also true to her word. Her friend, Gyula Vadasz, has been in touch with me since and is now helping with further research.
At the time of writing this article, I am waiting for the records of her surveillance, to complete the evidence to support her memoirs. I understand this may take some months.
After all these years, it’s wonderful to have the evidence to validate my mother’s story. Georgina was truly an amazing woman, and her true story of survival through the Holocaust and communism continues to inspire many people!