I WAS LESS than five when I left Hungary for Australia, yet many of my formative experiences had already taken place – mostly unremembered and deep in the subconscious. Hungary was in my blood. In my Hungarian Jewish blood, I have to add. It is now seventy years since I left, and I can see that my engagement with Hungary has gone through several phases. The first I call amnesia; the second indifference, followed by re-engagement – discovering the place of Hungary in my life. Then the final phase: withdrawal. Each personal phase has coincided with a distinct phase in Hungary’s postwar evolution.
The Hungary I was born into was allied with Hitler’s Germany. In the late 1930s, my parents anxiously watched their political landscape darken. My father thought of escaping to South America, even to Australia, but did not have the heart to leave his ailing mother. That decision led to his death in a labour camp in 1944. My mother survived the war in hiding, on false papers, with me, a six-month-old baby, leaving my older sister to be protected by Christian relatives.
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