Chapter 1 – Early Years
Andrew was born in the nation of Transylvania to parents Andras Kazy and Magdaline Husczic. Since the Magyars (Hungarians) swept into Europe in 896 CE this had been considered Hungarian land and the territories of Transylvania were formally attached and remained with Hungary between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, until a Turkish invasion incorporated most of the territory into the Ottoman Empire. Pangs of nationalism burned within all Hungarians under foreign rule and Andras Kazy of an ancient ruling class determined his son would never forget their proud heritage.
Andrew’s birth location, now in Romania, was a border province which changed rulers over several European wars. Andras died at 86, far beyond the average life expectancy of those times never seeing a return to separate nationhood he’d longed for. He’d been a hard person in his lifetime but Andrew remembers his Mother differently, she was respected by the community as a kind lady. Andras worked in the wool industry as a foreman, but when Hungary was threatened by war he joined the National Guard rising to the status of sergeant major. Andrew also remembers his Grandfather as a stern man who died in 1926 when Andrew was twelve.
His Grandfather had a religious bent in spite of his tough exterior and told his grandson stories from the Bible whenever he’d visit. At the age of 5 on one of those visits Grandfather placed Andrew on a pony and told him to ride like a man, giving the pony a slap to send him off at a gallop. When Andrew fell off he was spanked. Grandfather Kazy wanted him to grow up to be a tough Hussar, the vision all Hungarians had for their sons. Their great Magyar ancestors had been horsemen and all Hungarian sons should be raised to have those skills he said.
Grandfather Kazy was a landowner and supervised the working of his own land. His ancestors came from noble stock. A Kazy family had been court officials in the 1700s during the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But in April 1848 Hungary revolted against the Habsburg dynasty and once again Transylvania and Hungary became one country. Two years after Andrew’s birth the Romanians army invaded and in the general confusion of those years of war Transylvania became part of Romania.
Romanians had always formed a peasant majority of Transylvania’s population who resented their ruling Austro-Hungarian rulers, so in Romanian eyes the territory was rightfully theirs. This take over by the Romanians commenced a long drawn out insurgency as proud Magyars fought once more to regain control. Perhaps the pony episode was Grandfather Kazy’s effort to toughen his grandson for what he realized would be a fight to restore Magyars as the ruling class in Transylvania.
Chapter 2 – Transylvania
Andrew’s parents insisted on him joining an organization similar to the Boy Scouts in his adolescent years. This organization was primarily to toughen Hungarian youth and instill in them nationalistic spirit. Andrew recalls a hike of 1,200 km over back tracks and mountains under supervision of adults who showed no mercy to those who fell behind.
At the time of Andrew’s birth in 1914 Transylvania had been part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire which included Czechoslovakia and parts of Yugoslavia at that time. However Austria had expansionist ambitions and it was supported in these ambitions by Germany.
In 1916 Romania declared war and claimed Transylvania. By 1918 The Austro- Hungarian Empire was collapsing and most of Transylvania with its majority population of Romanians became an integral part of Romania.
Hungary declared its own independence on October 17 and began supporting the former Transylvania ruling class smarting from their loss of privileges. They gave support to an insurgency of which Andrew was by now an active member.
Under pressure from Hitler, portion of Transylvania was returned to Hungarian control for a brief period. Hitler became very popular with Hungarians for that reason and the country slowly slipped under German dominance. Surprisingly Romania did the same. Andrew prided himself as a Hungarian nationalist and longed for his birthplace to be reunited with Hungary.
The nationalist hopes of Andras and Magdaline, Andrew’s parents, were centered round their son’s activities. His Mother had delivered three children but two brothers had died in infancy. They looked to Andrew to carry on the family name and interests.
Andrew met his wife Elizabeth Wallisch in Lugos, now Lugoj in Romania. He’d just completed army service and was looking for work. A friend called him to work in a small village as painter and sculptor servicing local churches. This had been his training and he decided to make it his trade.
He took lodging in a boarding house owned by Francisca Wallisch, nee Steuhrer. Francisca was German. Prior to this visit Andrew had dreamed of a girl who he was impressed would be his wife some day. At the boarding house with this family he recognized one of Francisca’s daughters as the girl of his dreams and determined to make her his wife.
After the customary courtship he introduced her to his parents, and the couple married November 1938. Soon after marriage Andrew was again called to arms. His first daughter Maria was born in 1939 while he was in service. Transylvania continued to be an area of contention between Romania and Hungary, so Andrew once again found himself involved in the struggle. His activities were reported to Romanian authorities and he was placed on the wanted list.
Andrew fled his revolutionary friends to return home. But authorities were waiting at his home to arrest him, and he was warned by friends not to go there. Elizabeth and child Maria were disguised, and spirited away to join with him as the family fled from authorities keeping watch over their home.
They fled to Solonka, now in Ukraine, were they hoped Romanian police wouldn’t be able to arrest him. The people of the town didn’t want to take in refugees but a Jewish family, themselves under threat, took pity on them and gave them brief shelter.
One night Romanian troops were retreating from an area recently ceded in one of the frequent European boundary changes. In their anger at what they considered to be an unfair treaty they’d shoot at any home with a light in it as their train passed by. Andrew opened the door to answer what sounded like a knock just as a troop train passed by and a hail of bullets splintered windows and the door of the house, but Andrew was unhurt. Once again he had escaped death. He and his family with other refugees were transported further into Hungary’s traditional heartland. There they found temporary refuge.
Chapter 3 – Hungary
While he was now settled in the Hungarian heartland stress of continual running to preserve his life, and worry about the well being of his wife and children finally had an impact on his health. The second child Gyargyike (Georgine) had arrived September 1942 while they were living in Szekesfehervar Hungary and it was then Andrew was diagnosed with heart and lung problems so severe he wasn’t expected to live. He was desperate! What would happen to his family? He turned to religion as a last resort and began to read books on natural healing and good health practices. He began to actively follow what he’d learned.
Several months after commencing his new lifestyle Andrew visited with his doctor for a routine check on his acute medical problems, but the doctor couldn’t find any further evidence of a medical condition. The Doctor was amazed but requested him to come back in 6 months just to make sure he’d been permanently healed. Mysteriously the medical conditions never returned.
Germany up to this time an ally of Hungary now occupied the country to the surprise of the Hungarians. The Germans wanted this part of Europe as a staging point for their march into Russia. Szekesfehervar later became a battleground as German and Russian troops fought for control over Hungary
Toward the end of World War II when Russians were in control of Szekesfehervar they came looking for Andrew. He’d been working for the highways department at that time and Hungarian authorities had decided to bury important documents and treasures to keep them out of the hands of their enemies. Andrew had been assigned to bury the weather proofed chests in which these documents and treasures were packed, and so had knowledge of where these important treasures were buried.
The Russians came to know this and wanted to know what had been buried. They questioned him until night, then left with the warning he should remain at home because they’d be back for him next morning. Friends spirited the family away that evening to protect their lives, and that same night the Russians were pushed back from the city by the German army.
Then the German SS came and arrested Andrew as a suspected Jewish escapee from one of the death camps. One of their friends under torture claimed Andrew was a Jew escaped from a German internment camp and they believed that story. Probably the friend had heard the story of the Jewish family who’d helped them escape from Romanian authorities and used that to divert the German SS and thus hopefully preserve his own life.
The family was taken into German custody. They were assigned under guard to a farm house in the evening and transported by truck with other prisoners next morning. They were to be taken to Germany and interned. After traveling all day they were told to unpack their few belongings and wait for further transport to arrive. Elizabeth and the two children were offered rest and food by kind peasants that evening. The peasant woman had been expecting family members from the war front so she’d prepared food for her family who didn’t show up as planned. The guards became friendly with Elizabeth as they discovered she was of German ancestry. They needed her to translate from German to the dialect of the local population and obtain food for them all as they traveled.
The plan was for prisoners to be picked up at an army base and transported into Germany, but a bad storm hit the area. Soldiers and prisoners struggled through the storm and eventually reached the Austrian border. As the war was going badly for Germany by this time, their captors received orders to return for defense of the German Motherland and abandoned prisoners at the border.
Elizabeth was pregnant with her third child and was in urgent need of medical attention. Some refugees had been waiting at the border to get across for 6 months and many had died there of starvation. But rearguard German army personnel took pity on Elizabeth because of her German ancestry and helped the family to get papers authorizing them to cross the border into Austria where Elizabeth’s Mother had fled and was now running her business.
This border town was not on the regular stop from Budapest to Vienna, but German soldiers arranged for the train to stop. Andrew traded some family belongings for Austrian money. To the stationmasters surprise the train did make an unscheduled stop, and the family was permitted on board. Gyargyike was crying from hunger, and those on board the train pitied their situation and shared what they had with the family.
Chapter 4 – Germany
Andrew with his family arrived at Vienna rail terminus next morning before sunrise. An air raid was in progress on their arrival and lights had been extinguished. The family was very frightened, for railway stations were allied forces prime air raid targets. The Allies were disrupting German army desperate attempts to return to the defense of the Motherland and railways, roads and bridges were being demolished. The family feared after so many miraculous escapes their luck had at last run out.
While they were standing on the station platform undecided on which direction they should run for shelter a man with a torch suddenly appeared and motioned for them to follow him. Struggling through the gates of the station with their only worldly possessions they attempted to keep up with the dim light ahead. The torch motioned them into a doorway and they descended stairs carefully in the darkness to join hundreds of sweating frightened people hiding in the air raid shelter.
After the raid finished they followed weary Viennese up the stairs to the dim light of the new day above. Smoke and dust penetrated deep into their lungs as they looked about for someone to ask directions. Their problem was compounded by the fact they couldn’t give people a destination location as they’d no idea where Elizabeth’s Mother now lived and conducted business in Vienna. They’d never visited that city before. Elizabeth’s German language skills were now of great importance. She eventually located police and with their assistance located Francisca Wallisch’s home location. The family could rest at last.
Elizabeth had been experiencing pains for some days and went into labor soon after arrival at her Mother’s house. She was rushed to hospital. The hospital examined her and sped her to the delivery room where Barbara, their third child was quickly born. Andrew had little money with him, not enough to pay the hospital bill for 6 days hospital care. As Francisca and her family were also refugees and only recently established in Vienna they could offer little financial help.
Andrew did have some Hungarian money which the hospital wouldn’t accept. They’d no idea how they’d settle with the hospital for Elizabeth’s care. Once again a seeming miracle awaited them. A patient waiting for treatment heard the dialogue taking place at the hospital business counter and offered to pay the bill. At every impossible situation in their flight someone had appeared to offer them timely assistance. This was another of those occasions.
After Andrew and Elizabeth left hospital to return to Francisca’s home with their newly born they learned the Russian army was rapidly advancing, and it looked like they’d soon take Vienna. Andrew remembered how he’d fled from the Russian officers who’d visited his home in Szekeshervar and demanded location details of the Hungarian nations buried secrets. Andrew was frightened, and as his relatives knew they’d also suffer by association they urged the family to move to Germany while there was still time, and where some of Elizabeth’s relatives lived.
With financial help from Francisca they were placed on board a train to Bamberg in Germany where these relatives lived. They expected the American army would occupy that part of Germany when fighting ceased and they would be safe there. However the city they were heading for on their first stopover was bombed, and they had to go down to the Swiss border and zig zag around Germany as lines were repaired after constant bombing before they could reach their final destination Bamberg.
Andrew had only a little Austrian money received from his Mother in Law Francisca, but was fortunate to finally exchange Hungarian for German currency. The family arrived in Bamberg at the time of another bombing raid. Relatives directed them to a village called Aschbach, 35 km from Bamberg where they would be relatively safe from harm and where Elizabeth could recover from the recent birth and stress of being on the run under life threatening conditions during her pregnancy.
However villagers were trying to defend their own limited resources, run down during a long drawn out war. They didn’t want refugees adding to their burdens and tried every way possible to force the family to go back to Hungary. Just as the family was feeling the wrath of the village American troops arrived and occupied Aschbach. The officer in charge was a Hungarian American, and he helped Andrew sort things out with the Village Headman. But as soon as American troops moved on villagers began to pressure the family again. They somehow survived with the help of the Baron who employed Andrew to produce fine art pieces for his castle. Andrew realized his family had no future in Aschbach, and as it was impossible to return to Hungary now under Russian domination his options were limited.
In 1949 Andrew Kazy and his family were registered as refugees and given a choice of two countries to migrate to. Their first choice was US as they’d been impressed by the kindness of American troops now occupying Germany. His second preference was Australia, a country of which he knew little, but about which he’d heard encouraging reports.
Andrew filled in applications to enter the US but for some reason papers were mislaid. The family had also filed papers for entry into Australia. When called for interview by Australian immigration officials they witnessed the distress of people whose applications had been rejected and they became fearful their application would receive similar treatment. However when they went for interview the interviewer received them kindly. He was sympathetic after listening to their story and promised Andrew a good life in Australia as trade qualifications like the ones Andrew held were in short supply at the end of the war. However when the family eventually arrived in Australia things were not quite what Andrew had been led to expect.
Chapter 5 – Farewell to Europe
Andrew with family 1949
The day Andrew and his family left Aschbach was a day of joy and hope. Safely in their possession now were important documents entitling them to free transport and entry into their new home, Australia. Now that they were leaving neighbors in the village were friendly and wished them well on their journey. There’d be less families competing for limited resources in this war ravaged country now.
Their train took them through the Swiss Alps to Naples Italy where they were to board a ship destined for Australia. Andrew burst into a joyful Hungarian hymn as they passed through beautiful scenery and the family joined him in singing. The horrors of flight from their native land were swept away as they anticipated a bright future and prosperity at last.
But they’d temporarily forgotten they were refugees, and Italy too had suffered greatly from the Great War. On arrival in Naples they were surprised to find themselves locked into a barbwire encircled camp with hundreds of other refugees. Italians were fearful of being swamped with refugees from other parts of a Europe which had been leveled in allied bombing and where work opportunities were few. They wanted to be sure these refugees moved on.
Refugees bound for Australia were assigned to an old troop ship. On board were 1,500 men, women and children. Families were unable to stay together because of the way the ship’s accommodation was arranged and Andrew found himself billeted with the men while Elizabeth and the children found themselves space in the women’s section of the ship. Their brief excitement evaporated with each day’s experience in these crowded conditions. They found comfort in their meetings each day and watched with interest the kaleidoscope of cultures begin to unfold on their journey.
As they passed through Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea the children’s excitement grew. Andrew had told them the Red Sea was where the Israelite Nation had escaped from Egypt long ago, and Pharaoh’s army had perished in the sea as they gave chase. One of the children almost fell overboard climbing on the rail guards to try and see Pharaoh’s army on the bottom of the ocean, but fortunately an alert onlooker was there to rescue the child.
Andrew recalls violent storms as they made their way into the ocean to the south, and their ship breaking down en route to Australia. Eventually the ship was fixed by an Austrian refugee engineer, but stormy conditions continued until they were close to Australia’s shores. During those long weeks adult refugees were too seasick to visit the dining hall on a regular basis, and children unaffected by sickness were often the majority in the dining room. The children were particularly excited to find jars of peanut butter set out on each table not having seen that product before, and went from table to table sampling this new delicacy.
The original plan was for all to disembark in the city of Perth, Western Australia, but for reasons that were never divulged they were diverted to Adelaide, South Australia for processing.
Officials were present at the docks in Port Adelaide to meet and help settle the new arrivals in a temporary camp while their documents were processed and work assigned. Each family member had responsibility for a portion of their meager belongings and Gyargyike was handed the family’s important documents to carry from the ship. On the swaying walkway from ship to dock she lost balance and documents fell into the ocean. Andrew and Elizabeth cried out in alarm. Would this mean they’d not be permitted to land?
Chapter 6 – Australia
The sailor helping passengers disembark from the ship saw those important documents fall from the hands of the little seven year old as she sought to steady herself on the shaking walkway, Glancing at the parents he saw the look of horror and desperation written on their faces. Without further thought he plunged overboard to retrieve the floating documents before they were swept under the dock by wave action. There was a general commotion as everybody stopped to watch this event and sighs of relief as documents were recovered and the sailor pulled from the water. The documents were wet, but were still readable and eventually cleared for disembarkation’
Andrew and his family looked out the window of their bus as they were transported to the holding camp for processing as immigrants. Adelaide was so different to Europe in 1949. The city was laid out in grand style with large parks separating city and suburbs, but where were the people? There were so few of them in such a large area of land, so unlike Europe with its teeming dispirited population and villages which had the imprint of thousands of years habitation. All of a sudden they felt alone in a strange land.
The language barrier reinforced their feelings of isolation. Gyargyike now renamed Georgine remembers being fearful to go to the restrooms separate from living quarters in camp because of the man laughing at her from the trees. It was much later they realized it was the Australian Kookaburra bird she’d heard and been frightened by. Once in a while they’d be visited by officials or representatives of community organizations who’d explain what was planned for them in German. Andrew had learned written English during his school days and found he could understand what was written, but none of the family had spoken English skills.
To Andrew’s surprise there was no opening for his kind of fine art work in Australia as he’d been promised. He remembered the beautiful statues he’d made for churches in Europe, the paintings and carved doors and mantle pieces he’d made for the Baron in Aschbach. A feeling of despair added to his feeling of isolation.
Andrew was assigned to work in the railway as war years had interrupted development in this young nation and the government wished to push ahead with infrastructure development now Australia’s war depleted population had been replenished by immigration. This work assignment made Andrew unhappy. Andrew was approached by a Health Food Company which offered to employ him, but the government refused to release him from his contract and wanted him to fulfill obligations with the railway. As the government had paid for the family relocation they had no other choice. The government needed a painter, but not the kind of fine arts painter Andrew was by trade.
An Australian family accommodated Andrew’s family now numbering 5 and gave them rooms in their own home while they oriented to the country, learned to fit in with a new culture and language and found a place of their own. Andrew worked for the government railway for the next 10 years. His railway overseer was surprised and happy to find Andrew could function well with written English and put him to work straight away. Authorities assigned him to work with three Australian workers and instructed them to see he developed speaking skills and not be permitted to work with other migrants he may be able to converse with in a European language. They did this so his English speaking skills would develop rapidly, but it was hard work for Andrew and he felt the humiliation of each mistake made and the laughter this caused.
But as his English comprehension grew and diligent work was appreciated Andrew was put as a leading hand by the railway, and this placed him in conflict with those working under him who felt they should have had seniority and been given the supervisory job. The striking workers were eventually forced to return to work and they eventually accepted him.
But resentments persisted and eventually Andrew left railway employment and decided to try his hand as sub-contractor to a builder. Family morale had been boosted with the addition of a fourth daughter, Angela in 1954. There was not enough money to be made in the new job for an increasing family, and the builder suggested Andrew go to Alice Springs in Central Australia, then a booming frontier town where big money drew people wanting to make quick fortunes. Andrew looked for accommodation and began to make friends there.
Prior to disconnecting from the railway Andrew’s son in law had showed him some opals from Andamooka a gem mining settlement also in Central Australia Andrew was excited because gem carving had been one of his interests in Europe. He’d spent vacation time previously with a friend in Coober Pedi, another gem mining centre before taking the Alice Springs contracting job. Andrew decided this was an opportunity to seek opals of his own so that on his eventual return to his family still settled in Adelaide he’d be able to carve gems as a hobby. He built a fine collection of stones to keep him occupied later in his retirement.
By 1962 the last of Andrew’s five daughters Judy was born and once again there was rejoicing in the family. With the family remaining in Adelaide Andrew took his next contracting assignment in Darwin in the extreme northwest of frontier Australia. However he became very sick and was hospitalized. The Doctor told him he’d have to leave his contracting job as he now had a serious illness. He finished the Darwin contract and began the long trip home to Adelaide. He was so sick by the time he reached Alice Springs that friends were reluctant to let him proceed. But Andrew was anxious to get back to Adelaide and have his further medical tests completed so his future would be clear.
On the way he almost gave up hope of arriving home alive. A semi-trailer driver gave him herbal treatments at a lonely rest stop and Andrew improved enough for him to continue his journey. He almost had a very serious accident on the way and careered off the road into loose desert sand miles from civilization. A stranger appeared who he later learned was a policeman. The policeman helped get him back on the road with the help of other travelers who’d stopped to see how they could assist. The car was found to be relatively unharmed when finally returned to the road and after a careful inspection by his benefactors Andrew was able to resume his journey home.
Arriving back in Adelaide he rested several days before going to Hospital to continue medical tests. He was admitted immediately as doctors from Darwin had already contacted specialists in Adelaide and given their report on his serious condition. Andrew was told he could no longer work and he was recommended to be placed on government pension. He did try to work again as soon as he was released from hospital, but was again hospitalized and told never to work again. He realized that his long journey was soon to be over.
Making a long distance transfer of residence to Cooranbong near Sydney Australia to the northeast where the climate was more favorable Andrew and Elizabeth spent their final days together. Andrew lived to see the last of his daughters Judy happily married before breathing his last in September 1988.
Andrew’s long journey was over at last.
This story was extracted from video taped interviews with Andrew Kazy prior to his death. While the story in essence is Andrews, I’ve taken historical events of the times from Internet and books to give the reader a feel for the times Andrew remembers. Other family members recall events which Andrew doesn’t talk about. Elizabeth and the oldest girls remember their home being destroyed by bombs before they left Hungary for Vienna. This is not mentioned in Andrew’s memoirs. Elizabeth also remembers fleeing through forests and mountains though it’s not clear which of their many flights this may have been.
In 1995 my wife Georgine and our daughter Helen, along with Georgine’s older sister Maria, her husband Tibor, their son and I went on a nostalgia trip to Aschbach, Germany Vienna Austria, and Budapest Hungary. What a thrill it was for the grandchildren to be permitted to see the fine artwork completed by Grandfather Andrew in the Baron’s castle in Aschbach.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved”