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George Badacsonyi

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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
1956 to Vienna, `1957 to the UK
Mode of Arrival:
Escaped on foot, Rechnitz taken to Wien. Ford scholarship, could choose any location in Europe

Interview Summary:

George Badacsonyi was born in Budapest in June 1934, the only son of Alice Rosenfeld and Alexander Badacsonyi. The family changed their name from Bachrach before WWI. His parents settled down in a very Jewish area in Budapest in the eighth district in Népszínház utca. Alice and her mother ran a stationery and book shop. His father was a businessman and later a driver in the Hungarian Army. George remembers helping out in the shop where he served the German officer customers as he spoke German. He remembers a happy childhood: primary school, ice-skating in winter and tennis in summer. 


In 1944 one of his aunts and her husband – a GP- were apprehended on their way back from funeral and taken to Auschwitz. Their baby daughter was hidden with a non-Jewish patient until George’s family took her in and they adopted her after the war. His father had been taken to a labour camp after being demobilised from the Army. George, his mother and grandmother moved into a “Judenhaus” and escaped deportation closely. His mother managed to obtain a “Schutzbrief” [protective letter] from the Swiss Embassy and they moved into a protected flat. As a further protection she obtained false papers and they moved again and lived through the siege of Budapest. 


His father joined them in September 1945. On arriving in Budapest he went to the stationery shop that George’s mother had reopened. As he had ended up as a slave labourer in Mauthausen he was physically in an appalling state and his wife didn’t recognise him at first. She soon became ill with cancer which finally caused her death in 1951 which came as a shock to George. In the years leading up to her death she was already weak and so George’s grandmother raised him and his little sister. In this situation his academic and musical education were sadly no priority. His father had difficulties to fit into the communist climate. He was considered a petit bourgeois and tried to train as a mechanic in order to find work. He was discriminated against and at some point even had to defend himself against embezzlement. However with George’s help he was able to obtain his acquittal. George wanted to train as a musician but problems with his left hand led to giving up playing the piano and he worked as a musical journalist. The Revolution of 1956 frightened him and especially on one occasion when he and his father were rounded up by the Russians. They escaped but this traumatic experience led to his decision to leave the country. He, friends and his little sister crossed into Austria. His grandmother had organised her own emigration to her sister in Brazil and the plan was for George’s sister to join her there eventually. 


In Austria they found help with the Joint (Jewish Relief Agency) and he started a course for conduction at the Academy of Music. He won a scholarship with the Ford Foundation and decided to go to England. The Jewish Refugee Committee in London organised a family for his sister to stay with and he enrolled first at Trinity college and later at Guildhall School of Music. He didn’t find it easy to get used to the English way of life, but met his wife, Marie, who was also a Jewish Hungarian refugee. They got married in 1961 and have two children. George’s first job was Opera director at UCL and later Music Director, he also had several jobs with the BBC proms. He has a passion to look into little know work of famous composers, has worked with the ENO and has started his own company “Thameside Opera”. He identifies as European and although he wouldn’t want to live there he visits Budapest regularly to see the graves of family members and friends. They are still alive in his memory. Especially now that he is getting older, he realizes how strongly childhood memories shape a person.


Keywords:

Budapest. Bachrach. Rosenfeld. Mauthausen. Judenhaus. Swiss Schutzpass. Revolution of 1956. Vienna. Trinity College. Guildhall School of Music. UCL. ENO. BBC Proms. Thameside Opera. Bacharach, Germany. Nagyfuvaros utcai temple, Szarbo Laszlo. Madách Gymnasium. Arrow Cross. Tattersall. Balfi Mártirok nak. Sao Paulo. The Joint.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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