The copyright of all photographs belongs to individual interviewees. Please get in touch for more information

Gustav Botkai

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
22 December 1956
Uncle in London helped Gustav to come to UK
Mode of Arrival:

Gustav Botkai, nee Gustav Laszlo Birnfeld, was born in 1936 in Budapest. He grew up with his parents. His father worked in family textile business. During the war he was seven years old. He was baptized and used to go to church. At some point when he left the church other boys called him a Jew and he never returned to church. He and his parents had fake papers and his father was drafted into the army. Gustav did not see the father a lot, he was with his mother and grandmother. His father escaped from the army and it was arranged that he lived in an empty flat. He did not want to stay there and started working in a bakery. He thought it was safe to hid in an unused oven during the bombardment. He died in the oven, when the house was hit and collapsed on the oven. Gustav and his mother lived in different places, as non-Jews. They survived the siege of Budapest in a cellar.


After the war, Gustav finished his schooling and went to study Economics at Budapest University. In 1956 he escaped to the UK, where he was helped by his uncle, who had come to the UK before the war. He studied at the University of Leeds and eventually started a business in wholesale leather and property in Manchester. In 1962 Gustav married fellow Hungarian refugee Erkia and they had three children. Today Gustav and Erika live in London.


In the interview Gustav also talks about his aunt Solyom Janka (aunt who was a chanson singer pre-war). She married Count Teleki. He saved her during the war and she saved in in Communist times.


@ Refugee Voices 2020

Made by BookJaw