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Gyorgy Pauck

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
September 1961
Experiences:
Interview number:
236

Interview Summary:

György Pauk was born in Budapest in 1936 to a pianist mother who was aware of his musical talent very early and started him with violin lessons at a young age. He has few memories of his father, a business man born in Kethely near Lake Balaton, who was taken to a labour camp (Hatarszög) and died there in 1944. György remembers March 1944 clearly when they had to move to a Jewish house with his grandmother. They shared a flat with many people and it was cold, food was scarce and often they had to find shelter in the cellar from German bombing. In October the Hungarian Nyilas came to the apartment and took all young women away- among them his mother, who he never saw again. However, his grandmother, aunt, cousin and György managed to escape at first but were later brought to the ghetto where they survived until the liberation by the Russians. 


György was raised by his grandmother and continued his musical education at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music promoted by his teacher Ede Zathureczky who discovered early that György was destined for a soloist career. He started to play in and win competitions -even outside the Eastern bloc. In spring 1958 he decided not return to Budapest from a concert in Paris – with a heavy heart as he didn’t know if he would see his grandmother and other family again. From Paris he moved to Holland where a friend had told him to apply for the position of concert master in the Brabants Orchestra in s’Hertogenbosch. This is also where he met his later wife Susanna who he married in summer 1959. Through a former teacher he had the opportunity to play for Yehudi Menuhin in 1956 and the contact was continued in Holland. Menuhin inspired and supported the move to London in 1961. 


From there his international career began with concert tours in Australia and the United States. Although he went back earlier to Hungary with his wife and two children to visit his family his first concert in Hungary was in 1973 – an emotional event as he played where he started as a young student. György identifies as a Hungarian-born British violinist whose Jewish identity is vital. Although he talked about his past with his wife and children it took longer to do so with a wider circle but it transformed him and gave him a new sense of confidence. He retired from performing after his 71stbirthday but teaches at the Royal Academy students from all over the world. His autobiography was published in Hungarian and is in the process of being translated to English. His message is to “learn from your mistakes and admit it. It is not easy, but try to learn from it and try to be a better person.”

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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