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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
mid January 1957
Marie was born Maria Abonyi in Szeged in 1937. Her mother was a chemist and her father qualified as a lawyer. They lived a very comfortable life in a building owned by the grandparents who ran a textile business in Szeged. Her parents had many friends and they swam and rowed on the river. Her father was also an excellent fencer. Marie recalls outings to the river and the trees in her garden.
Everything changed in 1942 when her father was taken away to Forced Labour and later sent to the Russian Front. She cannot recall many details from this time. They had to start wearing a yellow star in 1944 and soon after that had to move to a ghetto in Szeged. Marie was with her mother, her grandparents and her grandmother’s sister. She recalls the deportation very clearly. They were hoarded into cattle cars and had a long journey to Strasshof (near Vienna). Marie recalls the smell of the wagon due to people needing to use it as a toilet. She also remembers the lack of water or food. Throughout the trip her mother tried to shield her from bad experiences. Most trains from Szeged left for Auschwitz. This was only one of two trains which left to Strasshof (as a result of a possible deal between Eichmann and the Hungarian Rescue Committee). From Strasshof, the family had to work as Forced Labour in the Rakowitzer und Unter Themenauer Steinzeug und Ziegelfabrik. (July 1944- February 1945). Marie was with other children and some adults were in charge who thought them how to read. She also recalls playing with the clay from the factory. Her grandmother worked in the kitchen and sometimes managed to get her an extra carrot. The daily food was a soup which Marie did not like.
In February 1945 when the front was coming closer it was decided to move the remaining Jewish prisoners to Theresienstadt. Marie recalls the Allies bombing the train tracks and her mother shielding her with her head. They went to another camp (Frein) before arriving in Thersienstadt. In May 1945 Marie and her family was liberated in Theresienstadt. She remembers that the Russian soldiers were handing our sweets and chocolates. When they were travelling back to Szeged in June 1945, Marie had measles and the Russian soldiers ensure that they had their own compartment.
When the family came back to Szeged they found out that Marie’s father did not survive and that he had died on the Russian front. In 1945 Marie started school, where she was the only Jewish pupil. Her mother moved to Budapest and worked as a chemist in a factory, while Marie stayed with her grand-parents in Szeged.
The experiences of the wartime were not spoken about. However, when Marie moved to Budapest to start secondary school, she felt at home with the other Jewish girls. Her mother had re-married and Marie moved in with her mother and step-father, who she got on very well with. After finishing school, Marie received a place to study chemistry. But then the revolution happened and Marie decided that she would have a better future abroad. Her mother introduced her to a group who planned to cross the border to Austria. They were taken by a guide to the mountains and then walked to an Austrian village where they were invited for Sunday lunch before taking the train to Vienna. In Vienna, Marie and her friends stayed in a hotel and received help from the American Joint. After a few weeks they were introduced to an English lady who wanted to sponsor young Jewish refugees. With her help, Marie came to the UK and settled with the English lady near Croydon. She went to a Catholic school for sixth form and received the right A level results to have received a grant to go and study pharmacology at London University. She married a fellow Hungarian refugee, George Badacsonyi, in 1962 and they settled in Pinner. They had two children and Marie worked for many years as a pharmacist for Boots and later for several hospitals. Marie feels happy that she is closer to Judaism now because of her daughter. She considers her home in Britain and sees herself as a tourist in Hungary, which she visits regularly.
And then we had to leave this camp because I think the Russians were advancing. So their- the- the Austrians or Germans, I don’t know who were looking after the camp, were moving us all the time to- towards Theresienstadt. And I remember walking quite a lot. And it was winter and cold. And I remember walking through woods and there were planes coming and dropping bombs. And I remember that we had to lie down. And my mother put her head over my head. And she said, “If we have to die, then we have to die together.” That’s another little thing that I remember.
I remember the Russians coming into Theresienstadt. I remember that very clearly, because we were standing in the street. And by that time I think the Germans must have fled. And they were coming in trucks. And they were throwing off the trucks pieces of chocolate and pieces of bread. And all the things we haven’t seen - in years. And we were absolutely over the moon, grabbing what we could. And they said that we were free to do what we wanted and that was unbelievable.
We were supposed to go to Auschwitz but we didn’t, & that saved our life. Because most of the people, all the Jews in Szeged they were all exterminated except the people on our train. That’s as much as I know. The train was very traumatic. The soldiers were very rough, pushing more & more people into this carriage. Just awful. It must have been quite long, because we were very thirsty & had nothing to drink. This terrible smell, because people had to go to the toilet.
I didn’t really have a feeling of hardship, apart from being hungry all the time. My grandmother was working in the kitchen. Every so often she stole a carrot for me. My mother had a manicure set. She was doing manicuring to other people in the camp. They gave a little bit of their stew. A little bit extra for her, for doing the nails of these people. These are silly things that I remember. Not the- Not the serious things. We were allowed to to learn to read & write & to play with clay. So it wasn’t as bad as some other factories. & places. Apart from the starvation. We slept in straw. You could see these bedbugs. Big, big things, moving about. In the straw. Our hair was full of fleas. I remember things like that & a lot of itch. But basically this was still a better place than some of the people went through in these horrendous other camps. Yes, we children, we certainly had a better time than some other children where they were just taken and killed.